Recently by Andrew Taylor
There's clearly work to be done to ensure each citizen's right to find and express their voice, and to discover, experience, and remix the expressions around them. There's also work to be done in repurposing those cultural institutions who care to be repurposed as local and national stewards of such expression -- among other stewards. Whether language comes first or policy does is probably the wrong question. In truth, such things always move together.
My father, who's a physics professor, sent me the following quote when he read what I would be talking about this week. Seems to be a good sentiment to close my last post:
''...we cannot improve the language of any science without at the same time improving the science itself; neither can we, on the other hand, improve a science, without improving the language or nomenclature which belongs to it.''
A. Lavoisier, Traité Elémentaire de Chimie. William Creech, Edinburgh, 1790. Translated by Robert Kerr as The Elements of Chemistry, reprinted by Dover, 1965
I keep scrolling back to Steven Tepper's discussion of reframing, when it's effective, and how it can be made more effective. Particularly, this point:
You can "extend" the frame by connecting it to other frames or other issues where there are natural allies/constituents who might be sympathetic to your frame but currently view the world through a different lens.Odds are that different partners on the path will have different words that move them. Alan identified some of these with his focus groups. Marian found others with her nieces and nephews. And perhaps our best step is NOT to craft the perfect language, but to use the most resonant and productive language for a specific task. Remember the ''Clean Air Act''? The ''Patriot Act''? Brilliant nuggets of symbolic sleight of hand.
My experience has been that the folks now camped in the ''arts and culture'' frame are among the most difficult to move, and the most reluctant to partner with industries or advocates that live in a different camp.
I continue to like ''expressive life'' as a way to organize my thoughts, and to give me space to use multiple paths to explain my meaning. But perhaps it's a term for inside baseball.
Monday, the Justice Department approved the merger of Ticketmaster (the world's largest ticketing service) and Live Nation (the world's largest producer, promoter, and host of live concerts). The merger has clear implications for worldwide markets of live performance, for the control of and profit from all activities surrounding those performances, and for how venues, media outlets, artists, presenters, producers, artist representatives, and local communities connect the live arts with audiences.
It's an example of a significant and public shift in the shape of our industry (not just nonprofit arts, but certainly including nonprofit arts) that had little play in the ''arts and culture'' conversation. Bruce Springsteen was against it, but he's not ''arts and culture.'' Consumer groups and independent commercial entertainment providers were concerned, as well, but they're not ''arts and culture'' either.
I'm not sure that ''expressive life'' resolves that problem, or would suddenly make artists and cultural leaders more aware and engaged in public policy decisions that shape their universe. But it underscores to me the inadequacy of ''arts and culture'' as a frame and a filter for public conversation.
UPDATE 1/27/2010: Neill Archer Roan posted some detailed thoughts on the merger issue on his blog. Worth a read if you're not sure how the merger might impact your work.
To be honest, we have neither the process nor the authority to make those decisions. Rather, all the current and potential players in the game and their representatives can choose for themselves whether the larger frame serves their specific purpose. I'm hoping that most of them are having that very discussion right now (or perhaps they're already done).
Back in 2008, Elizabeth Long Lingo and I (and a fabulous research team) actually dabbled in the very question for a Curb Center research initiative at the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver. Since the convention was drawing a national audience of arts professionals, advocates, and supporters from multiple disciplines, our research team wanted to know how they drew the frame around ''performing arts'' (essentially the ''what's in and what's out'' question). Here are the results of that pre-conference survey question for those who care to know (click the link or the image for a full-size view).
I found it interesting that the convention was intended to bring more muscle and motivation to a national conversation about public policy and the performing arts, but that two of the largest national and local purveyors of music (Walmart) and media theater (Blockbuster) didn't make the cut.
But in this week's conversation, I'm less concerned about whether ''expressive life'' is exactly the right phrase for everyone, and more interested in whether it offers a USEFUL frame for the real work of our field. The George Box quote used as the title of this post gets to the heart of that issue: Every model we use to engage the world is incomplete or incorrect in some way -- it has to be. What matters is how well those imperfect models move us forward in the specific task at hand.
For me, at least, ''expressive life'' has become an extraordinarily useful model -- in teaching my MBA students about policy and practice, in discussing issues in the arts with peers, in thinking about the cast of characters that influence how we create, present, connect, discuss, preserve, and support both human heritage and individual voice.
As Marian suggests, the phrase doesn't ''do'' much on its own. But I think it allows us to think about, speak about, and go about our work in more productive and connected ways. And that's a start.
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
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