Saturday, March 17, 2012

Counting New Beans Update

I have heard from a couple people involved with the Counting New Beans book that was just released with information that pertains to my previous post. Clayton Lord, the director of communications and audience development at Theatre Bay, wrote:
I wanted to let you know that we continue adding stops on the tour, and that, while they still remain somewhat city-based, we are trying in particular to reach south (and north). I will be speaking on the work in Toronto and Kitchner-Waterloo in April, and in St. Louis and Nashville in May. We are also hoping to line up stops in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Seattle, San Diego and others - all still cities of course, but as Aaron kindly pointed out, we are limited in our money for the dissemination part of this work, and are trying to reach as many people as we can in one fell swoop. To that point, however, both the DC and San Francisco events will be streamed live on the Internet, and at least one of those will be made available afterward for anyone, anywhere to watch. We are grateful for the amazing amount of attention the work is getting, and I personally hope that as many people in as many places, urban and rural, as possible will hear about it. Info on future dates will be posted and publicized as we confirm details at http://www.theatrebayarea.org/intrinsicimpact.
I appreciate the streaming of the events, which allows greater dissemination to a wider audience. I will note, however, that one of the problems in rural areas is that broadband is not widely available, so a streaming video often isn't very helpful. This is one of the ways, in addition to little arts funding, that small and rural areas are not simply ignored by our urban-oriented society, but actually hindered in their development. I would urge those city folk who every once in a while get grumpy about the government money given to corporate agri-business for agriculture to keep in mind that, for large chunks of rural America it is still in the mid-90s when dial-up was the norm. Which is not to say that streaming isn't valuable, but rather that it is not a solution. The "trying to reach as many people as we can" argument is, of course, understandable, but it also reflects the kind of thinking that has worked against rural arts funding since its inception. I think advocates for rural arts, as I am, cannot be expected to always be "understanding" of a situation that discriminates against us.

Arlene Goldbard, who I admire without reservation, emailed to point out that, while she contributed an essay to the volume, she "had no role in formulating or conducting the research, nor in the roll-out of the book." I apologize if I implied that she did. What I meant to say is that both she and Dudley Cocke of Roadside/Appalshop, two giants in the field of rural arts, have a presence in the book, and it might have been a good idea to acknowledge that by scheduling a meeting in such a venue. The authors might be surprised -- while there may not be a crowd of "theatre professionals" there, they might find quite a bit of interest from "just folks" who have an interest in the arts, and who actually might be a valuable audience to speak to.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Counting New Beans Data Dissemination Sessions

I just received in the mail today a copy of Theatre Bay Area's newly released Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art. While I am opening a show Thursday and won't get to reading the book until later, the letter that was included with the book, dated March 5 2012, had a sentence that confirmed once again the centralization of the arts in America. This sentence read as follows:

Please consider attending one of the data dissemination sessions happening across the country in the month of March: Chicago (3/12), Minneapolis (3/13), Boston (3/20), Washington DC (3/22), Philadelphia (3/23), Los Angeles (3/27) and San Francisco (3/30).
1. I received this book in the mail today, March 16 after two of the sessions have already been held.
2. Each of those sessions are scheduled in major metropolitan areas -- no attempt is made to even hint that a small or rural community might be interested in this, despite the prominent participation of Arlene Goldbard, for whom rural arts development is a major issue. I might have suggested Whiteburg KY, home of Appalshop, as a worthy site.
3. Every one of those are northern cities. Apparently these new beans have nothing to do with anyplace below the Mason-Dixon line.

I find it disappointing that I have to assume such a petty tone when these things happen, but until I see that the issue of geographical diversity is being considered by governmental and private arts organizations and foundations I guess I will have to continue to do so.

I appreciate receiving the book. I hope its scope will be wider than its publicity. Arlene? Diane Ragsdale? Any response?