Is a civilization really measured by the quality of its art? Scary thought, isn't it? Who do we hold up as representative, Dale Chihuly or Christian Marclay? Warhol or Nagel? Weburn or Alice Cooper? The Love Boat or The Real World? You get the picture. The ambiguity of such a statement is maddening, especially when you consider the fact that a clear consensus on the subject is next to impossible. Or worse - when you comprehend that state and city art program reps are currently shivering against the proverbial wall, trying to ignore the fiscal firing squad quietly lining up in front of them.
Like the Texas Commission on the Arts, San Antonio will likely see its share of more arts-related budget cuts soon, but it is the fair city of Fort Worth that is currently on the chopping block. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Mayor Mike Moncrief recently unveiled a plan to hack public art funding in half in 2004, diverting some $2 million into street improvement projects. In recent years, Fort Worth has experienced a period of renaissance and renovation, which may now end.
Locally, the same sort of financial malaise that all but annihilated our symphony has also set gallery attendance, commercial art sales, and private commissions at a low. People are losing their studios or throwing desperate fundraisers. Even those artists with the foresight to purchase their art spaces years ago are feeling the pinch. Some, like Gallista Gallery owner, proprietor, and painter Joe Lopez, are seriously considering bailing out. None of this should come as a surprise - most people in our society consider the fine arts an expendable luxury - or worse, a marginally interesting curiosity.
In light of this situation, October is official "be nice to the arts community month." Remember, it may not cost you anything to attend an art opening, but it sure as shit costs them - the artists, gallerists, museums, foundation. Next time you go to the Bower or Sala Diaz - or the Blue Star for that matter, hand the proprietor five bucks and say thank you for the free beer. Stop bitching about the price and buy your tickets to Arts & Eats early. It's not so outrageous. You already spend that much on crap-laden cable every month. •