The City: The Do-It-Yourself Acropolis

Auger-tongued H. L. Mencken once described vast stretches of the U.S. as a "Sahara of the Bozart." In those days, grand opera companies or symphony orchestras seldom ventured outside a dozen or so of the largest cities; public art museums, if they existed at all, were usually ill-lit annexes to the local fossil and arrowhead collection. The theater meant Broadway, and the road companies that once trouped every town hall in the land had long since bowed to the onslaughts of celluloid and popcorn.

Today, across the U.S., culture centers are springing up...

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