In a recent article in the Washington Post Michael Conforti, the President for the Association of Art Museum Directors, said that despite the financial troubles faced by so many of the nation's art institutions - the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA and the National Academy in New York to name but a few - art museums are nonetheless a "bellwether" for people during troubled times - "places that people can turn to in times of instability."
One of his jobs is undoubtedly to do what the guardians of our economic fate are currently doing: trying to instill a sense of confidence and security. However, there's still something fundementally overoptimistic about that statement. it prompts me to wonder whether the notion that "what will survive of us is art" a reliable one, given our culture's changing relationship to and definition of art. As schools, libraries, public parks struggle to stay on track, and thousands are losing ther livelihoods, is it fair to say that a visit to an art museum will serve to assuage some of our present and pressing woes - even as promoting visual literacy and critical thinking falls lower and lower on the educational agenda? We may retain the art, but what if all but the most erudite are forgetting how to look at it?