Moving from "Me" to "We": Elitism vs. Populism

By Nettrice Gaskins, Board Member, NAMAC
Me, we. (Supposedly the shortest quote in the English language delivered at a Harvard graduation.)" --  Muhammad Ali
For some reason this quote by my hometown (KY) hero came to mind as I was skimming the page regarding a national cultural policy for Australia.

The cultural policy will be integrated into programs in universities, schools, local government, new media and longstanding media and cultural institutions in both settler and indigenous communities - creating a cultural infrastructure for the Australian economy and society, and building on the core activities in the arts and creative industries.
Some of the major points of the proposal include,

  • enabling innovation
  • supporting and encouraging connections
  • supportingt art & culture in education
  • investing in new art forms and in the integration of investment in core cultural institutions
  • supporting knowledge transfer and exchanges between academia and cultural institutions
  • recognizing arts & culture in innovation policies through new products and services
  • recognizing collecting institutions as a major resource in the Web 2.0 environment
Well... I like it!  In my opinion this proposal is sufficiently broad enough and inclusive.  I could see artists/creatives as nodes in an expanding knowledge network of arts & culture (social, online, etc.).
What I especially like is the part about broadening "cultural policy from its foundation in arts policy."  I wonder if we Americans could also build a discussion framework on culture - heritage, innovation, creation and expression while maintaining support for the arts.  Inherent in this approach is the departure from the top-down approach of arts & culture programming.

...the "democratization of culture" is a top-down approach that promulgates certain forms of cultural programming that are deemed to be a public good. Clearly, such an objective is open to criticism for what is termed cultural elitism; that is, the assumption that some aesthetic expressions are inherently superior - at least as determined by a cognoscenti concerned with the acquisition of cultural capital.  -- wikipedia
I support a more participatory (or populist) approach in the definition and provision of cultural opportunities.  I believe these approaches are mutually exclusive, perhaps even critical to creating arts & cultural in the U.S. that promotes a political democracy.  Why can't we have diversified revenue streams with high levels of earned income AND a public culture that nurtures arts & cultural activities that contribute to individual self-worth and community?
July 19, 2010 5:36 PM | | Comments (2) |


In moving from me to we, for more ways to make culture participatory, explore more ways to collaborate that can bring people together to accomplish greater things than they can alone. Some are described at Moving From Me to We - a top blog on AlltopCollaboration

um, Ali's poem went like this:


it was a celebration of himself.

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