Archive for February, 2009

This is not a contest.

The very-frustrating Amendment introduced by Senator Coburn to exclude the arts from government stimulus has sparked much heated conversation and activity in the arts community, as it should.  However, I’ve been discouraged to see so many of us playing into frameworks of ranking and hierarchies.  Isn’t it precisely art’s influence that can lead us to other models of thinking and organizing ideas?  This is not an “America’s Top Stimulus Priority” game show; this is about strengthening the complex infrastructure of American life that includes myriad choices, priorities, and methods regarding survival and fulfillment.  We in the arts community need to work harder at changing the conversation so that when we say, “We need to fund the arts,” those currently less involved in the arts stop hearing us say, “I need you to fund my art because it is more important than what you do.”  We need to relate what we know about the value of the arts to more people’s everyday lives – without condescension – and we need to do it not just when we’re asking for checks.



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Sweet Sensation

I watch a little too much Food Network.  This past weekend, while most people were watching the Superbowl, I was glued to a mini-marathon of the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show.  Yup, I spent an evening watching people alternately cheer and cry over gum paste flowers.  While it is quite amazing what some of these folks can do with sugar, I was struck by how important this niche subculture is to those who populate it.  That’s when it hit me: “downtown performance” is just like sugar art.

Both groups are entirely caught up in a self-created drama that most of the world is entirely unaware of.  Both groups have their celebrities who cause butterflies in the stomachs of their peers, yet would be unrecognizable to the average citizen.  That is, until Food Network swooped in an brought the Sugar Celebrities into my living room.  Thanks to Food Network, I know that Kerry Vincent is the Anna Wintour of cakes, and that Bronwen Weber is always going to do something unexpected.  (I told you that I watch too much of this stuff.)

Anyway, my point is, that experimental performance needs a cable network.  We need a way to sneak into people’s living rooms and hook them into our world at 3 in the morning, when they least expect it.  Or at least we need to find some way of connecting to folks outside of our tiny community, while maintaining the specialization that makes our craft, well, special.

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