Can Oculus Cure Baumol?
Adam Huttler

Hi Adam, In response to your article. First and Foremost, I am tackling the Baumol disease element you are discussing. And your answer…Baumol’s work is not about a disease, as you know, but the fact — it’s simple math when you look at the performing arts practice. Rising costs and lack of efficiencies within the practice for same quality work, and inability to sustain cost of quality work.

I’m defining organizations as a large definition — administration, artists, plus the space for rehearsal and performance. Efficiency within any system is ideal.

In your answer paragraphs you have conflicting statements — 1) “First, we have to stop being sentimental about arts organizations.” and 2) “Art is essential to our humanity.” 3) “Arts organizations are socioeconomic constructs created to facilitate distribution,…” #2 Art is essential to our humanity does not fit into your capitalist construct where #1 & #2 do — the idea that $ controls all our activities. If you believed #2 — art is essential to humanity there would be no argument with supporting the arts within said capitalist structure. You would not deny a community of people food — basing its need on a construct. We may not be able to deliver but to enact community “death” is surely not a goal — they can’t afford their food so let them die.

As an arts & arts policy advocate, practicing artist, arts administrator and anthropologist — you are very wrong about the stable arts organization and its role in society. Stable centers, where arts thrived, are not a social construct in the capitalist system, they existed long before capitalism was the basis of managing communities. They were necessary and therefore the community supported them, they found a way — the community including its leaders. It is not about the money or distribution — organizations are about the holistic picture of the arts: development, gathering spaces, conceptual incubators, distribution and communal memory.

Stability is imperative in the ongoing development of any system, as a technology expert you understand this. No human system can develop anything worthwhile on a foundation of instability. I agree that creativity does thrive with conflict; impermanence can create challenge and instability can bring about innovation. But art products & concepts need a place to root plus time to grow and develop into something great; this is where stability is imperative. I am a true believer in a mix of both stability and radical change — thus Baumol’s theories are best understood as a rule to consider the “multi layer cost” of not having stable organizations available for artists and artistry to thrive and develop. Impermanence can become an excuse to not support the arts.

My argument is for the ongoing support of an arts system that is allowed to lose money. It’s R&D for the technology that will sell the great and not so great work. The stable organization allows instability to exist within its system. You speak of money as measure— but a system without social support for both success (great art) and mistakes (risky endeavors) will limit our ability to excel as a whole. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater was never a good idea, or is it?

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