The Art of the Local

Art is an intensely local experience. But what arts organizations really put local considerations front and center when they design their programming, educational strategies, and other activities?

I'm not writing to tell you the answer. I'm honestly just throwing the question out there. I'll admit, there's a personal reason to ask: I'm doing a freelance piece for Inside Arts magazine, about this very topic. I'm looking to tell the stories of arts organizations that employ strategies that reflect the peculiar local circumstances of their communities. It's a broad examination of how local demographics, geography, and so-on influence the identity of specific arts organizations. I know some examples, but I want to hear more.

So in a sense, this post is a solicitation. But I suspect it's also the lead-off for further discussion here.

I'll throw out one example that I believe does a fine job of focusing on its local circumstances: the Missoula Art Museum. For one thing, the museum's programming is intensely local and contemporary. Indeed, touring shows and exhibits of work by artists from outside a half-day drive from here are the exception rather than the rule. They've also employed strategies such as their popular Artini series to capitalize on the peculiar demographics of this town.

Who else does this well? I'd love to hear.

October 26, 2007 8:34 AM | | Comments (2)



Our local Equity company, The Willamette Repertory Theatre (in Eugene, Oregon) does a series of readings for the close of its season. Those "Readings in Rep" often bring the work of local playwrights to the attention of the Eugene crowd. And the chair of the U of Oregon Theatre Arts department does some Shakespearean adaptations, one of which has been performed and one of which will be performed, at another local semi-pro theater company, the Lord Leebrick Theatre. And certainly our ballet has choreography from the local choreographer. But otherwise ... maybe only the university school of music focuses on local composers for music performances. I suspect that is similar in many college towns.

Joe Nickell responds: You're probably right that colleges tend to be the main purveyors of truly local productions. Some of that is because they're often providing opportunities for their own professors; some is because they aren't necessarily quite as constrained by the perception of marketability. I hear it often around here in Missoula that the University can do offbeat programming or local programming because they don't have to "pay the bills." I personally question this logic -- I tend to think that creative programming is often a better sell to people bored with the same-old same-old, IF it's sold smartly and creatively. But I guess that might be a topic for a different discussion.

Joe, I think The Emerson here in Bozeman does a pretty good job of this, as do other arts organizations I happen to know of more peripherally. I would emphasize, though, that in addition to connecting local artists with the local community, it's equally important to connect both with the larger world. Narrow regionalism, ignorant of context, is unlikely to produce the best art, even for locals. On a state-wide scale, the Drumlummon Institute has cast this approach as "cosmoregionalism" or "critical regionalism."
Joe Nickell responds: Thanks for the suggestions Steve. You're absolutely right that arts presenters and producers alike must keep a perspective on the larger context of what they do. The good ones strike that balance.

Leave a comment

Recent Comments


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by FlyOver published on October 26, 2007 8:34 AM.

Is grief a conflict? was the previous entry in this blog.

Has a "teachable moment" been lost? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

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
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
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
On the Record
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
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

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

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

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
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.