February 22, 2011

Not enough excellent art? O rly?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 12:14 am by chavisory

This opinion piece (What Is Wrong With the Arts?) from the Huffington Post made the rounds of Facebook last week among my theater friends, mostly garnering at least some degree of agreement with the thesis that, contrary to much common knowledge about what’s hurting our arts culture, the arts are suffering the most because there’s not enough really good art being made.

But I wasn’t on the side of the author (Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser) until fairly deep into his article; in fact, I started out fairly upset at what he seemed to be charging, when he says that “the arts are in trouble because there is simply not enough excellent art being created,” and goes on to list a large handful of iconic choreographers, conductors and composers of the 1950’s and ’60’s, and that “the classical arts have simply not kept up” with the kind of creativity and innovation going into television, movies, and rock music.

(Though I may be inclined to agree with him about rock music, given the intelligence and loveliness of some of the rock music I’ve heard in the past couple years.)

Young artists today just aren’t up to it, he seems to be saying.

And I don’t believe him, because I see astonishing art almost every day.  There’s almost not a week of my working life that goes by in which I don’t feel privileged and blessed and astonished to be seeing what I’m seeing.

But by the end of the piece, he’s saying something different, when he writes:

But the institutional nature of our arts ecology, a relatively recent phenomenon, means that groups of people are now more responsible for arts making than the individual. Boards, managers and producing consortia are overly-involved.

And these groups are misbehaving. They are overly-conservative, subject to “group think” and so worried about budgets that they forget that bad art hurts budgets far more than risk-taking does.

Now he’s not indicting artists at all, but producing and funding organizations.  He’s confused the creation of art with production on a high level.  And isn’t that exactly what he’s complaining about, when he bemoans the substitution of celebrity for excellence, of ever bigger and more expensive spectacle for insight?  Isn’t THAT the problem?  He’s got artists and what they do confused with institutions and what they do.  And he’s right about the behavior of the institutions.  It’s not that excellent art isn’t being made, it’s that it isn’t being chosen for support by institutions and canonization the way it was in the decades he’s nostalgic for.  But I promise you, it is being made.

It’s just that I’m not going to the Kennedy Center or Lincoln Center or Broadway to see it (and that’s a whole ‘nother discussion about the cost of art to working people, including actual artists), but places like La Mama ETC, and Manhattan Theatre Source, and the Fringe Festival (yes, as much as we all love to complain about the Fringe Festival).  It’s being done by groups like New York Theater Experiment and Company XIV.

It’s often being done in the low, low budget shadows.

One of the most daring, emotionally riveting and heartstoppingly good pieces of theater I’ve ever seen to this day was called The Warzone is My Bed, and it was done at La Mama with no sets but one wall and a bed.  And I have no idea what, if anything, happened to it after the end of its 2007 showcase run.

I think about the projects I’ve worked for which have brought me to both tears and elation, night after night as I sat and ran the cues.

There’s not enough excellent art being chosen for financial support and further production and distribution.  That doesn’t mean that no one’s making it.  It means no one’s paying attention.  Or that the people who are don’t have the financial means to bring it to a wider market.  Or that the people with the financial means are making bad judgments about what’s good art.  Or that we all lack faith (maybe justifiably, given the box office success of No Strings Attached and Jackass 3D) in the willingness of the wider citizenry to pay for daring, challenging performing arts.

But in any of those cases, if we were to actually, substantially, visibly support the most talented and insightful of individual young artists, I bet we wouldn’t be complaining about not having enough good art.

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68 Comments »

  1. I agree with many of your thoughts here…and if I may add one:

    I think children are not exposed early enough to art. I remember being a child in public schools, taking routine field trips to a play or a museum. I don’t know if it’s just my town, but my children go on field trips … to parks or to a roller rink. My kids have never seen a play, other than the ones I’ve taken them to see.

    It truly feels like many of these touring companies, and even the home-grown ones, are more concerned about their bottom lines than engaging children in art. And that’s just sad.

    Anyhow, just my .02. Great post! 🙂

    • chavisory said,

      Thank you!

      We took field trips, too, when I was a kid. But what I didn’t like was that they usually took us to see *kid* stuff, and I always resented it. I think kids can tell when they’re being condescended to, and I wonder if we wouldn’t better educate kids about what the performing arts can really accomplish if school field trips took them to “grown-up” plays and musicals–something to challenge them. Because that’s what art should do.

      But it’s great that you take your kids to plays. I know a lot of people don’t, and it shows when those kids wind up at the theater for the first time.

  2. Grumpa Joe said,

    I wonder if we would have Monet or Degas had they been sponsored by a big foundation, and not by their drive to eat?

    • chavisory said,

      You know, I used to wonder that, too, but I think ultimately it’s an unfounded fear. I am, after all, in the arts because I have to eat, but I’m on the production/backstage rather than the creative side. But we’ve had great artists who were supported by sponsorships and patronage…Mozart?

      I think creative drive exists on its own terms and for its own reasons–artists do it because they HAVE to, whether they’re being financially supported or not. They just can’t not do what they do. But we’ve had great artists who both did and didn’t have financial backers.

