Performing arts are forms of art in which artists use their bodies or voice to pass across a message to an audience. It includes such performances as drama, dance, song, narratives and poetry among others. The word performing arts gained popularity in the 1960’s though the art itself is as old as mankind. Performing arts has undergone numerous changes through the history of mankind.
In the 19th century, performing arts were provided to the public through commercial, amateur artists and organizations (Kevin, Arthur and Julia 11). There was little support from the government and very little patronage of upper class citizens. The performing art groups were mainly for profit making enterprises managed by individual owners. The artists did not descriminate and provided their service to all groups of people mainly in larger urban centres. Sometimes, a group of musicians and actors would tour smaller towns to provide their performance.
In the early years of the 20th century, the touring companies began to decline. For instance, according to Baumol and Bowen, there were about 327 theatre companies in America at the end of the century and fewer than 100 in 1915 (Kevin, Arthur and Julia). The changes were as a result of new movies that led to the decline in popularity of live performances as more people resigned to being entertained at the comfort of their houses.
Today, the industry is still evolving leading to the realignment of support structure for the arts. Much attention is now being placed on collaboration and transfer of ideas, functions and resources including artists across sectors. For instance, the non profit sector is the training ground for artists and a source of research and development for the commercial sector as it provides an avenue for new works and new artists. There exists government support in terms of laying policies around such areas as copyright, intellectual property rights, trade agreements and other technological issues within the communication industry.
From the early 1900s, remarkable strides have been made in performing arts as regards gender. This was a period that saw rapid social, political and industrial changes across the world. As many women acquired more education, so was their changing roles in the society and performing arts as well. Prior to this period, the role of women was considered to be surbordinate to that of men and only a few if not not none were seen in the performance arts. Women artists faced challenges due to gender biases brought about as a result of male dominated supremacy. As the number of educated women increases and the constant agitation for equality, the number of women in the industry has tremendously grown in the recent years beginning from about the 1960’s (bodytracks).
In 1994, it was estimated that 60 percent of performing artists were males (Kevin, Arthur and Julia). Women were involved in the art as amateur performers or support performers. In general, amateur performers were somewhat older, better educated and most likely to be females. The trend has been changing and today, there are more women taking up professional roles in performing arts. Similarly, in the past, international performance arts was dominated by the whites. Unlike other professionals, amateur performers were less likely to be whites.
The formation of feminist art movement contibuted majorly to change in scope to recognise female accomplishments internationally. In the past, it was difficult for women to own or even lead a group of performing artists. Today,many women have their own bands and are plying a trade that was once dominated by the males. They are being recognised for their prowess in performing arts.
Even though equality is yet to be achieved in all sectors, like any other artist, females today have an equal opportunity for the available resources as their male counterparts. Today, they see greater percentage of roles in some technical and creative areas of performing arts more so as stage managers, designers, musical directors and even as composers or producers. They have also been given lead roles that were formerly dominated by male artists like acting as a wealthy ranch owner with a lot of influence in the society.
The performing art in itself has also undergone major transformation in its two main segments. Today, concentration has departed from the profit and non profit making segments to large versus small arts organizations and firms that target small versus niche market. The future of the industry is predicted to be highly segmented into distinct sector with each specialising in a particular type of product or artistic experience targeting a different market and responding to given financial pressures.
1950s saw a lot of transformation especially in America (Kevin, Arthur and Julia). The federal government began to seek comparable stature in the arts. The coming up of the Ford Foundation by W.McNeil Lowry developed a scheme to financially revitalise the major performing arts institutions through leveraged invetsments that required matching support upto four times the amount awarded by the Foundation. The foundation also aimed at increasing access to the high arts through establishment of regional structures that would disperse the arts beyond the cities and to professionalise the arts through establishment of conversavatories and schools to generate skilled artists and labour force for the increasing numbers of arts organizations.
On the other hand, the increased use of technology has led to major improvements in the sector especially the ability for mass production of various forms of performing arts has contributed towards availablity of a wide variety of performing art works for the audience across the globe. Through new and improved production, recording and distribution technologies, art works performed in one region of the world can be made available almost instantly to the rest of the world. Technology has led to continued growth in commercial recorded and broacast performing arts industry and on the other hand reduced demand for live performance.
The performing arts market has been tilted to a select few. This is due to the emergence of superstars coming up as a result of technological advances that have helped magnify the small differences in talent. These developments have led to a drive in wages of a few artists above everyone else in the field. Like other fields like athletes and soccer, few artists make it to the top, but many are inspired by the successes of those at the top.
Another notable change over the years is diversity. The live performance sector especially the high arts has undergone transformation resulting from several developments in the sector. The number, geographical dispersion and diversity of non profit art organizations have increased several fold. Diversity has led to an increase in number of people attending live performances and buying recorded performances. It is worth noting that recorded performance has increased more than live performance because of the quality brought in by the use of technology and the relatively cheaper cost of obtaining recorded performance.
There has also been a tremendous change in the artists. As the number of art organizations increased, so has the number of professional and amateur artists who have continued to dedicate themselves to the art. Between 1970 and 1990, non profit arts organizations increased by about 80 percent while the commercial arts organization increased by over 40 percent (Kevin, Arthur and Julia). This increase led to the doubling of the number of artists to about 1.6 million out of which 261,000 were performing artists.
In conclusion, visual performing arts has changed tremendously in the last 100 years. Today, the performing arts industry has all types of representations. Men and women are equally involved and so are all races and ages. Technological advancements will continue to shape the industry towards excellence in the future.
bodytracks. Timeline. 2012. 4 April 2014 <http:/bodytracks.org/>.
Kevin, McCarthy F., et al. The Performing Arts in a new era. New York: Rand, 2001.
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