Well, you are correct in that many people enjoy simpler interests and pleasures, but one has to be inclined to say it depends on the milieu you inhabit whether it is in the UK or Europe.
I find the nouveau riche snobisme of the French unpalatable and the German and Austrian snobistisch unbearable in their appreciation of their own arts and would be loathed for the UK to adopt their cultural attitudes.
People from almost every walk of life in the UK today attend arts events in greater numbers than at any other period of the past.
It is too easy to generalise about the cultural activities of any country.
For those who know, the USA has for more than a hundred years welcomed great artists and produced a good number as well. Its academic activities in respect of the arts are expansive. You have great orchestras, a number of good opera houses, significant museums and art galleries which are renowned.
Academic study of the arts in America is so rich itís impossible to keep up with every dissertation and publication.
These are things for America to be proud of.
If however you approach the problem of funding for arts education and events, the problem lies with American history which to my English mind, seems to feel that although central government and state funding for the arts exist, is not deemed a necessity and for some American politicians it still smacks of socialism and effetism.
In England state funding for the arts began with the founding in 1940 Committee for Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) set up by Royal Charter and one the most important events for the arts in Great Britain was the appointment of John Maynard Keynes as it chairman in 1941 who established funding for 46 arts organisation by the end of the 2nd World War. Its successor The Arts Council of England (There are Scottish. Welsh and Northern Ireland Arts Councils) now regularly supports some 880 arts organisations. Our major arts organisations are all supported by government funding.
As to Europe, if you want to discover the German Arts Funding Model might like to read:
France has a Ministry of Culture and the modern post of Minister of Culture was created by Charles de Gaulle in 1959. Wikipedia gives a very good background to the concept of the, "right to culture." See: http://en.wikipedia....ulture_(France)
Interestingly, the so called real upper class are no longer to be seen at the opera and ballet in London. I wonder if they have become dumbed down?
This last post makes some very good points. Perhaps it is wrong to think of it as a question of culture being dumbed down. I would agree that different cultural products possess different degrees of "intelligence," that producers vary greatly in the intelligence (emotional, acoustic, visual, choreographic ---not just logical) that they can inscribe into a work, and that consumers of culture also vary in their ability to "read" this "intelligence." But the relation between the intelligence of the object and the intelligence of the consumer is subtle. It would be wrong, I think, to suppose ( and this supposition is sometimes made by defenders of "high art") that "intelligent" culture exists only where these three moments coincide. It is possible for an extremely "challenging" work to speak to us in a visceral, immediate way. And a seemingly simple, naive work can become illuminated through a subtle reading, revealing unexpected depth and sophistication.Just as popular forms of entertainment, without always originating in a single mind of penetrating originality, genius, discipline, and training, nevertheless can offer amazing insight into the complexities of the world that produced it. Works that have been granted the imprimitur of a cultural elite can appear hollow and soulless, while seemingly ephemeral pieces, embraced by the masses, often have their own perfection and power.
For me it is thus a question not so much of the intelligence-level of culture as whole, but rather of what one might call "artistic ecology." Different kinds of artwork thrive in different economic and social conditions. In America, now more than ever, mass consumer culture thrives, and has become, in a certain way, very intelligent, and certainly very powerful. There are many TV shows out there that are extraordinarily sophisticated and brilliant, and even pop music has something to it. (I confess --- I'm at once repulsed and intrigued by Lady Gaga. She combined utter vulgarity with such sensitive eyes and an intriguing almost rococo aesthetics.) The novel seems very strong, and I'm sure that there is still good small-scale theater coming out in major cities. But the problem is with arts like ballet, opera, and classical music, that are at once "institution-intensive" and largely dependent on live performances for revenue. These, it seems, are imperiled, for the simple reason that the minimum production costs (esp. including training) are very high, and the potential revenue relatively low. Nor is it possible for them to find broad exposure outside of belittling citations in popular videos and advertisements. The American university system, with its vast resources, somewhat makes up for this, as does parents' willingness to invest huge amounts in cultivating their children's talents. And of course private philanthropy plays a huge role. But this is not enough, and especially in the case of the "Academization" of the arts, the effects can be very pernicious, since it removes artists, at the most vital stage of their training, from the need to find a voice that communicates to anyone beyond their professors and their peers.
The question I would ask is: how can we create a thriving "artistic ecology": an artistic ecosystem in which a great possible diversity of different art-forms (where this difference is understand in terms not of the message, but the structural conditions of its production) can co-exist and thrive, gaining from their reciprocal interactions? Neither the Continental European nor the American model seems to achieve this, but perhaps they could compliment each other. I've felt for a long time that dance could play a very large role in this ecology: not as a "total work of art," in the sense of Wagner, but a "pluralistic work of art," which brings other forms of art together in provocative constellations, yet without seeking to dominate these through a single unifying aesthetic ideal.