Monday, January 23, 2012

The difference is where you are standing

Stand in the middle of a field and dream a little. Then walk to the edge, take the whole field into view. The change in perspective should be profound. Using the arts to revive a town should not be based solely on the success of another city but also on the potential of the town you're in. This is because the players, the landscape and the times are different. It is not about bringing a franchise in called artist revival. There needs to be serious grunt work. Some give up practicing the arts in order to support the arts. There is a lot to happen behind the scenes to make art visible. Turning art from school projects and pastimes into businesses or any kind of economic engine takes numbers of art interested and art involved persons.

When I was in college there were a number of businesses that sprang up on campus. An old carriage house turned into a swanky pizza and wine restaurant, a shop that sold posters and dorm room decor. My favorite was a hole in the wall restaurant that had steamed brown rice-n-veggies, bean soups and open-faced sandwiches. There were coffee shops and book shops. I don't believe any of them were franchises. They had uniqueness, were not scripted, polished, canned, homogenized and sanitized.

We have generations that don't hangout like in the past. Online global networking gives the illusion of being connected to anybody and everybody, but when we only meet via this media all the safety conventions and cultural seasonings of face to face are lost. We must recover local networking and reach out from there. We have abandoned union halls, veteran halls and cultural center halls all over town. Declining numbers of old folk still go to these places but the young folk don't identify with cultural/race the same way their elders do. If you don't locally gather at a church, school or a rec center, life is isolated. Work is not a social activity, not like in the past.

We have a computer user's group in town, mostly older folk. Young folk aren't interested in computers the same way. There has to be some faddish thing for young folks to get excited. They are hooked on the games not the hardware, playing around not doing something practical. I bet you a smart phone group would be a hit, but I also bet you couldn't get young folks into one room for a formal organized club meeting.

Art is still a hands-on activity, handling the physical world and making the world a more livable place. Art can be simple or complex, performed by a young person or an older person. Talent aside, art is a great agent of therapeutic results and academic possibilities. Art still has a shape-shifting definition in both the object itself and the beholder. Art is faddish and timeless at the same time. Art slips into places where social, political, religious and economic stubbornness have all but closed the door to what is still good about us that we care to share with each other. Art is still locally produced and shared. Home grown.

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