Late to Bill's Rumpus

By Jim Smith

     I'm sorry to come so late to the conversation. Over the past five days I've spent three in board meetings and two on the road. My expressive life has taken two forms: governance rituals (well-choreographed meetings, dancing around issues, singing the praises of staff) and sheer delight in what our modern digital technologies render accessible to the bored and delayed traveler (Ute Lemper singing Kurt Weill is the perfect companion while navigating TSA airport security).

     These quick queries about the uses of the term "expressive life" should have come earlier in the conversation. They were what I was pondering when the rumpus began.

     Is "expressive life" intended as a term for gaining wider popular traction in our political discourse (wider than such arid and conventional expressions as "arts policy" or "cultural policy")? 

     Is "expressive life" a term designed primarily to widen the aperture through which we view policy issues, among other things expanding our concerns beyond the nonprofit arts sector and its financial travails?

     Is "expressive life" a means for embracing a greater range of artistic and cultural forms, some of which acknowledge the creative activities intrinsic to our daily lives, some of which are made possible with new technologies?

     Is "expressive life" a way of reaching toward and defining an explicit policy aim, setting a public goal? This suggests a slight variation on Bill's aim a decade ago in setting out a cultural bill of rights.

     I offer this late intervention rather blindly, grasping at threads after only a quick scan of what has obviously been a rich and varied conversation. I shall return.

January 27, 2010 6:50 AM | |


This Conversation Are the terms "Art" and "Culture" tough enough to frame a public policy carve-out for the 21st century? Are the old familiar words, weighted with multiple meanings and unhelpful preconceptions, simply no longer useful in analysis or advocacy? In his book, Arts, Inc., Bill Ivey advances "Expressive Life" as a new, expanded policy arena - a frame sufficiently robust to stand proudly beside "Work Life," "Family Life," "Education," and "The Environment." Is Ivey on the right track, or more

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