Protest and the Arts

The first-ever Shakespearean-style theatre in France was vandalized a week before it opened. It looks like the protests were aimed at the cost of the project to the city and the decision of public officials to support the project in general.

Protesting over financial concerns and the health of an art community are oftentimes interests that come at odds during times when public budgets are small and seemingly shrinking. Of course, people are going to be concerned about any public spending when there still aren’t jobs for everyone and when there are still many people who are homeless, hungry, and without health care. Protesting over public spending on a Globe-style theatre is perfectly valid, and it’s a concern that you can’t really argue anyway.

I argue for theatres and for public spending on the arts not to contradict protesters but to say that art is a valuable member of our collective culture and is also so vulnerable to being undermined by government that we ought to do whatever we can now to protect it and give it to the community to control. That’s how Detroit’s wealth of public art was saved from seizure by zealous debt managers.

Art matters, and you might not be able to put actual dollar signs on the value art adds in total to a community, that does not negate its importance to a community. I support the Globe Theatre in France and hope it can be repaired and prepared for an opening stronger than ever.