For those of you who have seen the first few posts, I guess it’s now time to get on with the interesting task of providing some kind of systematic overview of what we’ll be considering here. I could be very serious and professorial about it, . . . but who would want to read it? (And my students would probably not recognize me.) For the record, I would like to be clear that this post and the follow-up on the Eightfold Path to Community Engagement are in no way intended to trivialize Buddhist belief. It is actually my respect for those parallel constructs that brought this frame to mind.
So, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, here are The Arts’ Four Noble Truths. These will serve as the foundation for what is posted here:
1. Life in the arts as we know it today is suffering.
2. The origin of that suffering is insufficient attachment to community.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable by engagement with the community.
4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path to Community Engagement.
Cute (or irritating, depending on your tolerance for hyperbole and, perhaps, blasphemy), right?
The first will bring a wry smile of recognition to the face of almost everyone who has spent even a day in the world of the arts. (Yes, we know the pleasures of being in the field; but we’re among friends here, let’s fess up to this side.)
The second and third will need more work from my awareness-building campaign, although I began to address this in my previous “Why?” and “Click” posts. In the meantime, think of it this way: If the majority of the population believed passionately that the work of the arts was vitally important to their health, happiness, and prosperity, wouldn’t many if not most of our problems be solved? Unrealistic? But didn’t you say that the arts are for everyone? . . . .
And the fourth will need to wait until I present the Eightfold Path. To get you to come back, I’ll use that as a later post. The delay will also give me a little more time to work out the details.
And for our example du jour, see the August 2 post on the NEA’s Art Works site: http://www.arts.gov/artworks/?p=8649, It describes a project and organization, Critical Exposure. CE puts cameras in the hands of young people to document conditions in their schools and communities. Their work is then used to advocate for change. Here are a couple of observations:
- Yes, I know this is not an arts-first organization. For Critical Exposure, the arts (Are we over the argument about whether photography is an art?) are a means to an end. This is a valuable example in this context because it demonstrates an awareness that the arts are powerful in their capacity to galvanize the public around an issue. This is power any arts organization has at its disposal.
- Photography is a welcoming platform. It is accessible to many. It expands the reach of participatory activity. If we complain that one of the problems with public education is a decline in participatory activity on the part of students, how can we be anything but joyful about examples such as this?
- And before someone else jumps on it, what about the dismissive “quality” argument? Don’t get me started. There is a whole rant (to be entered another day) about the short-sightedness of many complaints about quality in the context of community-focused art. For the present, let’s consider 1) Why do some not see connection with/meaning for real people a factor in quality? and 2) Advanced technique could be viewed as artificial or “precious” just as easily as it can be a marker of excellence. (I owe a debt to Arlene Goldbard for that insight.) This is not to say that technique is unimportant. In most cases, it is critical; but it may not be as unmixed a blessing as many think it is.
So far the blogging process has been fun, and not as burdensome in scheduling as I had anticipated. At the same time, the day job is looming. I have no idea if I’ll be able to continue the twice a week posts through the academic year. Stay tuned. In the meantime,
Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buddha_nobletruths.jpg
By http://tipitaka.org/ (http://tipitaka.org/) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons