Art 4 Art’s sake

Art for Art’s Sake; Money for God’s Sake!


Geoff Callaway

“Art for Art’s Sake! Money, for God’s Sake!” this seems to be the perennial lament of the arts scene in the United States. A new millennium dawns and the refrain is the same. A pandemic sweeps the world, and the situation becomes dramatically worse. Art and theater incomes are disappearing along with the loss of public venues and gatherings.

Can Art survive? Indubitably!!

It will survive because Art is fundamental to the human condition. Even in the midst of survival, it feeds our minds and souls. It entertains and enlightens us. It tells stories that help us place world shattering events like the Pandemic and the Singularity in context, and then adds meaning and purpose to our lives by encouraging us to respond, to ACT.

One current example of how a theatre company might make this pivot is Bankside Repertory Theatre Company in Alton, IL. Situated in the St. Louis entertainment market, Bankside is an Actor’s Equity contract small professional theatre. As such, it is very vulnerable to closures by the state and most of the COVID restrictions imposed on public gatherings. However, the Bankside board decided to embrace the opportunity for online streaming their live events—just like many other entertainment companies have done. Not only has it allowed Bankside to carryon with their offerings, there is potential to reach a much wider audience and overcome the obstacle of their patrons remaining at home. Additionally, there is also an opportunity to increase their revenue stream as more people will now be able to see the productions and buy merchandise at a reduced cost. More “seats” are now available, so the company can drop the ticket price and still maintain a slight profit for each production—which can then be reinvested in their infrastructure.

It remains to be seen exactly how the pandemic will turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse for live theater, but one thing is almost certain–live theaters, once they’ve embraced live streaming their performances, will continue to offer that option. Highlighting that Art for Art’s sake will continue for its own sake, and money will be found for everyone’s sake.

This is an example of the kind of thinking and innovation that must be accomplished for ART to thrive again–ACT. Act in concert, act with conviction and purpose, act with design, and find new ways to touch our audience. This is how we will recover. This is how we will live long and prosper. Join us in acting–by making–by DOING! Carpe Diem!

Geoff Callaway is a contributing editor to SteamWonk. In other iterations, he is a playwright, professional pedant and comedian. The fact that the general public has probably never heard of him is a cause both for joy and sorrow.