Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eric Booth

Big h/t to Ian at Creatiquity for this quotation from Eric Booth, Julliard arts education leader and author of The Everyday Work of Art :
For 30,000 years the arts answered a variety of humankind’s most basic needs. In recent decades something odd happened. We allowed the arts to become specialized, peripheralized. We allowed “the arts” to change their fundamental definition so that they resonate with relevance for a few. It isn’t that the arts changed; it is that we lost the vital connection between the purpose of the arts as they are generally understood, and the human needs of the broader community of people they used to, and still can, serve.
Ian goes on that several times at the California Arts Advocates meeting where Booth served as facilitator, and where Arlene Goldbard was a keynote, people said " until we can have an honest conversation with these people who in some fundamental way(s) are very different from us, it’s going to be very hard to know what (if anything) we can do for them." There are two important pieces of this statement: 1) we have to have an honest conversation with "these people" who are "very different from us," and 2) we need to change the preposition at the end of the sentence from "for" to "with."

By the way, I agree with Ian's frustration with the Expressive Life conversation at ArtsJournal.com. When intelligent people devote several days tinkering with words instead of engaging the ideas behind the words, there is a problem. It's like a multi-day branding exercise. The ship is sinking and they're tinkering with the logo on the bow. It seems to me that Ivey is attempting to address what Eric Booth said: "We allowed the arts to become specialized, peripheralized." But he's getting this all tangled up with Intellectual Property issues, which are connected through the limiting of creative activity, but which are perceived as legalistic issues. What is really maddening, as is so often the case, is that people can't think beyond their frame. The other commenters are all focused on non-profit arts institutions and traditional artist-specialists -- even Steven Tepper, whose great introduction to Engaging Arts addresses this issue, seems to get tracked towards the traditional status quo.

Anyway, we have to address Booth's point: the arts are specialized, peripheralized, irrelevant, and missing a vital connection to the broader community.

1 comment:

Ian David Moss said...

Hey Scott, thanks for the link. I should clarify that I was sort of conflating my own thoughts with those of others with that quote you put up there. No one other than me actually used the words "very different from us," for example - that's my own take on it. But the general sentiment was shared by many in the room and expressed several times in public.