Ancestor Worship and Specialized Museums: The Baby Boomers’ cultural legacy.
In the next 10 years in both Canada and the USA we’ll see more and more baby boomers enter into retirement. How do you think this huge demographic shift will impact on artists, patrons and the public, and on cultural change in general? To get us started some thoughts from Gail Dexter Lord and Barry Lord.
Gail: I think that baby boomers, characteristically will not let go of life. The impact of this is going to be that baby boomers are going to bring back ancestor worship- and therefore there is going to be an enormous amount of ‘life after death’ work being generated. You’re already seeing this in the web. What people are putting on the web is in a way to ensure their own life after death. I don’t like it but I think it’s true. I don’t think this will be restricted at all to people who are religious. The point is the perpetuation of meaning after death. And technology is the means to perpetuate it.
Barry: I think the baby boomer generation has resulted in a steady increase in attendance at museums and theatre and this will continue. The ‘public’ component of the ‘artists, patrons and the public’ triangle has been substantially increased by the baby boomers and will continue to be so as they are retiring. There will be a lot more volunteers and memberships and attendance in all forms of cultural activities will rise. This will, in turn, stimulate patrons- there will be more productions, more institutions, more exhibitions, more sales, more publications etc. A great deal more. I think you’ll also see the rise of a more specialized institution- appealing to youth and/or baby boomers: a quantitative build-up leading to qualitative change. (ed: Principle # 5 of Cultural Change: Quantitative Change in Patronage Leads to Qualitative Cultural Change).
Editor’s Question: Will more baby boomers become patrons? As they retire, and have more leisure time, will they look to leave a legacy through art they support?
Barry: A significant number of them will have wealth and leisure. You’ll see a democratization of patronage. More patrons will realize they don’t need to be mega wealthy. There will be more patronage all together.
Gail: But the big change, if we want to go beyond a small part of the North Atlantic, will be the patronage of women. Because historically women didn’t control their own wealth, so it was difficult for them to be patrons; and also people of colour. So while there will still be a lot of older white male patrons, you will see some people who are fundamentally different. You’ll see the perpetuation of more feminist values, and more of a focus on human rights. We’re already starting to see that with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
What do you think? How will the retirement of baby boomers affect cultural change?