Arts programming, coverage and diversity in the Outback
Madison's afternoon daily, The Capital Times, recently ran an item on how the current school year will likely be the one in which "minority students become the majority in Madison's elementary schools." Counted together, Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American students will account for over 50% of elementary students.
For those reading this outside of Wisconsin, this number may be surprising given the state's largely Germanic image (and, frankly, I wouldn't exist were it not for German immigrants to Milwaukee). Yet while the makeup of Milwaukee and Madison is more varied than the state as a whole, numbers such as these do indicate that Wisconsin is an increasingly diverse place. And as the younger generation in particular becomes more diverse, so does our state's future.
What does this have to with the arts in smaller cities? Quite a lot, for reasons that are not hard to fathom. While part of the role of the arts is to give us glimpses into other worlds and other people's experiences, I think all of us also want to see our own experiences--whatever they may be--reflected in the arts from time to time. A pluralistic society needs a rich variety of arts experiences.
Some related questions that have come into sharper focus for me this year are these: How does the art we see in our community reflect our population? What do local arts programming choices say about us as a community? And whose stories are being told?
While these questions may seem painfully obvious, for arts writers they're also easily lost in the rush of doing a review of a particular play, art exhibition, etc. Sometimes, given all that there is to say about a specific work and the limited amount of space a writer has, larger questions of context and community fall by the wayside. And even when they're raised, they're not always appreciated; arts organizations can wind up feeling defensive.
For arts critics in small to mid-size cities who may be reading this: how have you addressed such issues in your reviews? Or do you feel you've not had the space to really delve into it? Or is it an issue you think is ill-suited to arts criticism?
On a related note, I've also been pondering issues of diversity in terms of local print publications. They, too, are a mirror of how Madison and cities like it are changing. In addition to Madison's two daily newspapers (the Wisconsin State Journal and Capital Times) and alternative weekly, Isthmus, there's a lot more in town, much of it serving specific populations: the brand-new Our Lives, which bills itself as "Madison's LGBTQA Magazine"; the multicultural papers Capital City Hues and The Madison Times ("The Paper That's More Than Black and White"); La Comunidad, publishing articles in both English and Spanish; and Wisconsin Woman--and I'm sure I'm leaving a few publications out.
While I have no grand insights to offer as I write this late on a Monday night, I do think that those of us lucky enough to write about our local arts scenes must take time to consider the community context of what we see--and don't see.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
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
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog