Suppose the traditional high arts organizations were pitted against pop culture venues for capturing fundraising dollars? Suppose each group had to prove the return on investment by the size of the audience, the copies sold, or the life-changing stories from exposure to the art form?

Traditional arts never before have been so challenged to prove their value. The arts need money. Boards of local organizations spend most of their volunteer time planning elaborate fundraisers to pay last production's bills. Schools are cutting back on part-time art instructors and moving to volunteer instructors. Attendance is sliding at many live performances as our entertainment choices outnumber the days in the week. The pot of discretionary dollars is shrinking in corporate America, and fixed incomes of the graying audience limit patron sponsorship.

A recent Wall Street Journal article by author Greg Sandow stated: "In past generations, no one doubted that the crucial work of culture-forging our diverse understanding of ourselves-was being done by traditional high arts like classical music, painting, and sculpture, theater, dance, novels and poetry. But that's no longer true. Now we find ourselves looking toward film, graphic design, photography, pop music and Television and (surely other things, like fashion). That's a huge shift. And we're not talking only about mass entertainment; some things in popular culture can be just as complex-and just as non-popular-as anything the arts can offer. What are the arts going to do about this? I'd say that arts organizations-and people in what I'll call the 'official' arts-should open their arms and embrace reality. They should argue for the virtues of their kind of art, without pretending that they're offering the only art we've got."

Kudos to local organizations who recognize the changing preferences of our diverse population. The Peoria Symphony, for instance, is bringing in guest pop artists like Bobby McFerrin, the Art Guild is hosting Cibachrome photographs from Andres Serrano's AMERICA-the only venue in the Midwest, and Lakeview Museum is hosting Sherlock Holmes & the Clocktower Mystery. We salute organizations that are innovative in their approach to attracting new audiences, organizations that broaden their geographic reach through sharing mailing lists of potential patrons, and organizations whose volunteers are more on the offense and inclusive of change, rather than on the defense of the status quo.

Arts Alive! is expanding its circulation and alerting you to various non-traditional art forms and events as we're aware of them. Let us know what your favorite art and entertainment attraction is. We're on the surviving side! AA!