Twenty Years On...

By Marian Godfrey
Lewis Hyde's and Steve Tepper's exchange about "reframing" concepts strikes me as a powerful avenue to pursue because it begins to knit together the question of naming a policy objective with the profounder matter of changing what we believe and how we think about what we are renaming.  I agree with Bill and others who point out that in accepting the idea of "expressive life" we must move to broader policy questions including copyright and mending the digital divide as a means of broadening access to tools critical to the individual's exploration of both "voice" and "heritage."  I also agree with Adrian that "Cultural policy in the United States is anemic in content and circumscribed in scope in part because big, noisy, self-interested organizations have pre-empted so much of the 'issue space'. They did it on the way up and they are going to do it on the way back down." 

Here's my question:  are we just going to ignore these organizations?  They are the bed we have made and are currently lying in.  If we are Darwinian about it, and just let them go down, we (and policy makers) could be heavily distracted by that depressing spectacle for another twenty years.  Or don't they need to be co-opted into the process of reframing both the place of expressivity in civic life, and the centrality of the expressive individual in our cultural life? 

What happens to our current non-profit cultural infrastructure will influence the success or not of the enterprise Bill has pointed us toward because in the eyes of many policy makers, especially at the local level, these big, noisy, dysfunctional organizations are the most important and visible carriers of cultural heritage.  Of course we can just wait the twenty years and let their fate resolve itself, but that doesn't feel like any way to pursue a movement, which is what it feels to me we are talking about.
January 26, 2010 3:14 AM | | Comments (1) |


First Step towards a Participatory Cultural Policy: Re-Engaging Diverse Communities of Arts and Culture in a National Project

I agree with Adrian and Marian that many of the larger, more influential arts and culture organizations have "pre-emptied so much of the issue space". However, I think as this conversation about new terminology and policy unfolds, we must simultaneously reflect and move on how to engage/invite the cultural diversity/"people of color" trends into the center of deliberations. They are generally an after though and they often reinforce their marginalization, despite many gains and contributions to national understanding and identity over the last half century, by not acting as co-proprietors of the public space with all other citizens. After all these artists, cultural workers, and service groups spearheaded debate, policy formulation, and arts and interpretive practices that democratized recognition and support of arts and culture over the last fifty years. And the changed and still changing national demographics require their full participation to mature our democracy and to develop an equitable and just future of heritage and voice. The integrative construct of Expressive Lives will not reach its deliberative or practical potential to further evolve the nexus of arts, cultures and democracy in the larger society without fostering a network of networks in collaboration informed by a multiplicity of histories and voices working to highlight the richness of human experiences and capacities that give life, at times uneven and contentious, to our national identity and national development.

To Marian's question:"are we just going to ignore these {larger} organizations?” I say no. We must consciously and strategically take advantage of this moment of economic and ethical crisis to make prioritization of arts and culture ---heritage(s) and voice(s) -- and this kind of exchange and deliberation common practice throughout larger and smaller arts and culture communities and across the nation, and not resort to the trend of occasional issuing of policy reports and dialogues and high-profile commentary.

A proactive strategy is required to multiply this conversation across arts and culture organizations, local and national civic organizations, political, business, and educational institutions---if it is to become truly grounded and not just artificially inserted into public conscious via media strategies.


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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