Last night a friend pulled up an article on her phone that she said I simply had to read. It was a piece on the Huffington Post by Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, bemoaning the lack of exposure to the arts by Millennials. Among other things, he points out what he calls the “low culture IQ” of twentysomethings who may have achieved a great deal already in their chosen professional fields, but have little knowledge about or even interest in attending a theater performance or going to an art gallery. The bottom line for Kaiser is the fear of what happens when Millenials hit middle age and are in a financial position to help the arts – will they?
As a member of Generation X, I always find the anxiety of the Boomers over whether the Millennials will take care of them to be mildly humorous, considering those fears were also expressed about us, and every generation hits that fear eventually. We’re now finding ourselves being asked to join boards of directors of arts institutions and worthy non-profits. What happened to being called lazy slackers in our crazy clubkid days? After years of being asked to go in the servants’ entrance it’s always funny when they finally let you in the front door.
Joking aside, I definitely feel passionate about the future of the arts and of course I want to help in their support. When I’m out reviewing, to my untrained statistical eye it seems like DC audiences are relatively mixed in age. However, lately I’ve been hearing the same question over and over from different theater companies – how do we get young audiences in? By young, they mean Millennials, though at times they even stretch the age range up to the late thirties, which shows just how dire the lack of attendance might be.
So, I want to hear from you. Here in DC we seem to have an amazing array of opportunities to enjoy the arts. But is Kaiser right in his worry that Millennials have little to no exposure to the arts, and consequently won’t support them? How often do you attend theater performances, art exhibits, concerts – and what makes you choose the ones you do? Is it a question of interest, or of being able to afford it? Please sound off! I’d love to hear what you think of Kaiser’s views and whether, in DC at least, you see it as an accurate crisis.