Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is New York the cultural capital of North America?

New York has long been considered the cultural capital of America. Is it still? If not, where?

New York is still one of the cultural capitals of North America. Not, however, the only one.

What makes a cultural capitol? I’d say that includes
*many forms of what we name as the arts -- differing genres of music, theater, dance, writing, film making, visual arts -- practiced at very high levels
*vibrant communities of exchange among artists who are creating this work
*receptive and engaged audiences of adults and children
*presenters and other people and structures which help artists and those who would and who might learn from and enjoy and be inspired by them connect.

halifax leaves copyright kerry dexterWith these criteria in mind, if I had to choose just one other city in North America to stand alongside New York as cultural capitol, it might be Nashville. I could also make a great case for Boston, though. Then there’s New Orleans, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Washington, DC. Montreal, Austin, Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, the whole of Cape Breton Island, Albuquerque, Dallas, Bloomington Indiana. There are others.

A few years back, I was speaking with Paul Gambill, who was at the time with what was then known as the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, an outfit known for its adventurous programming. We were talking about the future of orchestras, and about reaching new audiences for them. He remarked that he believed strongly in the importance of what is traditionally thought of as classical music, and that it should continue to stand on its own, undiluted. There’s no reason, he went on to say, that other sorts of music cannot stand alongside classical music, just as strongly, and by so doing engage wider audiences and create deeper connections with listeners and supporters for both.

The same idea applies, I think, when considering that question about New York City as the cultural capital of North America. It is one, yes, with its own distinct personality in all aspects of the arts. Is it the only one? I’d say not.

As we stand in the early years of the twenty first century, there are other cities with their own voices which add to the life and conversation and nurturing of the arts in North America, which stand on their own alongside New York. It is cultural circle, these days, or perhaps a cultural road trip, rather than one cultural capital.

If you’ve come here by way of Spring for Music, thank you. I hope you will take a bit of a look around to see what other stories you might enjoy here along the music road.

Should you be a regular reader, thank you for that. The people at Spring for Music, which is a classical music festival held in New York City in May, are holding a competition called the Great Arts Blogger Challenge. This story is an entry to the first round of that competition, answering the question about New York as required.

I'd welcome your vote in this first round of the competition. Voting is open through noon US Eastern time on 29 March -- though you do not have to have a US address to vote, you may vote from anywhere in the world. You may read all the entries, and if you choose, vote for this one, here. Vote through the listing on the right hand side of the page, under the heading Round One Voting. You may check off your choices in the little boxes, then push the vote button at the end of the list. Thanks!

photograph is of leaves in Nova Scotia, and is copyrighted. thank you for respecting that.

you may also wish to see
Music Road: road trips and road songs
Music Road: New York City: Irish Musicians
Music Road: pride of new york
and from one of Europe's cultural capitals, Glasgow, Scotland:
Music Road: Celtic Connections 2012: the music continues

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Kris @ Attainable Sustainable said...

New York is someplace I've yet to visit. When I go, I really want to go with someone who knows the ins/outs of the city so I can delve into more than just the tourist stuff.

I live in Hawaii, and while its not North America, it has a fair amount of culture. We don't have a lot of what I consider 'refined' culture (ie; ballet or symphony) but we regularly have the opportunity to hear the music and see the dances of many different cultures. We have a great film festival, lots of amazing art galleries (if not tons of art museums), cultural and historical museums, and so much more. Maybe not a cultural capital, but definitely worth a visit!

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

I love that you posed this question! Yes, the US has a lot of problems (I refuse to even look at the political news these days for the benefit of my blood pressure). But we're lucky enough to have many potential cultural capitals by your list of criteria.

Even as a kid in Pittsburgh, a town not renowned for its cultural prowess, I was able to go to the symphony, opera, musical theater, spend hours in great libraries, and immerse myself in museums. This holds true for other "smaller" cities and that's something to be proud of.

8:59 AM  

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