Robert Redford pushes role for art in social change

Robert Redford poses for a portrait in New York after being named winner of the 2008 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize on November 12, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oscar-winning director Robert Redford is concerned that money for the arts will dry up amid a deepening global financial crisis, and he is pushing for the arts to play a greater role in social change.

“Money is certainly going to dry up for a lot of people on a lot of fronts, especially in the giving area,” Redford, 72, told Reuters. “But I believe art can survive, it’s like grass growing through a crack in the sidewalk.”

Redford was this week awarded The Gish Prize, said to be one of the largest arts awards with a $325,000 grant, and told Reuters he will use the money for an initiative of his Sundance Institute to push the role of the arts in decision-making.

“So we’re trying to insert art more and more into the social context of how we live,” he said before receiving The Gish Prize on Wednesday. “Art can play a greater role in the transformation, in social change.”

“When we have initiatives where people come together to discuss new ideas and new projects, by inserting an artist at the table, and particularly young artists, to let them play a role in a future that’s going to be theirs I think is pretty important,” Redford said.

No further details of the initiative were available. Redford founded the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit arts organization in 1981, which then launched the Sundance Festival that has become the premiere event for U.S. independent films.

“No matter what the economic conditions, art will always survive,” said Redford. “I’m hopeful that the more art gets realized as an important factor in the world we live in, more and more people will donate some money and maybe, more importantly, time to the quest.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte