Eurocrisis: No Jobs? Make Art and Go to the Theater!
Nearly 1 out of 4 people in Spain are out of work. That’s almost 5.7 million people, according to figures released on Friday morning revealing that the unemployment rate in Spain is now 24.6 percent, breaking the previous record during a recession Spain went through 18 years ago.
It is even worse if you’re under 25 in Spain: The youth unemployment rate is 53 percent.
In Greece, things are barely better: Unemployment is 22 percent, youth unemployment is 52 percent and 0.6 percent of the country’s 5 million-person workforce migrated to Germany in 2011. That’s 25,000 Greeks. A survey in the widely-read Ta Nea daily found that about half of young Greeks graduating from technical schools want to emigrate. About 40 percent of young graduates in Spain, Portugal and Italy are “thinking” of leaving their countries.
The International Monetary Fund is warning that Spain faces a lost decade of growth, with its double-dip recession continuing for another 18 months. Spain has not yet sought a bailout as have Greece, Ireland and Portugal but, on Tuesday night, Spain’s economy minister Luis de Guindos reportedly raised the subject in speaking to German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. But Germany is not yet in favor of what would be a 300 billion euro bailout.
In Times of Trouble, Seek the Arts
Despite, or perhaps because, of all this, theater attendance is up in Spain and also in Italy and France. Publicly-funded arts groups have faced massive budget cuts, but, in the ten years up to 2011, theater attendance has grown by 17 percent and the number of moviegoers has risen by about half that. In Barcelona, 2.8 million people attended theatrical productions and not only blockbuster touring shows like “The Lion King” but “serious theater” too. Art and music festivals have also been managing in the economic crisis.
Admittedly, almost all theaters have cut their ticket prices. But people could certainly spend the fewer funds they have on something besides an evening of entertainment. In Rome, performers have occupied the Teatro Valle (which opened in 1727) for a year:
At first, it was a protest at the disbanding of a state-funded body that managed the Valle and two other theatres. But it soon became a broader movement in support of welfare guarantees for performers and more government backing for culture in general. What the protesters had not bargained for was the degree of support they received. “We couldn’t get out”, said Sylvia De Fanti, an actor and writer.
Large numbers of people, including several prominent figures in Italian life, signed their manifesto. Local restaurants provided them with food for their events. Shops gave discounts. And, when the participants staged plays in the Valle, they found they could pack it to capacity.
“Now, you could say that is because entry is free. But it’s not just that. We make a suggestion that people pay whatever they think is fair. There is a hunger, not just for quality, but to learn what quality is,” De Fanti said.
In Greece, the art scene is “flourishing,” with a renewed focus on “touring exhibitions and ephemeral performances, events and discussions more suited to the tough economic climate than commercially driven work catering to rich buyers.” Athens has about 50 non-profit, non-hierarchical arts groups including collective Filopappou, the Nomadic Architecture Network and Reconstruction Community. The last-mentioned is composed of artists, architects and theorists and has created a sound-map of Athens that is available online.
As DeFanti says in the Guardian,
“I think that the recession is like a crack in the wall. You worry the wall is going to fall down, and then you see that on the other side there is a garden you never knew existed.”
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Photo by Festival de Almagro