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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Arts Are Alive

Last weekend I got to be a tourist in my own city. My in-laws watched the two little ones, and my wife and I got to experience the benefits of New  York City untethered to children, the clock, gadgets, any obligations or demands.

We had a weekend of fun, in part not because of anything we did, but because of what we didn’t do.  We didn’t send work emails, tweet, blog, surf Web sites or download anything. We just walked the streets of the greatest city and took in the rush of humanity that one is instantly exposed to the minute you step onto a sidewalk or enter a subway station.

We went to a concert after enjoying a Sushi Samba dinner.  The main act was an up-and-comer.  Recently featured on Saturday Night Live, Ellie Goulding is the next new talent out of Britain, just 24.  It was a cool venue – Terminal 5, near the West Side Highway.  No seats – standing only. About one thousand people piled in.  I was no more than 150 feet from the stage. I felt alive, surrounded by energy, vibration, sound, and youth.  Few pleasures exceed live music. Plus a ticket was only $30 – you can’t beat that.

The next day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Central Park.  Their suggested entrance rate was $25 a person.  You could also give nothing, which is interesting, but we gave $10 each.  You could spend an entire day there.  Actually, we could have spent an entire day waiting on line for the Alexander McQueen exhibit.  It was packed and entrance to the temporary exhibit was on a two-hour delay.

We ended up skipping McQueen, though my wife really wanted to see the display of fashion left behind by the clothing designer who killed himself last year. I’d never even heard of him buy my wife, who seems to be up on trendy chefs, cool fashion designers, the Royal Family, and what Matt Lauer ate for breakfast, had to hold back her disgust at my proudly admitted ignorance.  I reminded her that we’re in information overload and for every fashion designer I don’t know I have stored thousands of names in my head --writers, actors, politicians, athletes, etc. We all can’t know everything – not even 1% of 1% of !% of everything.  No value judgments should be made – I know who Rod Serling was (Twilight Zone) and she knows about fashionistas.  I guess we complement each other that way.

We then walked the Highline, a mile-plus long stretch of old train tracks that were creatively transformed into a park and garden area, filled with benches and people-watching.

The evening proceeded to an off-Broadway theater.  We saw All New People, a short-run play written by Zach Braff of Scrubs fame. The comedy-drama centered on life and death, love and loneliness, God, and friendship.  The theater only holds around 240 people.  Almost all of the seats were $75 apiece – before all the nonsense handling fees and taxes kick in --but we bought stool seats that put you close to the stage but a level up and to the side.  They were only $30 a piece. Sweet.

We ended the night at a terrific Argentine restaurant.

The weekend reminded me that the arts and entertainment industry is alive and well.  Sure it has its challenges and everything is undergoing changes with the lingering recession and the influence of all things online.  But hopefully the book industry is taking note. People still love a sense of community and enjoy the creative arts in person.  The concert’s stage, the play’s theater, and he art’s museum theoretically could be replaced.  CD’s and digital downloads deliver music to us on our phone. E-books can be sent to hand-held devices. The museum tour can be done online and instead of seeing a play we can download a movie for a few bucks. But we choose to go to the theater, the concert hall, the art museum, and I hope the bookstore. We crave to touch others and feel alive, to be connected not by our Facebook “likes” or our tweeting circles, but by our eyes, voices, and physical touches.

True, it’d be a lot cheaper and more convenient to just stay home and let my smart phone bring the world to me, and at times that is preferred and appreciated. But it’s nice to get out and feel a part of things, to experience real-time, 4 D life.

Ok, gotta go.  My phone just made a sound, indicating I have several new texts to respond to. I’m sure they are not important and can wait. But I feel compelled to respond.  The phone no longer serves me but rather I serve it.  I may need fewer friends so I can reduce the amount of digital dialogue that I have to engage in but I suspect even if I had just one friend, he or she would spend even more time emailing and texting and tweeting me, to fill the void.

Step away from your electronics and go out to the theater, a club, a concert, a comedy show, a museum, or a bookstore.  The arts are alive and so are you when you are surrounded by them.

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer of Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) but the views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and are personal and do not reflect the official viewpoints of PTA. You can read his blog (http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/) and follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com

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