The Expressive Life Grid

By Steven J Tepper

For me, one important challenge facing cultural policy is the constant debate and emphasis on "content." Most of our policies and institutions are set up to advance, in one way or another, varying views of "good content" verses "bad content."  Like aspects of food policy, we are seeking ways to make sure more people eat "good food" - leading to better nutrition, which is considered a public good. But, we don't have any evidence that when we engage "good culture" (the opera verses Family Guy), that we necessarily have better health.  

Instead, I think cultural policy must try to be content neutral (which flips our entire paradigm on its head).  In terms of cultural participation, I have argued that this means thinking about the types of "experiences" that produce the outcomes we care about (reflection, deliberation, efficacy, understanding, pride, solidarity, etc.) and then orienting our support and policies around ANY form of content that can produce those experiences.   In the larger cultural policy debate, that means focusing on an outcome that is independent of content, such as the flow of creative expression between citizens.  

If we think about our "expressive life" infrastructure, we can imagine a grid (like the energy grid) that allows culture to flow freely between citizens (back and forward across time - encompassing both heritage and voice).  There are many things that get in the way of such communication or conversation (as Andras would put it) - intellectual property laws, restrictive corporate practice and narrow gates, media consolidation, lack of minority owned media, rules against low frequency radio, a shortage of presentation venues for live performing arts, the decline of local journalism, etc.   

The Expressive Life frame helps me think about a content-neutral frame that can focus on public interest concerns related to the quality of our expressive life "grid."  Where are the tolls, bottlenecks, dead ends, and one way streets in our collective cultural lives?  Can policy address these structural problems?  

January 25, 2010 7:29 AM | | Comments (1) |


Hear hear!


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

Our Bloggers

Adrian Ellis; Alan Brown; Andras Szanto; Andrew Taylor; Bau Graves; Douglas McLennan; Ellen Lovell; Bill Ivey, William James; James Early; Jim Smith; Lewis Hyde; Marian Godfrey; Martha Bayles; Nihar Patel; Russell Taylor; Sam Jones; Steven Tepper


Contact us Click here to send us an email... more

Archives: 61 entries and counting


Recent Comments

Jim Rosenberg commented on The Expressive Life Grid: Hear hear!...

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
State of the Art
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
The Unanswered Question
Joe Horowitz on music

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary