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Essay on America's Search for a Cultural Center

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America's Search for a Cultural Center


The average American child can not even comprehend what institutions provide cultural enhancement. Is that too bold a statement? I don't think so. Primarily because American culture probably doesn't exist in any real form. The closest we get to art is in our cinema. Art as a practiced form is lost. Literacy rates are abominable, museums are underfunded in response to the lack of public interest in viewing their wares, and art classes are practically non-existent as more and more schools have cut those programs in response to budgetary concerns. Art is a learned appreciation. And we are not teaching it. But good cinema can incite conversation, can entertain, and can act as an artistic base for our children. And even good cinema is disappearing . . . sacrificed to the gods of the commercial movie.

It is this commercial movie industry that the city leaders of San Jose seem most intent on protecting. Our city has experienced profound growing pains as we've made the transition from agricultural area, to bedroom community and finally to the bustling metropolis known as Silicon Valley. How cherry orchards birthed Pentium chips is a story for another day . . . but in the process they have brought disparate social classes together in a way that leaves everyone struggling for some sort of cultural base. In the 90's we've seen downtown San Jose develop into a thriving urban area. But in the twenty years of redevelopment San Jose has been forced to deal with urban decay that has jeopardized the city and many of its core institutions. Urban anthropologist, Bob Beauregard, paints a bleak picture of the American city in his book, Voices of Decline, saying America's cities, large and small, are sta...


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...ng the group's many far-reaching differences. The support of art venues can continue the tradition of culture in the downtown areas, and provide a voice for groups struggling for community in the United States. At home and across the country America has an obligation to celebrate her art-houses, by keeping the camera's rolling.


Works Cited

1. Beauregard, B. (1993). Voices of Decline. Blackwell Publishers: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

2. Feng, P. (Fall 1999). "The State of Asian American Cinema: In Search of Community". Cineaste, 24.

3. Kozol, J. (1991). Savage Inequalities. Crown Publishers: New York, NY.

4. Camera Cinemas (May 1993). "Questions And Answers Concerning The Proposed Downtown Theatre Complex And Its Impact On Camera Cinemas".

5. Schrag, P. (1998). Paradise Lost: California's Experience and America's Future. The New Press: New York, NY.


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