Livingston Biddle, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, answered the above question for the Monitor with an emphatic "Yes!" "The arts and their role in our society have never before been so alive, so vital, and never more promising," says Mr. Biddle.
He likes to quote something John Adams said almost 200 years ago: "I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, and architecture."
Mr. Biddle sees Adams's prophecy being fulfilled in United States history. In our first century, "We established poltical stability," he points out. "In the second, world leadership in science, technology, and commerce.
"Now, beginning the third century, the heirs to those achievements are turning to the abiding and enriching values of the arts.
"I think the '70s will be remembered for this beginning. The '80s can be the decade for fulfillment."
But meanwhile, the arts will have to work their way out of some deep problems of basic values and direction, and out of the massive financial troubles faced by many museums, orchestras, dance companies, and regional theaters. For some of the arts, the search for a satisfactory role within the culture has not been solved by rapid growth figures -- in fact, those figures have made the need for such a role more glaring in many cases.
Monitor critics and regular contributors for six major arts -- art, film, music, dance, TV, and theater -- have assessed their fields' performance in the '70s and offer the following findings.