On the arts getting lost, and found again

Here’s a great talk by a dear colleague. Diane Ragsdale, formerly of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation before she wandered off to The Netherlands to get a PhD, discusses the current state of the arts, the struggle to define value, and the art of getting lost in the wilderness. Well worth a watch.

Diane Ragsdale on Surviving the Culture Change (Full Remarks) from Arts Alliance Illinois on Vimeo.

Thanks, Kelly, for the link!


  1. Joan says

    Stop blaming the arts!! Governments are the ones that slashed financing for the arts in schools everywhere therefore creating in 30 years, societies that had NO intention of helping the “common” person speak in or understand the conscious meaningful language of the arts. It would become an appendage of the education of the rich and powerful. That is the ONLY cultural change in the past 30 years, and it is a cold, calculated, political, subtraction, not a cultural evolution.
    The addition of computing and cyberspace might have added to the arts IF they were still being taught practically and seriously from Kindergarten on up to grade 12. By college it would be presumed that students would be practicing their own personal art making and might receive gigantic student reductions on all their arts tickets. The relevence of a work of art is up to the composers, writers, painters, and not up to the actors, instrumentalists, managers or marketers.
    A building is a building, and in a pinch, anything with 4 walls and a roof will do. In a pinch. But putting money into a great theatre or concert hall doesn’t change the nature of what art is. Maybe one could say that arts managers need to take more risks in the arts they program, pay attention to how people are talking together these days. But as I said, those are additional pieces of info.
    The BIG gigantic task is to gently teach (by doing) children to speak their own meaning or anxieties into journals, music making, drama, dance and painting, and gradually teach them the more technically advanced means of self expression in the arts as they get older. Then, when these kindergarten kids are adults, NO ONE will have to market the arts to them. They will know in their hearts and in their guts and in their limbs and in their minds how to say those things which money cannot buy or make. they will want to see what the professionals have to say and they will not be uncomfortable with the languages, the buildings, or the messages.
    There is no iceberg and no future accident because there currently is no Titanic, no passenger ship. It’s almost disappeared as though it never was.

  2. says

    @Andrew — Thank you for the shout out! If your readers would like a bite-size version of Diane’s remarks, there are shorter clips available at http://www.vimeo.com/​album/​252779. You can also get a PDF of Diane’s prepared remarks at http://www.artsalliance.org/​reception/​. Thanks again for your feedback!
    @Joan — I think you raise a good point about arts education. This actually came up in the Q&A at the event. I think the feeling in the audience was it’s a both/and — we need to advocate for arts education, but we also need to think about our relevance and how we position the arts.
    Scarlett Swerdlow
    Arts Alliance Illinois

  3. says

    Joan, I completely agree that a lifelong focus on creative expression would advance many elements of our communities and the work of artists and cultural organizations. But I also resonate deeply with Diane’s points about the current challenges of engaging communities with creative work.
    Even if we were able to convince school systems and communities to change behavior today, we would still have 20 years to wait for those kindergarteners to weave their way into adult civic life.
    I don’t hear blame in Diane’s remarks. I hear concern, and empathy for colleagues doing difficult work in difficult times.