      • reinkat said,

        I agree that artists create because they are compelled to–but without sponsorship and funding, the word doesn’t get out. Musicians can’t get heard, visual art not seen–unless it has to do with advertising. Ultimately, television creates the taste of children and adults–and it panders to the lowest common denominator, the most general and bland. It’s a real long shot for an artist to be “discovered” out of the blue. Most die unheard and unseen. The art we are exposed to as a culture is prepackaged and sold to us. No wonder nobody is interested in learning more.

  3. J Roycroft said,

    We take our kids to the museum and other art centers of our choosing. I get very upset when I see “trash” being funded by taxpayers and passed off as art. If you are an artist and rely on taxpayer funding to survive – perhaps there is a reason for that. Might want to find a new hobby. Congrats on FP

    • chavisory said,

      I think you overestimate how much “trash” gets taxpayer funding, and underestimate how difficult it really is for artists to get funding at all, from taxpayers or otherwise.

      And I take it you feel the same way about people who build roads and highways for a living? Who drill for oil and natural gas? I mean, if they can’t survive without taxpayer funding, maybe they should find a new hobby.

      The performing arts aren’t my hobby, they’re how I make my living.

  4. ferkung said,

    For all the bluster, that article was a one-sentence argument.

    I think he’s missing the point. The seemingly “new” revolution is that artists are no longer looking to those establishments. They’re just as happy having their art hanging in their favorite coffee shop and listening to music that’s not picked up by a label, just distributed on soundcloud.com or whatever the kids are using these days. (bandcamp? youtube?)

    As for stage theatre, maybe if every company wasn’t producing shlock like Legally Blonde and Spiderman…

    And then the other shoe drops. How cheesy is the music of Rogers and Hammerstein? How tied to the low-brow Tin Pan Alley and Vaudeville is stuff like South Pacific and West Side Story? Maybe we should cut the nostalgia and realize that a) the place to see art has changed and b) the art was never that high to begin with.

    • Grumpa Joe said,

      Cheesy huh. I just rewatched South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The visuals and the music were just as appealing in 2011 as they were in the 1950’s.
      The best art today is in sculpt and painting; most of it resides in private galleries around the country. The big art found in museums lacks comprehension. Music is lacking because the cheese is missing and there is too much hop in it.

    • chavisory said,

      I see your point about how art is distributed and discovered differently now, and the way in which you’re arguing that he misses the point sort of dovetails with my own: it’s not that there’s too little really good art, it’s that there’s SO MUCH, but most of it never finds more than a niche audience.

      And I certainly think artists ARE happy to have their work showcased and known in their own communities and small establishments, but I don’t know how much they’re ultimately content with that….

    • chavisory said,

      Also, though, about stage theater–every company ISN’T making things like Legally Blonde and Spiderman. In fact, MOST are not. That’s just what’s on Broadway, and it’s not even most of what’s on Broadway, as much as I bitch and moan about Broadway.

      If you’re in the New York area, look at what’s being done off-Broadway, and if you’re in another major/midsized city, look at what’s being done at your closest regional theater or local alternative theater. I believe that MOST companies are trying to do smart and challenging work, while still remaining financially viable.

  5. JD Hannah said,

    As a visual artist (oil painter) I can say that it is nearly impossible to show my work. I show in cafes and restaraunts in which my work doesnt sell. I think the population eats and ignores the work. The major art magazines want the artists to pay in thousands of dollars to be featured in their magazines, in which I know I dont have. Art competitions are juried and a small group decides whether you can participate or not. Arts organizations obtain grants but keep the money for themseleves instead of funding good artists, such as our banks in this econmy did during the TARP fiasco. Overall I hope Americans start to support their artists in their community soon. Stop by my website to view my art at http://www.jdhannah.com , Sincerely, JD Hannah

  6. oldancestor said,

    I don’t know. I went to the Met in New York to look at Greek and Roman stuff, and it was all broken! What a rip off.

    Who would pay hundreds of dollars for a broken statue? Especially one that is really old.

    My Elvis painting was only 20 dollars, and it’s as good as anything by Plato or Socrates.

  7. yess!

  8. […] Not enough excellent art? Oh really? O_o This opinion piece (What Is Wrong With the Arts?) from the Huffington Post made the rounds of Facebook last week among my theater friends, mostly garnering at least some degree of agreement with the thesis that, contrary to much common knowledge about what's hurting our arts culture, the arts are suffering the most because there's not enough really good art being made. But I wasn't on the side of the author (Kennedy Center president Michael Kaise … Read More […]

  9. elenamusic said,

    There are tons of amazing artists. Sometimes with art, it doesn’t get appreciated until years later, and the thing is, art is everywhere, it’s hard to boil it down to the few best. With growing technology, it just makes art more saturated.

  10. melancholiastudioinc said,

    Ah, what is GOOD art???? Is a properly starving artist a better one? One was just found dead on a sidewalk in the East Village.

