Must we Digress?

For the past year or so, I have attended several symposiums, a handful of seminars and the occasional workshop on public art, art production and art entrepreneurship.  There has been a resounding sentiment amongst contemporary artists of all types that galleries, museums and art establishments have historically been stuffy, elitist and unapproachable by the general public.  Joe Blow who has little knowledge of art history, compositions styles, whatever whatever, may still enjoy walking in a museum or gallery and browsing a collection.  “ART is for EVERYONE,” is the message we preach.  Recently the Dallas Museum of Art (which I am lucky enough to say is one of my neighborhood attractions) has been offering free general admission to all permanent collections with a small fee for special or traveling collections.  There are programs and apps browsers can join to keep track of viewing habits, earn points for discounts on food or even admission to the special collections.  I think it’s great!  The more the art community allows access outsiders, the more support we as artists can garner from them.  I could be worth 9.3 billion dollars but couldn’t paint myself out of a cardboard box…this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the works of others who can…and possibly want to share some of my 9.3 billion with them.  There is the middle class working American who can discover painting, sculpture, classical music, modern dance, etc… and truly come to appreciate it thus adding a culturally significant facet to their existence.  There are many communities and organizations who are actively pursuing these ideas and succeeding, however, the point of my tirade is an instance that is quite the opposite.  Leave it to my hometown to digress!  I just read an article about my lovely hometown’s largest art museum who boasts a gorgeous and quite well-known azalea and water garden on their grounds which is a hotspot for local photographers as a setting for wedding and family portraits.  This organization does offer free admission (mind you, you will be stalked excessively by the ancient gallery docents ) but recently released a statement stating they will no longer allow commercial photography on their grounds.  They also indicated there will be fencing and gates constructed around the garden areas.  As far as I know from my connection to local law enforcement (Hi Dad!) there has not been any vandalism, no sex crimes or property theft in the garden areas.  The gallery itself is tucked away in the heart of one of the most expensive, upper-class areas of the city.  I am puzzled as to the motivation behind the decision.  Must the gallery directors keep the ner-do-well photographers away from their prized azaleas?  The gallery goes on the say that after the barracades are finished (lets call them what they are), they will no longer allow private photography on the grounds.  So- if I want to take a photo of a butterfly with my own cell phone, I will be asked to leave?  Legally, if my research is correct, they have every right to do this because it is private property at a private gallery, funded by private donations.  It just seems wrong somehow.  All the forward progression to take fifty steps backward…  I’m sure it boils down to some liability issue; the restrictions of modern world all seem born from lawsuits but it doesn’t mean I have to like or agree with it.

angry flower

 

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It’s All About the Economics

Lately, on the evening news, anchors have thrown at us these menacing terms like “fiscal cliff”, “sequester” and my all-time favorite “inflation.”  Basically, the economy is not at its best.  This forces me to reevaluate things like my spending habits, travel, and luxury items like meat and new socks.  This thinking trend, which I’m sure many other Americans engage in, can force art, music and other culturally-based activities on the back burner until things improve.  It seems logical at first and I admitted to myself that the economy just isn’t up for big public art installations and art purchases.  UNTIL- I was fortunate enough to meet with a former chairman of the Nation Endowment of the Arts who described art as a viable economic product.  For example; I complete a painting… that painting is not a result of spontaneous combustion.  There is a company who makes the paint and brushes and a retail establishment who sells these items along with other art supplies.  There is a factory who produces the canvas I used and another who manufactures the varnish I used to seal the painting.  There is a web server who hosts the website I post my painting on.  Each painting, photograph, sculpture, etc is a myriad of smaller products created by someone earning a wage and then in turn spending it somewhere else on other products made by other wage-earners.  WE as artists are active participants in our global economy.  Art can be as much a necessity as many other products the world sees as commonplace.  This changed every thought I ever had about what it is that I do.  Not to mention, the world would be an awfully boring place without the arts. Public art can increase tourism and also entice folks to move to certain cities or communities.  A recent study showed one of the top attributes a person looks at when relocating is aesthetic.  Murals, sculptures, parks, architecture…these all require art and increase the attractiveness of a community.  Artists are not luxuries, they are necessities…the pragmatics of the world may argue that accounting, medicine, science, blah, blah are more important.  My argument is not based on who is more important but rather the fact that we all have a unique roll to play in making the world a healthy, culturally enriching, happy, peaceful and beautiful place to live.

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A Trend Toward the Negative

Sifting through snippets of conversations past; conversations with friends, acquaintances, perfect strangers, I find the threads of my memory getting snagged on a repeating trend.  There are things I need to try, places I need to be for awhile and questions I need to ask.  Occasionally I will share my misguided plans with others only to be met with attempts to dissuade me and keep my feet securely anchored in whichever port I currently reside.  I’ve never been much for the words of critics; they can tear a film apart but if it peaks my interest, I will go see it regardless.  Some of the most highly regarded “whatevers” I have ever heard others gush on have been the most meaningless and irrelevant experiences of my life.  So-if YOU (being society-at-large) don’t particularly care for something, should I promptly dismiss it?  I’m just not buying into it.  Some things you just have to see for yourself.

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