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by Marque-Luisa Miringoff and Sandra Opdycke
International Journal of the Arts in Society, vol. 4, no. 5 (2009)

Winner of the Journal's International Award for Excellence in the Arts

The current economic crisis has had a profound effect on the social life of nations around the world. Unemployment, crime, suicide, family stability, child and adult well-being are all affected by the recent economic downturn. What is measured less often-and certainly documented less often--is the impact that recessions have on the arts. This paper explores how the arts have been affected by the current economic crisis. How has the financial meltdown altered patterns within the arts--in terms of offerings, in terms of participation? With more frequent theatrical closings, fewer art exhibitions, less money invested in the arts, what impact does this have on the public engagement with the arts? Do some arts thrive during recessions--less costly activities such as movies, books?

We argue that when a significant number of social conditions worsen, all at the same time, nations may experience what can be thought of as a social recession. This applies not only to social problems, but to the arts as well. The experience of loss, insecurity, and diminished expectations that accompanies an economic recession has parallels in our social and cultural life. The interaction between social and economic crises is an important aspect of contemporary life that merits closer study.

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