FlyOver: October 2007 Archives
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.
A couple of weeks ago I attended an event here in Missoula that reminded me why I live in this place, why I love these people, and what can happen when an artist in this small town believes that anything is possible.
The event was a CD release concert by David Boone, a local musician whom I've written about several times over the years. Still in his mid-late 20s, David has lived quite a hard life here in western Montana. He left his broken family in his mid-teens, lost the man he considered father in a random murder, drifted around, fought with episodes of severe depression and mania for years. In the up times, he has produced an impressive body of work, including ten full-length albums in the past eight years. In the down times, nobody hears from him for awhile.
For the release of his newest record, "A Tale of Gold," David decided to put together a massive concert at Missoula's third-largest concert hall, the 1,100-seat Wilma Theater. It was a bold move; other local musicians have tried and failed to pull together events at the grand old theater.
But David did it right, and the result was a nearly sold-out concert that truly ranks as one of the finest I've ever witnessed. Indeed, it was more than a concert; it felt more like a community waking up to itself. In this city of just over 60,000 people, more than 1,000 showed up for the concert. Using somewhat fuzzy math, if the same percentage of locals showed up to a concert by an unsigned hometown artist in New York City, there'd be over 130,000 people in the crowd.
I wrote a preview of the concert, talking about the new CD and how the concert came together; you can read the full story here.
I also wrote a column - more an ode - after the concert. You can read that here.
If you're a fan of folk-rock music in the Coldplay/Counting Crows vein, I'm even willing to make a rare plug: You should buy "A Tale of Gold." There are some wonderful songs on it, and you'd be supporting one of the most earnestly good people I've ever met.