More and more frequently today, the young artist is coming home.
At least, that was an assertion made at a recent colloquium on the future of arts in Northern Virginia -- an assertion supported by the fact that more dance groups, community theaters, cooperative galleries, small presses and home-town orchestras are springing up all over the country.
"We are undergoing a cultural renaissance in this country," said James Backas, a government arts consultant and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts, "a period of intense participation and freedom of choice, aligned with intense interest in art."
Backas spoke last week at "The Arts in Northern Virginia in 2000," the last in a series of forums sponsored by George Mason University's Center for Government, Society and the Arts.
Referring to this country's historical indifference to art and artists, Backas said at the forum, "There was a time when our young artists felt they had to get out of town and go to some place more tolerant -- New York or Europe -- to make art." Now, he suggests, the artist may travel to a large metropolitan area for training, but he returns to "Jackson, Miss., or Fairfax, Va.," to work in art.
One measure of this, he says, are fellowship, which historically have been granted to young artists "to support their training in New York or San Francisco. Now, they also go to St. Louis, or Detroit, or Minneapolis -- those are places where art is happening."
Just as art is expanding into local communities, it is finding new mediums of support in broadcasting, says Michael Kelly, professor of English at George Mason and a director of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. aKelly predicts that in the year 2000:
Video discs will be as common in the American home as record collections.
The increased number of public broadcasting channels available through cable television will act like "little radio stations across the land," receiving selective, local support.
New technologies will not preclude the use of the more established entertainment mediums -- "the tape recorder didn't do away with the record business, and records didn't do in symphonies."
Going to hear the National Symphony or see a play at the Kennedy Center will "continue to be a special treat but most theater in the future will go where the people are."
The moderator, former U.S. representative Joseph Fisher, presented demographic statistics from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (cog) determining just where those people will be in the year 2000.
By that time, he says, Northern Virginia's present population of 1.1 million should expand to 1.8 million, with the "principal growth expected among the Asians and Hispanics." Increases also are expected among older people and singles, with the decline in the number of school children continuing.
The good news among all these statistics, Fisher hinted, is that "the baby boom will move into middle age, and should have more money to contribute to the arts. Incomes in this area will continue to rise, though perhaps more slowly. Already, our ratio of professional people to nonprofessionals is as high in Northern Virginia as it is anywhere in the country."
Private support of the arts was seen as an absolute necessity by the group, which expects little or no funding from government during the present administration. But, as Fisher pointed out, "we are not Pittsburgh, which can turn to the Mellon family for support. We need to develop indigenous support from our local corporations -- Mobil, TRW, Honeywell and the Like."
Fisher, who has been appointed to serve next year as a distinquished visiting fellow at George Mason, also believes the university can "coalesce artists and art excitement and move it to a higher level."
The university has proposed an initial step of establishing a $17 million performing arts center. "If we have the center," Kelly said, "then we can find the performances."
Backas, former director of the Maryland Arts Council, echoed that thought. "You need a base, a focal point where people who care about art can channel their energy and funds." Organizations like the Fairfax County Council of the Arts and Arlington's Division of Visual and Performing Arts serve this need, he said, and make possible our country's cultural renaissance.