In the opening scene from one of my favorite new (old) shows, Studio 60 (brilliantly written by the always controversial Aaron Sorkin) the executive producer of a live television show cuts in on a live broadcast to rant about the state of society, media specifically. He states, “There’s always been a struggle between art and commerce. Well let me tell you, art is getting it’s ass kicked.
While the show first aired back in 2006, I think the message at the center of the controversial first episode still rings true today: art has been getting it’s ass kicked. In my opinion, that is one of the first things that needs to change in order to pave the way for a new culture, less focused on commerce and more focused on creativity.
When I say art, I’m not referring to a specific form, rather the product of human creativity, the creation of elements that affect the human emotion, and the medium of expression used to create something meaningful beyond a monetary measurement. I know that’s a mouthful. In general, I mean innovation in the form of anything not political, governmental, economical, or legal in nature. We’ve been down those roads and we’ve failed miserably. It’s time take to take a new step towards progress, by letting art overtake commerce. Here’s what I mean.
In his article in the New York Times, Paul Kruegman states, We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness."
So if politicians and government aren’t getting things done, who will? That’s where the artists come in. Take Google, arguable the most innovative American company existing today. Regardless of the “big brother” arguments they face daily, they are truly pushing the boundaries of how we use technology. Think all Google is doing is revolutionizing the search engine? Wrong. Read about how they are creating the self-driving car and you may just reconsider. Already thinking about the negatives (cab drivers, bus drivers - out of work), think again. It’s innovation like this that creates jobs.
Look at Facebook, another one of the most innovative companies of this generation. At first glance, many would say they’ve brought us down with Farmville, internet obsession, etc. I look at it in a slightly different manner. They’ve stimulated the marketing and PR industry. They created customer service jobs by forcing big businesses to hire social media representatives and they forged the way for the creation of small businesses to offer services to help companies manage their Facebook presence. They even gave entrepreneurs and bloggers a platform to raise awareness and build a community around their message. It has pushed us forward as a society and a culture, and it was always an act of creativity and art first, and a platform for commerce second.
Things don’t have to be large scale either. There are thousands of young entrepreneurs out there just waiting to make their dream a reality. The problem? All the bailout money is going to banks and financial institutions that do nothing but blow the billions of dollars they're given. How about funding 100 innovative small business ventures that will first help create a new culture and second help drive consumer spending and commerce (Birk could do it). The government is so greedy that they don’t think about starting over for the future, rather they just think about trying to patch up the past. At some point, we must move forward, and art is often the leading driver of change.
Studio 60 clip: