Ming Lai’s Art Recession is comprised of a series of testimonials, relentless in their focus. The thesis? Art education is devalued (and hence vulnerable) in our culture despite helping students excel in other disciplines and improving the quality of life for society as a whole.
There is an element of preaching to the choir here. That is true of most testimonials. Late in Art Recession the idea is floated that perhaps proponents of the art need to back up the abstract claims regarding the way art benefits society by testing those assumptions and presenting the data to skeptics. The film never gets around to following its own advice, but I was too busy sitting in the choir shouting “amen” to much care.
The artists reflect on how they have been positively influenced by teaching, and there is some advice from parents about how to work the public school system and advocate for your child’s passion. Those still involved with art instruction speak of the determination needed to acquire and preserve resources in a culture that corporately supports athletics but often expects the individual artists to pay their own way.
There are people in this world who know from experience that some things are important but not how to articulate them. Art Recession could be a frustrating reminder to artists of just how underfunded and unappreciated they are, but it might also be an encouragement to know they are not alone. Since it focuses on feelings rather than strategies for change, the biggest factor may be context. Watch it in a group and talk about it. Download it and ask a friend or family member to screen it with you. Or, if you are not an artist, show to someone who is…and then ask how you can support them or tell them how art has enriched your life.
Art Recession is available for digital download on Amazon.com from FilmBuff beginning in April, 2014. Check out the trailer below: