Future of American culture discussed in new book; Ivey and Tepper of Vanderbilt’s Curb Center edit Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America’s Cultural Life

Two classes of Americans are developing based on their access to and expertise with technology, according to a new book edited by Bill Ivey and Steven Tepper at Vanderbilt University’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy.

Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America’s Cultural Life was released by Routledge on Oct. 16. The book contains 14 perceptive essays on the state of American culture by writers including Barry Schwartz, Robert Wuthnow, Daniel B. Cornfield, Jennifer C. Lena, Lynne Conner and Bonnie Erickson. It was edited by Ivey, director of Vanderbilt’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Tepper, associate director of the Curb Center and professor of sociology.

The book will be discussed on Monday, Nov. 26, at a reception at the Wallace Foundation on the seventh floor of 5 Penn Plaza, on Eighth Avenue between 33rd and 34th streets in New York City. Reporters are welcome to the 4:30 p.m. presentation with reception to follow. To attend, RSVP to rgeevarghese@wallacefoundation.org or 212-251-9785.

“Increasingly, those who have the education, skills, right types of jobs, financial resources and time required to navigate the sea of cultural choice will gain access to new cultural opportunities,” writes Tepper in the book. “At the same time, those citizens who have fewer resources – less time and money, diminished social networks and less knowledge about how to navigate the cultural system – will increasingly rely on the cultural fare offered to them by consolidated media and entertainment conglomerates. … Technology and economic change are conspiring to create a new cultural elite and a new cultural underclass.”

The essays track the trip American culture has taken from a largely amateur and participatory culture where citizens played music, drew and pursued other art for the enjoyment of themselves and their neighbors. The growth of technology like radio, phonograph and television led to more professional entertainers, leaving most to become connoisseurs rather than artists themselves.

Now, more technology is swinging the pendulum the other way, say Tepper and Ivey.

“From rap musicians who got their start by recording homemade tape recordings to thousands of amateur astronomers whose careful observations that employ relatively cheap but high-powered telescopes contribute to scientific breakthroughs to the hundreds and thousands of bloggers emerging as a shadow news media corps, citizens are increasingly spending significant amounts of their leisure time engaged in serious, creative pursuits,” Tepper writes.

The Curb Center got support for the research that led to Engaging Art from The Wallace Foundation, based in New York, which seeks to support and share effective ideas and practices that will strengthen education leadership, arts participation and out-of-school learning.

“We hope this collection of varied perspectives on the changing landscape of arts participation in the United States will be useful to arts policymakers and practitioners working to engage more Americans in the arts, said M. Christine DeVita, president of The Wallace Foundation.

Engaging Art contains chapters on how college students find new music, the perils of using audience research to give people what they say they want, the growth of cultural activities in religious environments and the need to give people more help – or filters – so they can sift through their entertainment options.

Ivey and Tepper suggest there is a role for government to play in guiding the future of American culture.

“Taking part in religious practice and a happy family life are both recognized sources of happiness, but neither is particularly amenable to public policy,” Ivey writes. “Arts participation, on the other hand, can provide citizens with a sense of accomplishment, continuity, and community, and its secular, communal character is a good fit for government programs.”

Media Contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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