By James Early
I weigh in on the conversation late because of fatigue from returning last night from eleven intense, engaged days in Cuba with colleagues from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian meeting with Cuban museum and humanities colleagues involved in a range of arts and culture work from under water patrimony, ballet, flamenco, poetry, reinterpretations of race, culture, and national identity, and historical preservation among other arts and culture topics. Whether one agrees or not with the Cuban ideological and political focus, what a contrast in formal, affirmative cultural policy to our national cultural policy discourse or lack of one, until this stimulating consideration of "Expressive Life".

In several countries around the world of very different ideological and political persuasions, artists and cultural workers, national and local politicians, various civil society sectors, and multilateral bodies are vigorously engaged in ongoing discourses about culture and the arts combined as a transversal cultural policy category which intersects other quality of life polices in such areas as spiritual well being, imagination and creativity, economics, health, security, conflict resolution and so on. In general these discourses illustrate the poverty of our societal focus on arts and culture and I think the urgency of arts and culture practitioners and related fields to break with our rather amorphous, reactive, often anti-intellectual discussions, and pandering, raw market posture, e.g. "Arts=Jobs", in the search to foreground and get support for arts and culture from politicians and corporate patrons.

Provocative, yes! But I think a relatively accurate, real-culture-politic description of the national context in which Expressive Life is posited as a substantive qualitative focus and means with potential to "eliminate the dismissive, eye-rolling assumptions that now attach to "The Arts".

Although I do not think that Bill's Expressive Life construct will supplant traditional usage of the words arts and culture, I welcome it because I think it provides a needed discursive framework with potential to stimulate-- as in this Blog and the UK's engagement of the terminology and meaning--- a deep and ongoing examination of why we find the arts and culture, (artists and intellectuals) in such a marginal place in national life exemplified in the meager $50 million allotment of the $787 billion dollar stimulus package. Beyond reflection, I think Expressive Life as "voice" and "heritage" provides substance and direction for an expansive, productive public and governance policy focus. And Expressive Life has potential to prime a deeper discussion of meaning and range of arts and culture and help put behind us the often shallow practice of subsuming culture in arts' articulations and diminishing or dismissing the arts in intellectual discussion.

So, I urge that we take heed of the song lyrics "We are the ones we've been waiting for" of Sweet Honey in the Rock and use Bill's Expressive Culture initiative to situate artists and cultural workers and to elaborate arts and culture In the center of our national debate and policy formulation to re-steady our country and to reintegrate into the protocols forged by the community of nations.
January 25, 2010 7:22 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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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
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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