the Superbowl coming up on Feb.7, it is apparent how much our society values sports as a pastime, but where do the arts sit in the American entertainment hierarchy?
It has never been a secret that sports are a major part of the United States’ psyche. With professional leagues for almost every athletic competition, it is obvious that our distraction of choice is football, hockey, basketball and the list goes on.
We are not afraid of opening our checkbooks to keep our favorite teams supported and in our living rooms. The desire to be there for the big game leads many to pay exorbitant amounts of money to be a part of the action.
This is proven even in an age of a pandemic, where Superbowl LV is being presented in-person, with a ticket price range of around $6,000 to six-figure suite seats. These prices are still following the trend of the last few years, with each consecutive year increasing. People are willing to pay for the privilege of normalcy.
Unfortunately, what we consider “normal” seems to leave out a rather large section of the American economy, the arts. Museums, galleries, theaters and more have all taken massive financial hits. While this is similar to the rest of the economy, it lacks a distinct parity with the professional sports industry.
Due to the implementation of the arts, it can be excused that they haven’t bounded back in the same way as sports... or can it?
While it is true, museums and plays lack the outdoor component of most sports, they contain just as much culture, and deserve equal consideration. The professional athletic industry has kept its doors open by means of public support and its own deep pockets, but what of the museums and galleries that operate by donation or meager entrance fees? The cultural education that can be found in these places are worth protecting.
The National Endowment for the Arts cannot possibly fund every town, state and national museum, theater or exhibit, leaving a sad majority left stranded by the pandemic’s economic cruelty. Not only is the federal well for arts spending too small to protect its dependents, but under former President Donald Trump it was even placed in the budget cuts crosshairs and survived only on its bipartisan support in Congress. At least some of our leaders recognize the importance of the arts.
The sporting world has massive championships, such as the Superbowl and the Stanley Cup, but for the arts the exhibition of the talent requires no field or court, but merely a stage or a wall, and it desperately needs viewers. Those athletic events are televised, garnering millions in advertising revenue, but theater and the visual arts rely on the in-person experience.
Not only have the fine and visual arts been downgraded in their support, but also the so called, “gig economy.” Live music and stand-up comedy have been handicapped at every turn, and with many artists being self-employed, staying afloat has been a Herculean task. Federal aid has not, so far, saved the arts by stimulus checks and moral support.
To be fair, not all sports have been treated equally, especially at the collegiate level. Unless you’re a top tier athletic powerhouse or a nationally acclaimed program, the money is tight as well.
Many colleges rely on their sports programs as means of advertising and drawing in donors of all kinds. Because of these prized ponies, so to speak, the other teams have the budget to continue operation, but if a school lacks notoriety in this way, it may become a challenge to keep their athletes in the fight.
This pandemic has been cruel in so many ways, but it has brought out the truth in many others. The stubborn nature of the human spirit has been drawn out in the refusal to halt everything in life, yet what we have ceased, what has gone unmentioned, unheard and underfunded was spoken with volume.
The arts are floundering and are in dire need of aid. Will we save them?