How important is Art? Try giving it up.

Ruth Boraggina

How important are the arts?

Plato famously said about music that it is “a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything.”

Are the arts a necessity?  Some, like Chris Ashworth, argue not.

The arts are not necessary.

Yeah, I went there: Not necessary. Water? Necessary. Food? Necessary. Medical care when we’re sick? Necessary. Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck? Not necessary. Awesome play, but not necessary.

At least, not necessary in a way that anyone has ever been able to make clear. Even when really smart people try really hard, the most they can say is that the arts might provide some instrumental benefits sorta kinda like other things that probably do the job better, but we’re not really sure.

Most of my life I’ve wanted the arts to be necessary. I had it in my little American heart that, since all necessary things are also worthwhile, all worthwhile things must also be necessary. That’s a big mistake. For deeply worthwhile human activity (like the arts), it obligates one to build arguments that may not be true, in order to prove the connection back to “necessary”. At the very least, it puts you in the unforgiving position of pitting the necessity of the arts against the necessity of, say, roads.

You can read the rest of his article here

One of the challenges of cultural sustainability or cultural preservation or cultural conservation is that while we are used to thinking in those terms with the cultures of indigenous populations, or displaced populations, or other people-not-like-us , it is entirely another matter to think about our  institutions of the majority culture in those terms.  Of course we need to somehow save the wonderful folkloric singing of the native island people of such and such? Maybe in a heritage museum, or a theme park.  But not as a living, breathing, capital intensive, hand-wringing, ever school child must experience it kind of thing.

Yet when  questions such “do we need symphony orchestras? or  “Should Jazz Be Saved?” are raised we are at a loss for definitive answers.

So how important is art?  Here’s an YouTube video about a family who decided to test the premise.

You can read more about this concept at

http://artscounselling.blogspot.com/2010/02/giving-up-art-for-lent.html

The Big Picture-Cultural Policy

tinou bao

Say we wanted to start from scratch.

How would we build a neighborhood, city, metropolitan area, state, country, world where the arts permeated the place?

Can we think bigger than a non-profit organization, or even an arts council?

How do we work on the cultural policy and urban planning level?

Can we sit the artists side by side with the policy makers and the planners from the first meeting?

What might things look like then?

Some links to peruse:

The Motherlode – Compendium, a country by country look at cultural policy in Europe.  You could write a dissertatation on the stuff in this site.

Look just a little bit under the surface there and you can check out:

National Cultural Canons as a Cultural Policy Response to Globalisation? (Does Portland have a cultural canon?  That would sure be  one way to establish a “Portland Sound”)

Interested in decentralization as a theme in Governmental policy?  See Norway ” During the 1970s major efforts were made to decentralise the cultural policy and administration system in Norway. Cultural affairs committees were established in most municipalities, and the municipal authorities gradually appointed directors and secretaries of cultural affairs. A similar system was developed at the county level and new grant schemes were introduced. In this way, substantial responsibilities were decentralized in order to bring decision-making closer to the general population.”

Could that work in the states?

Or how about the way France went about it.

I like the term “devolution” to describe making smaller, more purpose-driven agencies out of big conglomerated ones.

There’s more here I’m sure, but this seems like a good place to start digging.

Julie’s Bicycle-Serious about greening the arts

Nishanth Jois

My friend Binnie Brennan, a classical musician and children’s book author from Halifax sent me this link.

Julie’s Bicycle is a broad coalition of music, theatre and scientific experts committed to making our industry green. Our ambition is global, our main operations UK. Almost everything we do is relevant to other creative industries and other global territories.

Great place to see what is already happening at the confluence of sustainability, policy and (not just) music. The site has resource tools, essays,  and data.

Here’s a link to their Green Music blog.  Just one example of the wealth of info here.

Why business leaders should act more like artists

Photo by Terry Ballard

So you’ve got Seth Godin in his bestselling business book “Linchpin” preaching that to succeed in the world today, everyone must be an artist.

“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? I don’t think it has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paint or marble, sure. But there are artists who worked with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.”

And here’s is a post from the Harvard Business Review

http://blogs.hbr.org/maeda/2009/12/why-business-leaders-should-ac.html

So the gauntlet has been thrown.

What do you think, you business majors out there?

Sustainability + Music: Let the Conversation Begin

In anticipation of the launch of our PSU Sustainability + Music Lecture Series, I am aiming to put up at least one post a day of thoughts, ideas, conversations and questions that have come up in my exploration of this concept over the past three years.

The questions are many. There are also a number of intriguing and thought-provoking ideas circulating in the blogosphere.  Numerous seeds for enriching conversations.

The thing about sustainability is that people use the word to mean many things.  At its simplest is the conversation about how to make music- and by that people usually mean the various activities pursued by the music industry-green.  So you have websites like  http://www.greenmusicalliance.org/.  Is this endeavor just feel-good environmentalism,  a marketing platform for celebs and pop stars? or is there more to it?

The first post I ever bookmarked on this topic asked the question what does Sustainability in the Arts look like?  The blogger Mark Robinson was looking at the issue from an arts administration point of view. But whole field is built on top of art the try to midwife it without strangulation through the birth canal of market capitalism.   Is change coming from that sector really going to be effective?

Or is the system broken?  When we talk about music (or the arts) from an economic perspective as Ian David Moss does in his post on arts-and-sustainability, Is the game just changing underneath us and we need to come up with a new paradigm for what it means to be “an artist” what it means to have “a career”  etc?

Or may the model is wrong.  As our first lecturer Jeff Titon states in his Music & Sustainability blog,.  Maybe we would be better served by thinking of music in as an ecology rather than an economy

There is some food for thought.  Let’s see where it goes.