    Theories about the making and sale of art are always good for an argument — old vs. new and you can throw in everything old is new again, art trends change almost as rapidly as fashion favs. Hitler burned “decadent” art…Picasso came from a rich family, Monet had some of his first paintings rejected….and some of the most enduring artwork came out of the WPA, a US government program, some say only realism is art, some say only abstract is art. Depends on whether it was the 50’s or 2011. And don’t forget Pop Art, the 60’s. Not to mention a million different styles and price structures from around the globe. If I make 2 cents an hour painting Hello Kitty statues in China am I an artist? And what do you think of that price structure?? Is tag art really a crime? Funny, I see a lot of it in galleries…..

    Some say the NEA is something we can’t afford, some say the rules and regulations for artists have made the NEA a joke. France, I believe, regularly funds its artist without a grudge, but that is France.

    You can separate good art from money to produce it, you can even show it for little or no money, what the future of that is, who knows. But, I don’t think you can ever really separate art from financial value, any more than anything else.

    What I see more and more of however, is artists paying for the “privilege” of showing their work, open studio tours that use artists as a tourist attractions collect a fee from the artists, some art co-ops will never make the artist a dime, you can’t join even a small local art group without a membership fee, I see cafes showing only a certain type of trendy art and completely unwilling to show anything that doesn’t “go with their theme” — dictating what artists will create.

    I happen to be a contemporary realist, strictly oils. Some space exhibit space doler-outer (who claimed to “love” my work) “offered” me a show and added “can you do abstract?” “I wouldn’t waste the paint,” I replied. “Seriously, do you know how expensive it is? Do you have any idea how much one tube of oil paint costs?” She suggested I try watercolors…what am I? A trick pony? I told her I was busy.

    The young upstarts and even a lot of older folks with no training who like to swish a brush and consider themselves self-taught instant geniuses have a real look down their nose attitude towards anybody who actually, god forbid, studied art. I mean seriously, what are artists supposed to study, engineering??????

    Money is short, space is tight…….everybody is grouchy. Here’s a thought, maybe there’s room for everybody. If you like it, buy it, if you don’t, well save your money, I don’t think the economy is getting better any time soon and if you can’t afford a place to live, there isn’t much use worrying about what you’ll put on the walls anyway.

  11. fireandair said,

    Eh. People say the same thing about music. Yes, there’s lots of schlock out there. But on one hand I hear snooty institutions bemoaning The Death Of Classical Music, and meanwhile there’s tons of kids on YouTube rocking their bass lines to the Bach Badinerie and the Canon in D.

    We’re trying to take our kids to SEE art, and meanwhile our kids are MAKING it.

  12. rtcrita said,

    I love going to our local little First Fridays here in our Old Town area. You can see all kinds of “art” and discover some great talent among the unknowns. I still can’t forget the paintings I saw over a year ago by a young high school student that were so vivid and full of color!

    I sure hope he gets the backing he needs to continue to make works like that. The feeling I got from looking at the result of his creativity was memorable and doesn’t happen that often. I’m sure there are more out there like him, waiting to be discovered–or maybe not waiting, and showing their work wherever they can. Good art is not just found in Museums, as you say.

  13. Great talent is like cream, it does always rise to the top. Thanks for a great post!

    Blessings,

    Ava
    xox

  14. Evie Garone said,

    I personally think the people at the Huffington Post are a bunch of blowhards and should keep their opinions to themselves…there are artists at every time, just not necessarily appreciated, haven’t we learned that from the past…how many of the great artists we know and appreciate now were snubbed and starving in their time? It is so true that we do don’t feed young peoples artistic needs, so sad…

  15. I would take a different perspective: What is art good for? (With a series of related questions relating to e.g. how individuals should or should not care about art.)

    To just pick the first few answers that occur to me off the top of my head (with the expectation that other answers will yield similar arguments):

    o Art for the sake of art (or for the artist, himself; or for other artists): Will be next to irrelevant for the broad masses or only manifest in long-term changes.

    o Art as entertainment (in a wide sense, including pleasing images): Here “mere” craft is often quite enough and there are enormous amounts of older art that any modern artist would have to compete with. Standing out becomes increasingly harder as time goes by. (Note also that the many areas where it was possibly to both break new ground and be accessible to the public have already been covered.)

    o Art as a means of giving the consumer opportunities to see new perspectives, improve his personal development, whatnot: Here accessibility and simultaneous entertainment value become important (if more than a small minority are to be interested). Further, we again have the competition with works of yore.

    Add to this that it is wrong to consider a painting or a ballet to automatically be art and a movie or rock album to automatically not be art. To me, art is defined by factors like intent and purpose, creative value, degree of mastery, and similar. Correspondingly, we do not so much see a lack of art or of art appreciation, but a switch to newer art forms.

    In conclusion, there is no need to search for more founds, there is no need for the man on the street to care, there is no need to increase the number of museum trips for children, … Art happens or does not happen at its own rate and we should not interfere. Now, what we possibly should do is to a) Give artists in commercial industries (e.g. movies/television) more freedom from executives, b) Teach school children to look for deeper meanings, try to gain insights, to not just passively watch TV but actively think about what they see, and similar. (The second item, I note, is very, very different from dragging children off to a museum, where most of them will “learn” only the misconception that art is boring.)

