Celebrating Art in the Teeth of "the Crisis" / by Jeannine Cook

In Spain, everyone knows exactly what you mean when you talk of "la crisis". Town halls, autonomous governments, the national government - they are all pretty well broke and red ink drips in all directions. One of the first areas of government expenditure in the Balearics to feel the effects of this fiscal crisis was the cultural scene. The sixteen years of autumn-winter internationally celebrated ballet company visits - gone. The opera season - decimated. The theatre season - hacked. And so it goes at present.

Nonetheless, there are wonderful bright stars in the cultural scene - private groups fighting back and ensuring that there are events that uplift and delight. Last week, there was a week of celebrating the visual arts and music in a small, jewel-like town, Santanyi, in Mallorca. The first weekend showed off the many local artists, while the second week's musical offerings ranged from popular to zarzuela to the single, wonderful performance of Mozart's Le Nozze de Figaro. Under a full moon, a huge courteous crowd of all nationalities sat in the open to be delighted by a beautifully presented and sung version of this delicious opera. It was so clever - the Teatro Principal's stage gets "reversed" for these outdoor performances so that everyone can sit in the open air; the orchestra is at the back of the stage and the singers' stage projects out against the glowing golden stone walls of the theatre. The quality of the singing was impressive and the whole performance was a reaffirmation of what can be done, in spite of "the crisis".

Yesterday showed the same spirit of joy and defiance for the reigning pessimism. In Palma de Mallorca, thirty-one galleries and museums opened their doors at seven p.m. for a wonderful Nit de l'Art. This annual event is sponsored by the Independent Association of Art Galleries in the Baleares (AIGAB) and the Art Palma Contemporani Association of Galleries, in conjunction with the museums and non-profit art spaces in town.

There was art for all tastes - from late 19th and early 20th century painters famed for their depictions of the natural beauty of the Balearics to the most allusive and fleeting performance art, with all manner of art in between. Interesting techniques, challenging concepts, humour and joie de vivre - it was all there to enjoy as you strolled through the historic narrow streets of Palma on a warm summer evening. Restored 17th, 18th or 19th century buildings, high-ceilinged and quirkily elegant, imaginatively adapted as permanent or temporary art galleries, floodlit golden monuments, strains of music floating down the streets beneath the tree canopy, smartly dressed people of all ages strolling, laughing, studying art intently.

It was a kalidescope of scenes that reaffirmed that the arts need to be part of all our lives, no matter what the economic situation.