Seconding the motion and considering democracy

By Russell Willis Taylor
Andrew, I second your motion that we include these activities -- not entirely sure about motorcycle maintenance . . . 

The various comments about framing, vernacular, and who decides what's in and what's out have made me think hard about why I believe revisiting the language around what we do in arts/culture/entertainment or what have you is so important.   By focusing on individuals as creators and instigators rather than the passive recipients of culture that is "done to them" we are beginning to address what role an expressive life should have in a developing democracy.  In the US we are very much a work in progress, despite what we may tell ourselves about how much we want to export this thing we have built called freedom.  Democracy requires a balance between the individual and the group -- policy helps set boundaries for how that balance will be maintained.

By examining the ways in which the narrow definition of arts and culture has limited how we think about who takes part, in what way, and why, we are perhaps rehearsing better reasons for us to regain our place in the civic conversation.  The disparities of wealth and opportunity in the US (and indeed globally) are not someone else's problem -- they are everyone's problem, and I was intrigued to read recently in a work by Mark Stern and Susan Seifert that our traditional delivery systems and adherence to "star" hierarchies in the arts contributes actively to social and economic inequalities, just as in the realm of sports. Now there's an economic impact that doesn't get much air time.

Whether expressive life is the right phrase or not matters much less to me than our exploration of the dramatic need to involve far greater numbers of people in arts, culture and creative endeavours for their benefit rather than ours -- because we are not just part of an arts ecology but society as a whole, and in my view it's time we started taking that a lot more seriously.

And on that rather Calvinist note, I look forward to the ongoing discussion.  
January 25, 2010 8:04 PM | |


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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