  16. Love your points, couldn’t agree more. Maybe what we need to do (or what Michael needs to do) is to go to the small shows and stop equating stature with quality standards. It’s all in where you look, and how you define success and failure for yourself. He is operating from an institutional mindset…but we shouldn’t be assessing value based on size (of budget or of audience) but on quality. If he needs the Kennedy Center to tell him something is good, then he is missing out and contributing to the problem.

    And for the record…Jackass 3D suffered from a failure to utilize the potential of 3D, as well as from the age of the cast. But no matter what, I always enjoy watching feces being flung at people. Is it art? That’s another blog post. ; )

  17. […] more: Not enough excellent art? O rly? « Chavisory's Notebook This entry was posted in Art, Uncategorized and tagged art, facebook, from-the-huffington, […]

  18. essenta said,

    I can not sell my art, so I train in digital painting. In essence, this too, only instead of canvas and paints, I use the computer. (http://essenta-painting.blogspot.com/)

  19. Tai Jimenez said,

    The Spirit of art lives. It never needed a theater or museum. One word: Banksy.

  20. simnora said,

    art is considered a luxury and one of the first casualties in a tenuous economy. As well, as visual artists we have been indoctrinated to believe that it is something akin to whoredom to market yourself or your work. Another reason art suffers is that yes, the stakes are high in an artificially inflated star system that creates a hierarchy of high and low, art or craft etc. In Alberta, where I live, everything seems driven by big oil. We could have an incredible environment if more of that money went to arts but ironically without the funding that is much more pervasive in our sister city Calgary, the arts community is healthy and vibrant. This is in spite of the fact that the University of Alberta Art and Design department, home of one of the most well known printmaking programs in North America, is stuffed into an aging concrete hulk in dire need of attention, with theater and music programs competing for limited space, while new buildings are erected for sexy faculties like engineering and nano tech.

    • Grumpa Joe said,

      As it should be. Artists can use most any material to ‘create’ a thing of beauty. The sciences require a lot of equipment and laboratories. They don’t need shiny new buildings as much as they need the stuff of Einstein, Plank, Newton and Galileo.

      • simnora said,

        we can create with anything, that is true, but in the frozen North space is at a premium and three full departments are crammed into a building meant for one. Full time day studios are run until almost 10 pm. We work almost on top of one another, and that is with the prestige of a Canada Research Chair. Imagine how impoverished the facilities would be without it.

        I suppose that you could make a great argument that art is not necessary and I couldn’t say that I am ready to make a statement to counter that although many here would no doubt be ready to do so. But I also wonder at the need for huge profit taking by corporate multinational based on university based research. Just so you know, we are only a couple of hours south of the Alberta Oil Sands. Where does our Unis research money go?

        And just so you know, we can make art with garbage, but we have to be able to afford that garbage. As recycling becomes more mainstream, big chains are making massive profits selling used items back to society. Besides , many artists work with conceptual themes that require specific materials that are not so cheap. I am a print-maker myself, and I don’t know about prices in the US but here in Alberta paper alone can cost over 20$ per large sheet. If you were an artist you would realize that its hard to make art on an empty stomach. All this to say that maybe art just needs a little more respect and an understanding that not all artists always want to make “a thing of beauty”. Sometimes we have an important contribution to intelligent discourse.

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    • melancholiastudioinc said,

      Getting back to Simnora “But I also wonder at the need for huge profit taking by corporate multinational based on university based research. Just so you know, we are only a couple of hours south of the Alberta Oil Sands. Where does our Unis research money go?”

      The preceding is over my head, but it sounds like an important point.

      “As recycling becomes more mainstream, big chains are making massive profits selling used items back to society.”

      This is a disturbing slant to eco-friendly. It cries out for a satirical cartoon, a gaunt artist in paint-stained overalls standing sheepishly before the desk of an old man in a suit with spectacles, presenting an application. “Kind sir, I have filled out the requisite form. May I get my garbage back? I need it for an art project.” Save your garbage folks!

      “…art just needs a little more respect and an understanding that not all artists always want to make “a thing of beauty”. Sometimes we have an important contribution to intelligent discourse.

      This is quite true. Not only intelligent discourse, but political discourse, call me a conspiracy crank, but I think that’s at the core of why the US hesitates to fund artists, and has a lot of strings attached. We may say something they don’t like. I forget where I read it, but much of the artwork done by the WPA artists was done with material left over from the assigned projects, approved murals for hospitals and so forth. I believe some of that work was discovered at some point, abandoned in a rug warehouse, who the artist were, I’m not sure, I couldn’t find anything about it on the internet, ah, more conspiracy theories.

      • @Simnora
        @melancholiastudioinc

        Two remarks to your comments:

        1. Those who want to create art today are, actually, able to do so at far less cost than any previous generation: Much of the preliminary and creative work can be done on a computer (in some cases, there is never a need to leave the computer at all) and the cost involved is often (e.g. in music) a fraction of what it used to be. Most raw materials where far more expensive in the past and/or not available in the same qualities. The same applies to various tools. Studying past masters for inspiration no longer requires travelling in a steamer to Paris, but can be done online or from books with actual color prints. Etc.

