My friend Jelena is applying for master’s degree in cultural studies. You know how that works: tons of paperwork and application forms.
After we discussed what would be the best opener for her personal statements, she told me hers is a little naive. “I want to study culture because I want to change the world.”
My initial reaction was a loud laugh and a big question mark above my head. How could you ever change the world with a little help from culture? Is there any room left for culture in today’s busy world, where we consume fast food and fast entertainment while art is left alone and forgotten?
Is that even realistic when theaters, museums and galleries are simply dying out due to low attendance?
Every year, Croatia is a host of manifestation called the Night of Museums. For one day, all museums in the city are opened for 24 hours and entrance is free. Needless to say, it is nearly impossible to get into any of them. If something is free – it’s appealing.
I still remember an anecdote from one news report from last year’s Night of Museum. A father and his young son were enjoying some quality time together in a museum. After being asked if he approves of events like these, the father replied: “I really like it. We’ve never been here before. Usually we only go to the cinema. It’s great because it’s free but it’s a shame it only lasts for one night.”
My maternal instinct kicked in. I wanted to hit him over the head after hearing this.
The math was simple. Father has no problem paying more than 5 euro per person to see a movie, but less than 2 euros for a museum ticket was too much. What is the message he is sending out to his child? Pay more to see over-produced HD Hollywood crap that either provides your brain with momentary recreation or permanently dumbs you down. Pay nothing to see art because art is overrated. Why would you want to move your emotions or challenge your intellect when you can just enjoy booms and bangs, and other wonders from special-effects family?
If only the father knew that investing into a museum ticket is a direct investment into his child’s future. We can sit here and pretend that the form of entertainment we indulge in while we’re young doesn’t influence us, but the truth is – it does.
There is a huge difference between a child that spends free time playing computer games and a child that goes to see exhibition. Before you call me a rich snob, let me remind you that most of the museums have “free entrance for kids” policy. It doesn’t take money to wake up your child’s interest in cultural diversity, only time.
In the end, it seems like Jelena could be right after all. If we devoted more of our free time to meaningful and educational activities, perhaps we could make a change or at least a little shift in the attitude of those who show no interest for this.
We defined human history through art, and somehow we managed to forget how art can define a human being. Sometimes all it takes is a glance at a painting or a sculpture to trigger one’s senses and creativity. With a power like that, art is a weapon of positive change in this world.
The article was originally written in English.
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