Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Reading

How The Arts Survived — Jared Keller at The Atlantic notes that all those folks with degrees in the arts can actually find jobs during the recession.

If you can’t imagine doing anything outside of the arts, you’re in luck. Designers, writers, painters, and other creatives have a surprisingly bright future, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jobs for artists are projected to grow by 11 percent this decade, a bit faster than the overall workforce. The BLS category “artist occupations” is a catch-all for actors, architects, dancers, designers, photographers, and other cultural workers like interpreters and archivists.

Some of these so-called “creatives” will enjoy explosive growth. The NEA predicts that museum technicians and conservators will grow the most (by 26 percent) between 2008 and 2018, followed by curators (23 percent), interior designers (19 percent), architects (16 percent), writers and authors (15 percent) and actors (13 percent).

As austerity descends on the states, theater and art budgets are fighting to keep taxpayer support. So where is the growth coming from? It’s coming from the private sector, where decidedly un-artistic occupations like engineering, technology, and health care are siphoning artists from the freelance world. For example, the NEA suggests that the growing demand for new health care facilities an the hospitality industry will lead to increased demand for interior designers. Explosive growth in online advertising and interactive multimedia serves as a boon for artists and illustrators, while the growth of digital publishing provide new opportunities for fledgling writers and authors.

Will students who dreamed of successful freelance artist careers be prepared for these professional private sector jobs? There is a widespread sense that humanities students assume their sophomore-year papers on phenomenological existentialism, and senior theses on race in post-Renaissance British literature, will translate into dream jobs. But in a 2004 article in The Atlantic, Richard Freeland anticipated a “third way” nestled between a liberal arts education and professional tutelage:

Slowly but surely, higher education is evolving a new paradigm for undergraduate study that erodes the long-standing divide between liberal and professional education. Many liberal arts colleges now offer courses and majors in professional fields; professional disciplines, meanwhile, have become more serious about the arts and sciences. Moreover, universities are encouraging students to include both liberal arts and professional coursework in their programs of study, while internships and other kinds of off-campus experience have gained widespread acceptance in both liberal and professional disciplines. Gradually taking shape is a curricular “third way” that systematically integrates liberal education, professional education, and off-campus experience to produce college graduates who are both well educated and well prepared for the workplace.

If the NEA’s analysis is correct, the post-industrial economy may hasten the arrival of Freeland’s “third way” in institutions of higher education by plugging independent artists into professional roles.

More below the fold.

“Them Guys Got…” — Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm recalls the history of the men and women who flew the space shuttle.

The earth shook. Even the air seemed to rumble. That first shuttle ascended amid such a terrible inferno that the Herald reporter assigned to record the atmospherics could only stand there, a gape-mouthed idiot, forgetting why he had bothered to bring a pen and notebook to Titusville that morning.

My wits were knocked asunder. The thought that human beings could survive inside that white hot fireball just wouldn’t compute. And the only quote I managed to retrieve during those first few moments of blastoff was judged unfit for a family newspaper.

A beery, beefy, biker-looking fellow next to me had yelled out a spontaneous, crude (by 1981 standards) assessment of the courage required to hitch a ride aboard the blazing Columbia. “Them guys got.…” Then came call a word analogous to testicles. He also referenced watermelons. At 7 a.m., April 12, 1981, as the 219,256 pounds blasted out of gravity’s grip, the stunned reporter on the bank of the Indian River thought he had the perfect quote. My editors, not so brash (not of the melon variety, in my estimation) disagreed.

The launch provided the most terrific spectacle I’ve ever seen. That November, I was at Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert stunned once again by Columbia as it left an intermittent vapor trail, like white stitching across the sky, and glided from Mach 24 to a silent, perfect landing on the sandy flats. That second mission, planned for five days, had been cut short by a failed fuel cell. The shuttle arrived in California after just two days and six hours, which should have told me something but I was still caught up in the show, the spectacle, the romance of manned space flight.

“Ask The Woman Who Owns One” — Eighty years ago, Packard automobiles were sold under the slogan “Ask the man who owns one.” Margaret Dunning still does.

When Margaret Dunning was 10 years old, she lost control while driving the family’s Overland touring car and careered into a barn, fracturing several boards.

“I hit it, and it didn’t move,” Ms. Dunning, who turned 101 last month, said.

“That car had a mind of its own,” she said. “And I’m not a very tall person, so I had trouble getting onto the brakes with enough power to hold that engine down. It just got away from me.”

Soon enough, though, she was back at it, rumbling around the back roads of Redford Township, just west of Detroit, where her family owned a sprawling dairy and potato farm. By then she had already been driving for two years.

Before the barn incident, Ms. Dunning’s father had often let his young daughter steer while he operated the other controls. One day he let her do it all, but not without a stern lecture.

“Do you know what you’re controlling here?” she recalled him asking. “Do you know the power that you’re controlling?”

“He explained to me how, for some jobs, it was better to use multiple horses,” she said. “But the minute you lose control, you’ve got wild horses to deal with.

“And that’s how he taught me about horsepower,” Ms. Dunning added. “And it stuck with me.”

After that, Ms. Dunning, an only child, drove everything on the farm that was drivable, she said, including a Maxwell truck and eventually, tractors.

When she was 12 her father died, and his Model T Ford became hers.

Once her politically connected mother, who had arthritic feet and could not drive cars, finagled a driver’s license for the 12-year-old Margaret, she drove her mother everywhere. Her mother drove the farm’s four teams of horses.

“If you had just a little knowledge and some baling wire and bob pins, you could keep the thing going,” she said of the Model T. “It was the little car that made America.”

She cherished her time in the car alone, reaching into the wind for roadside stalks of fragrant sweet clover. “I’d see a few friends or race past a blind pig,” she said, using the euphemism for Prohibition-era drinking establishments. “Before I could get home, people would be calling saying, ‘I think I just saw Margaret, with quite a dust pile behind her.’ ”

Doonesbury — College prep.