        2. In my impression, it is not uncommon for artists of various kinds (or pseudo-intellectual followers) to have the attitude that they have a valuable contribution to make to intellectual or political discourse outside of their own fields merely because they happen to be artists. This thought is both self-flattering and potentially dangerous: Those who do have a valid contribution to make should certainly be welcome to do so (as should everyone else with a similar contribution); however, the value should be based on actual insight—not on a belief that artists inherently have some sort of higher knowledge, a universal genius, or similar. Indeed, if they do engage in discourse, they should do so as ordinary debaters and not as artists—except in as far as they use their art as the medium (writers of fiction in particular).

        (The same applies to any other field, obviously; however, this error of thinking seems to be particularly common where artists are concerned.)

  22. I’m with you on this one. Art is not the problem. It is the corporate mentality of the art world that’s the problem. To raise funding, companies want a secure return, so what happens? Homogenized, flat and glossy productions, weather it be movies, music etc. It has all become too safe.

  23. countoncross said,

    Great post!…love your site. Thanks!

  24. filmranger said,

    I think there is also a problem with a lack of public celebration of artists and intellectuals.

    It wasn’t so long ago that a person could become a major celebrity by being a public intellectual. I cannot think of any contemporary AMERICAN celebrity artists (although the Young British Artists / Damian Hirst, Tracy Emin, et al, are publicly celebrated in the UK). There is little celebration of contemporary American arts in the way that Warhol, late Picasso, or Salvador Dali were celebrated as personalities. In music, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen were celebrated as poet musicians (and while both still alive, they are more celebrated now for longevity than for intellectuality).

    But American media seems to have replaced public intellectuals with public troublemakers. So instead of the enfant terrible, we now have Lindsey Lohan making public spectacle for no other purpose than the spectacle itself.

    We seem to have separated Art and Commerce, and separated Entertainment and Culture as if these things (Art and culture / commerce and entertainment) are mutually exclusive. Why can’t we have commercialized art, or see cultural texts as entertaining?

    But instead, we’ve come to see art as for niche markets, and somehow not worth investing in, and somehow too exclusive for the public to bother celebrating.

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  26. Meling said,

    I think art is mainly about appreciation then understanding. There’s no such thing as good or bad; it’s either a person may appreciate it or not. It won’t even matter if it’s expensive or not. Art is all about how you value it. Of course Artists eat too like bankers, lawyers, doctors, birds, ants or any living matter. But for me I don’t care much about the media and about a persons opinion in an art because making art is a personal matter. It’s like making love. What matters is HISTORY because it’s been made and sometimes we think we were the first to create it but then it already exist. We like to think about art as intellectually stable, but then again no matter how we a person does with his or her art It’s always gonna be criticize.

    art and culture are two different things but you cannot have the culture with the art.

  27. Meling said,

    I think art is mainly about appreciation then understanding. There’s no such thing as good or bad; it’s either a person may appreciate it or not. It won’t even matter if it’s expensive or not. Art is all about how you value it. Of course Artists eat too like bankers, lawyers, doctors, birds, ants or any living matter. But for me I don’t care much about the media and about a persons opinion in an art because making art is a personal matter. It’s like making love. What matters is HISTORY because it’s been made and sometimes we think we were the first to create it but then it already exist. We like to think about art as intellectually stable, but then again no matter how we a person does with his or her art It’s always gonna be criticize.

    art and culture are two different things but you cannot have the culture without the art.

  28. So true, good art is often overlooked in favor of bright, glossy commercialized packages that people know will sell.

  29. Nicely put. I wasn’t aware of this article making the rounds (not sure how I missed it) but it seems to me you’ve made some great distinctions here about the artists and the producers. But more importantly the idea of where the art is being made. I live and work in Minneapolis, a strong theatre town with a bit of a reputation for experimental and new works. I see real art being created and shared and even produced all the time, but it isn’t always at the Guthrie or even Children’s Theater Company. It’s with those scruffy, smaller, independent companies. Good solid work will find an audience. It’s sad too few institutions take enough risks.

  30. […] just happened upon a blog entry that was in response to an opinion piece published recently in the Huffington Post. I guess this […]

  31. fineartfinds said,

    I’d just like to point out something (I know this was a ways back in the thread but it really bothers me):
    “The young upstarts and even a lot of older folks with no training who like to swish a brush and consider themselves self-taught instant geniuses have a real look down their nose attitude towards anybody who actually, god forbid, studied art. I mean seriously, what are artists supposed to study, engineering??????
    I happen to be a contemporary realist, strictly oils. Some space exhibit space doler-outer (who claimed to “love” my work) “offered” me a show and added “can you do abstract?” “I wouldn’t waste the paint,” I replied.”

