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Ancestor Worship and Specialized Museums: The Baby Boomers’ cultural legacy.

May 21, 2010

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?

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About The Author

Barry Lord is the author of Art & Energy: How Culture Changes (The AAM Press, 2014) and Co-President of Lord Cultural Resources.

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2 Comments

Marta Braun / May 21, 2010

I think that Gail is right! I had never thought of that before, but now I’m going to find a place to invest!


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Ozge Sade / July 2, 2010

I think multi-culturalism or cosmopolitanism, in other words representation of different identities, ethnicities and cultures is rising all over the world and these processes actually occur not very easily. I feel like the white man dominated structure still is very strong but I am hopefull that change is also ongoing although slowly. As I mentioned before this is a not easy struggle but, yes I believe different sexual, cultural and social identities take command and this is what triggers cultural change. As the differences stay alive side by side rather than defining themselves through “othering” each other, a cosmopolitan cultural structure will be created and then there will be room for cultural change agents.

On the other hand, the process of cosmopolitanisation occurs differently in different contexts. In some cases it is more difficult. Especially in the Middle Eastern countries, cultural conflict causes deep gaps between groups and disrupt dialog. The question for me is how to achieve cosmopolitanism, change the established structure and give way to different ideas and visions..


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