The great unknown looming over 2003 is the threat of a war.
Should the United States invade Iraq - as some observers believe is likely within the first quarter - the effect at home might be negligible.
Consider how little the 1991 Gulf War affected those of us with no family in the military.
On the other hand, open warfare could have a drastic effect on the nation's cultural life. International artists might find it even harder to travel to the U.S. Audiences - and sponsors - could reject works perceived as less than patriotic.
Stock market fluctuations and political uncertainty could make donors reluctant to commit long-term support. Edgy patrons - and artists - might just stay home.
All those things happened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and could recur in magnified form, particularly if war with Iraq were to trigger new terrorist acts.
Worse is the mounting sense of dread over the unthinkable dangers of nuclear bombs, chemical gas or smallpox virus.
As deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz pointed out in a letter to the Washington Post, it is more likely that this time, if attacked, "Saddam Hussein might actually use his most terrible weapons."
The toll in military and civilian life that a mass weapon could extract has terrifying potential.
After Sept. 11, it was common to hear people say, in essence, that nothing would ever be the same.
A new war could make that prediction come true in ways no one has imagined.
CULTURE IN 2003
25 forces that will shape culture in 2003
1. The big economic squeeze
2. Clear Channel's dominance
3. Suburbanites: Will they roam?
4. The plea for racial healing
5. The media's message
6. A whole new ball game
7. Edgy art center opening
8. Tall Stacks rolls back
9. Will tourists go home happy?
10. How Fine Arts Fund carries clout
11. You can't fight City Hall
12. Laura Long: Downtown force
13. The CSO's growing empire
14. Rosenthals' big impact
15. Northern Kentucky development
16. Museum Center's main man
17. Lobbyist Weiland
18. UC at crossroads
19. The Nederlanders make a comeback
20. MidPoint: Rebuild the city on rock 'n' roll
21. The Schuster Center alternative
22. Another public art project goes to bat
23. The brain drain
24. Local film community gains focus
25. Dancing around visa problems
The wild card of 2003: War
2003 dates to keep in mind
DEMALINE: The arts
KENDRICK: Alive & Well
Get to it!