    First of all, abstract art is more than just “swishing a brush around”. It takes a lot of time and effort to produce something that represents something beyond this world, but is pleasing to the eye. It seems you are the one “looking down your nose” calling it a “waste of paint.”
    I am an art student, and I see amazing work everyday, both in the realm of realism and abstract, but I prefer abstract art for this reason. It doesn’t mean that I “look down my nose” at anyone who studied art, and doesn’t mean that I think I am a genius.

  32. chunter said,

    “…if we were to actually, substantially, visibly support the most talented and insightful of individual young artists, I bet we wouldn’t be complaining about not having enough good art.”

    If you can’t afford to support an art you like with your money, support it with your time and participation as best you can.

    Best wishes

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  34. C.H. said,

    Art is exploding everywhere. The highly connected world we live in is a tasty Stone Soup of endless creativity. It’s all a matter of focus. But, I do agree, institutions make a mess of most things–art included.

  35. Great post and I like the way your bring out the questions for thought. Let’s face it, there’s art, and then there’s stuff that thinks it is art. (my husband will argue that a master painted “Dogs Playing Poker”)
    I only wish I could fund the talented but poor and unknown artist that I find in the nooks and crannies of my downtown city, Atlanta.
    The artists are there…..waiting and working, but society does not value their contributions as much as Flo Rida 🙂

  36. joan said,

    Great post you got here. 🙂

  37. rmdseo said,

    thanks for sharing this wonderful post

  38. wilbotan said,

    Great piece. I agree with you about the greater institutionalization doing a lot to detract from the artistic endeavour. I think what is underestimated is how much bad art there was previously. It’s like going out with someone who you don’t really like at the time, but when you look back you only remember the ‘good bits’. History has a tendency to siphon out the not-so-good stuff, and only leave the distilled essence of awesomeness. Whilst thinking of myself as literate, hell, artistic even, I actually enjoyed Jackass 3D. It was one of the best uses of 3d I’ve ever seen, truly stunning. Perhaps it’s when people try not to be ‘artistic’ that they do something aesthetically beautiful. Whilst this beauty did, unfortunately, come from a man being hit in high-definition slow motion by a large fish there was something poetic to it.
    Still, I agree with you, fantastic post.

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  40. Lindsay said,

    I don’t think that art has really be forgotten it’s just peoples priorities differ from when art thrived. In the rennisance the richer you were the more art you had and payed for now a days the bigger house the more technology you have and the more drugs you can afford the better. Art goes with the generation values and values on art are non existant. But how can there be when it is 200dollars to see a show and 400 to go the art muesems grand reopening. We need to make art available to make art better valued. But I honk for now I will remain the one of 7 students in my art history class

    • melancholiastudioinc said,

      Art indeed, exists in a changing world. The album cover was replaced by the cd cover and the advertisement and illustration accompanying music with the advent of download music, has morphed into the world of video and graphic design for websites.

      I think we are seeing a something like Renaissance times — many high end galleries feature MFA artists, an expensive education, and a lot of technical/video oriented art that is not cheap to come by. An artist may well choose environmental oriented art, ie, the use of old car ties and sculptures made of found objects (this is not new), however, the price for the studio space in which to create this art is huge and I can’t imagine this is not done without financial backing from somewhere and a connection to established artists and gallery owners if one wants to exhibit it.

      On the other hand, some art is less expensively produced, requires less space and is marketable, I am thinking of HI-FRUCTOSE magazine where there are artists utilizing their talents for products which previously did not exist — laptop skins, decorative cell phone covers, etc. With the advent of the digital camera and computers (photography is no longer an expensive hobby)I suspect greeting card designers have lost out to people using family photos for Christmas cards whether they print them themselves and/or use templates available from print companies who may outsource the production.

      Depending upon where one lives, there is a whole spectrum of exhibit space (sometimes none), the style of art preferred by different communities and whether or not those inhabitants can or want to buy art and how much they are willing to pay for it all affect whether an artist will achieve popular or financial success. And so it goes. Like anything else, by the time one learns a particular thing in school, be it art or technology it may quickly be out of date, but, then again, as everything old is new again…..at some point, there is an endless list of vagaries in the art field.

      The whole arena of corporation investment art is something of a specialty. Corporations interested in this generally hire consultants who may or may not be off the mark vis a vis future value, much the way millionaires will hire an interior decorator to help them choose art and decor to suit the home.

  41. simnora said,

    I just feel I should chime in on a couple of things that I feel strongly about. First, I concede that it does not take oodles of cash to make great art, but it sure helps to have a place to live and food to eat. Second, for some reason some people who don’t appear to be familiar with a formal art education don’t understand that most educational institutions require fine arts studio majors to maintain honors level GPAs while taking several classes outside the discipline. While that does not by any means make us experts, it does teach us to deeply investigate those matters which interest us. Further more, I don’t know about you other BFA’s out there, but every instructor and prof that I have had dealings with , over the last few years, has vigorously cautioned students against didacticism and ignorance and appropriation. Besides, the way I see it, my job is not to make opinionated declarations but rather ask questions that act as a catalyst for relevant discussion. For example, I have chosen not to affiliate with or support any political parties or self identify as feminist. Those kind of labels are limiting and presuppose a particular modality.

