Arts needed more than ever

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Arts needed more than ever

We hear dreadful news these days of closing operations and layoffs. The vicious circle of a worldwide depression and falling consumption lead to a decrease in production. The field of culture and the arts is no exception.

People reduce spending on entertainment during turbulent times, and artists have already suffered a direct hit.

A recent survey by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute showed that more than half of the people engaged in culture and the arts (56.4 percent) are facing more difficulty now than during the 1997 financial crisis.

But no matter how difficult the situation, the government should pay more attention to developing the power of culture and the arts. The arts lift popular sentiment and build hope for tomorrow.

Culture plays a pivotal role in promoting social integration, including low-income or socially-marginalized people and growing children. The phenomenon of cultural polarization, which is further aggravated during economic turmoil, should not be left unattended.

The American New Deal cultural programs provide us with invaluable blueprints. The U.S. Department of the Treasury was at the forefront of creating new job opportunities for artists by launching the Federal Art Project and the Federal Music Project. A total of 10,000 photographers and filmmakers were employed to record the social face of the Great Depression.

Numerous paintings, sculptures and wall paintings poured in. Movies became cheaper thanks to the government’s support. Sixty-five percent of Americans went to the cinema more than once a week. Masterpieces such as “Gone with the Wind” appeared at that time.

It is urgent to launch Korea’s “New Deal cultural programs” to give the public something to enjoy in these otherwise bleak times. The government should strive to help people pursue life, liberty and happiness. There are several relevant projects led by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism: such as the “Cultural art education program for low-income and socially-marginalized people.”

There is a need to improve existing projects, considering the gloomy social atmosphere and the ever-worsening economic turmoil.

New Deal cultural programs will allow artists to work in a secure environment. Except for the extreme minority, Korean artists have minimum incomes and receive nearly no social welfare benefits. Win-win policies linking talented artists and the public should be implemented swiftly.

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