MTV and MoMA (specifically their PS1 imprint) have gone retro with some great “new” programming that will hopefully do wonders for the arts in general. In partnership with non-profit public arts group, Creative Time, they are bringing back a show from the ’80s that celebrates the video art form. The Art Breaks programming consists for 30 second interstitials that will air on MTV shedding a light on the urban art scene, among others. What first began in 1985 will begin anew. I know I saw them when they first came out and had no idea who Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring or Kenny Scharff when they were shown in Art Breaks on MTV in my mid teens, but there was certainly no other way I was going to be able to experience them otherwise. Even while I attended arts schools, these artists weren’t celebrated in schools – yet these artists were the ones who were resonating with me. Those early experiences played a heavy part in my art appreciation now – and certainly play themselves out in my current love of collecting art. This sort of contextual promotion of the arts on a large-scale is absolutely needed and the model MTV provides should be pounced upon as often as possible by brands and media outlets.
Image from Original MTV Art Break series clip featuring Basquiat
With schools reducing expenditures for arts classes and experiences when they are needed most, somebody must jump into the fray or else our future is in major trouble. If you don’t think that’s the case, take a look at the state of the arts over the past few decades when government money has dwindled and appreciation for the arts has been made available only to ever smaller groups of students. There is an increasing limit on new and provocative works of art, film or theatre. Different forms of imagination are being pushed to the wayside with a growing “normalness” all around. As a sign of the times, there are many people who are great at the technical aspects of business, but not so great at the imaginative parts and the amounts of companies that take off exponentially are dwindling. But those existing companies can do much to address it. Even sports entities can get into the act – just look at what Leroy Neiman did (and still does) in joining the sports realm and art. He was able to do it through magazines, like Playboy, that were the zenith at the time. Others can do the same if given the opportunity on big enough platforms today.
Even Apple – who has so much in their reserves – should be doing more to contextually bring the arts to the masses. Perhaps instead of providing dividends (or as much as they might be providing) they should be providing financial resources that enable kids and young adults to have more experiences that raise the level of imagination. In the least, Brands should be looking to do their part by marrying the arts and their products in ways that make sense.
There have been instances in the past where brands might have done something with the arts on a smaller scale. Some examples are a program Hot Wheels did with Gallery 1988, or hotels bringing art into the mix (but you would hope the guests are already attuned to what is out there), or even what Disney is doing with artists for their Vinylmation Figures line, it may not be enough. They are either hitting people in too pointed or niche of a way, or the luxury brands are hitting the people who, while a great benefit to society, are the people who are least in need.
There is a huge opportunity to generate arts awareness in products or advertising, but an even larger one is in the sponsorship of festivals or events. But, I’m not talking about sponsorship just to get the name recognition. There’s got to be some partnerships to promote arts awareness and education in general. By just sponsoring an event and not incorporating any of the outreach that would lead to a larger scale, it just doesn’t hold the power that more programs like Art Breaks on MTV would bring.
There are probably a slew of programs that I don’t even know about, but those should be lauded and celebrated. The incorporation of young artist designs on Volcom shirts are great, but they are few and far in between. The same could be said about the partnership with Levi’s Jeans support of ART IN THE STREETS at MOCA. Its good, but not enough.
We’re all missing out in the long run if there is nothing to drive interest in the arts among the masses – and the 13-24 demo is a perfect place to aim for. Does it do the best thing for the brands who execute the programs? That will depend on who is doing it and what the context is. But there are certainly creative ways to make it a win-win. In ever-smaller circles, much emphasis is being placed on the value of art by the likes of Damian Hirst/Warhol/Gaugin, the sales of performances of the dance masterpieces by Ailey/Tharp/Joffrey, or the resonant brilliance of Glass/Handel/Shostakovich, but the true value of expanding the reach of the arts like these and more goes far beyond a sale. It goes to the very core of our society not turning into IDIOCRACY. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you should.
The classic meaning of the Patrons of the Arts is almost gone and the void is ripe for filling by the brands and mediums that have the reach like no others. It’s time to step up and grasp the change for the benefit of our future. If MTV is, we all should…