    Lastly, an observation to those who hearken back to the renaissance, when great masters made tons of great art without corporate funding; “the Great Masters” were heavily patronized first by a patriarchal state and religious entities and later by the extremely wealthy who took care of their every need using money gleaned off the backs of the poor.

    Sound familiar? Except now, like mentioned previously, art does not compare to other status symbols like cars, electronic toys and what ever it is that the fabulously wealthy buy with their billions.

    My final point is for the individual who believes that artists learn to be artists by copying other artists, and that art is all flat and pictorial

    “Much of the preliminary and creative work can be done on a computer (in some cases, there is never a need to leave the computer at all) and the cost involved is often (e.g. in music) a fraction of what it used to be.”

    “Studying past masters for inspiration no longer requires travelling in a steamer to Paris, but can be done online or from books with actual color prints. Etc.”

    I find both of these comments to be narrow and representative of a lack of awareness about what constitutes art and the breadth and scope of contemporary practice.Perhaps individuals who demonstrate lack of understanding should not throw stones i.e. “attitude that they have a valuable contribution to make to intellectual or political discourse outside of their own fields merely because they happen to be artists.”

    So while I have everyone’s attention(sorry for the very long post)if there are any kazillionaires reading the blog I am very interested in discussing patronage in the renaissance manner; that is full room and board plus fully equipped studio with assistants and 2 cases of medium to good quality wine each month. Oh ya, I’ll need a good horse, sorry car. In exchange I promise to give you several fully resolved paintings and a good number of preparatory sketches which will all dutifully represent your political and or religious views.

    • Concerning “My final point is for the individual who believes that artists learn to be artists by copying other artists, and that art is all flat and pictorial” etc.

      Here you engage in a strawman: I explicitly give two examples. If you were to list aspects you find more relevant and to make a fair comparison with the opportunities of someone thirty, a hundred, and three hundred years ago, you are still very likely to find yourself increasingly privileged. As for “copying other artists” or “that art is all flat and pictorial”, I imply nothing of the kind.

      I note, however, that (in any area) learning from the masters is of great importance for those who strive to themselves become masters: What makes the difference in quality? What is novel? How is this-or-that effect achieved? Etc. To neglect this advice, one has to be either a genius or a fool—and there are a thousand fools to every genius. (I stress again that I do not require copying masters, be it in the sense of imitation of style or of physically copying individual works.)

      • simnora said,

        I respond with another question, who decides exactly who the old masters are? This seems to me like a judgment bereft of authority. Most “Old Masters” were once young rebels. The impressionists were almost laughed out of Paris. Caravaggio was a noted rake and his art and skill with chiaroscuro not recognized until recently.I also find it problematic that the “Old Masters” inevitably form part of the old dead white guy club. This is an archaic,anachronistic, judgment filled,self limiting, hierarchical system which precludes any type of open dialogue. And why look back 2 hundred years to compare ourselves to conditions which no longer exist. A couple thousand years ago the Romans had indoor plumbing , toilets and concrete that never cracked. Did they sit back patting themselves on the backs exclaiming
        “Hey, we are really lucky,in six or eight hundred years those Europeans will have to go through the dark ages.” Some people would argue that 200 years ago it was way better for artists than it is now. WHO CARES. We live here and now and there are as many ways to learn the theories and craft as there are artists.My point was about avoiding quick and easy and uninformed judgments and labels.

        You don’t seem to get the point which is that I find you opinionated and rigid in your thinking and while the impact of your argument is negligible to me in the long run, it is you, and those other closed minded individuals who are so quick to jump the judgment gun who will suffer the loss of those things that you are not open to.

        Art and artists are not judged/valued for purely technical skills any more so if you wish to sit as judge and jury, it behooves you to inform yourself with a bit more depth.

      • You continue to make claims about my opinions that you have no basis for, while in many ways yourself throwing stones in a glas house. Some of your claims are down-right odd, e.g. “Art and artists are not judged/valued for purely technical skills any more”: Not only have I said nothing to that effect, but this has not been true for a very long time—at least since the early 20th century. Further, other aspects that technical skill (e.g. creativeness and inventiveness or introduction of new techniques) have been important for far longer.

        To look specifically at your discussion of old masters: Firstly, a restriction to old masters is not necessary—a modern master will do just as well (but may be harder to identify). Generally, look at and learn from others—preferably those who are highly proficient. Secondly, the fact that those who are today recognized (by near consensus in the expert community) as masters were once considered in another light is not relevant to this thread of the discussion. What is relevant is that they did something others did not and that there is something to be learned from them. (Notably, there is no automatic merit in rebelling: Merit comes from rebelling in a manner that actually enriches the field.) If you are so dismissive of history and prejudiced about appreciation of past masters as you sound, then the ultimate loss is yours.

  42. melancholiastudioinc said,

    ???? far down the path between the looking glass

  43. melancholiastudioinc said,

    Note to self – read the article someone is referring to before you comment on it. I had to read it four times to figure out what I think it says. I thought the article was lacking in clarity and focus.

    I think the guy’s point was, eco art departments (specific curricula given over to students working in groups out in the fields and being taught to converse about art in terms of nature and environmental conservation) might displace some of the classes currently given over to the “classic arts” (drama, writing, painting, etc.). The Kennedy Center and students interested in the “classic arts” depend on classic arts education curricula. Without these departments nurturing this kind of talent, the theatre might really be dead.

    He throws in a lot of blah, blah about lack of excellent art, nostalgia for Martha Graham and so forth to detract from his real point. He wants to bash eco friendly art departments, but wants to maintain an image of being politically correct at the same time. If he was walking a tightrope, he fell off it with this article.

    If I may be so bold as to ascertain his point- out of fear they, too will be seen as politically incorrect, and possible motivated by corporations (who someone pointed out already are making millions selling our garbage back to us), he fears college departments are choosing not to allocate time, space, funding and importance to areas of art which don’t support the environmental and corporation interests. The Kennedy Center likes its profits just as much as the next corporation (not to mention the Huffington Post, which may account for the author’s deliberate lack of clarity)……and students get lost in the shuffle.

    Now, if I am entirely off the mark with this assessment or repeating what someone else already said, I would be extremely interested in hearing about it. Please write in layman’s terms, I have neither an MA or a Phd. Dumb it down a little.

  44. Ans said,

    Although I am not a performing artist, going to school for advertising design seems quite relative to what you have said. I try hard to make good art. And I’m told it is good, my teachers swear to me it’s good, but when I try to sell it or create it for advertising/logo like purposes it is not what they want.

    It puts me down, yet people still promise me I have talent. I’m just starting out but I’m already realizing that it isn’t going to be a piece of cake to get into this business.

    You can either do one of two things.

    1. conform to what everyone wants

    or 2. don’t lose faith (which is hard) and find people that love YOUR style.

    It takes patience, but I know it’s possible.

    Look at my stuff yourself. I’d love feedback from anyone:

    http://www.anscandraw.wordpress.com

  45. laurensedger said,

    Great piece, you’re right about the unnerving limitations that finance seems to put on the world of art. The artist can have great potential, but at the end of the day, if they don’t produce stuff that sells, there is no money for material and a studio.

    I was shocked when watching a documentary on Alexander Mcqueen the other day, by the fact that his fashion was criticised for being unwearable, unsellable. I guess you can take two perspectives on art: business and creative. It is pretty rare when the two can unite.

    I also agree that great art is out there, it all depends on the effort it’s audience is willing to make to find it.

    http://www.laurensedger.wordpress.com

  46. chavisory said,

    Thank you everyone for reading and for your comments!

    I think that the Huffington Post piece, and certainly my response, were more in mind of the performing arts, but I was very interested to see the comments take a turn into the visual arts, though I know far less about the visual arts world.

    But it’s great to see that so many people do care about great art being made. I hope to write more at some point about what the reasons for and value of the performing arts are to society and why it matters that we support them.

    Thanks again!

  47. Chad said,

    I agree with your confusion over Michael Kaiser’s claims. But maybe he is (unknowingly) presenting a symptom, a prevailing sentiment characterizing the spirit of our age – “WTF, where is our culture?!”

    I’ve come across a lot of people who simply aren’t aware of or lack access to the arts. This, I think, points out the absurdity that the arts aren’t functionally or structurally at the center of our places for living.

    Instead, we often see commercial and consumer centers bringing us together. And for a lot of us, that gets pretty depressing.

    It is true we have places we can go to and find culture there – whether performing arts, visual arts, or even spiritual and religious places.

    But what is so bizarre about the US is that cultural places are rarely close to where we live.

    And I think that is a tragedy, because it begs the question – “If we annex from our day to day life the very thing that enriches our day to day life, how can we ever thrive?”

    • chavisory said,

      Couldn’t agree more that it’s absurd that our artistic spaces are exiled from our actual communities. The very way that suburbs are constructed exile culture and make access to art difficult. Out of sight, out of mind. I’d like to see more communities built around access to common space and artistic space, rather than almost deliberately separated from them.

      I go back to the area where I grew up, and they don’t understand anything about development other than to put in another high-end strip mall full of chain stores. It makes me hate being there.

  48. Jess Kahele said,

    I’ve enjoyed your contributions to my tiny little blog. 🙂 What are you rehearsing?

    • chavisory said,

      Thank you! And thanks for coming by.

      I’m stage managing a show called “From the Fire.” It’s a choral music/dance/multimedia piece in memorial of the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. It’s going to turn out really great, but the rehearsals have been unusually hard on me for a number of reasons.

  49. […] to Freshly Pressed, I was exposed to this excellent blogpost written in response to this interesting proposal by Michael Kaiser. #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } […]

  50. There are tons of amazing artists. Sometimes with art, it doesn’t get appreciated until years later, and the thing is, art is everywhere, it’s hard to boil it down to the few best. With growing technology, it just makes art more saturated.

    • chavisory said,

      I think I totally agree–the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough good art, it’s that there’s SO much that it’s hard to filter out the “best.”


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