We are the Movers and Shakers of the World Forever, It Seems

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems. #

And yes, my first exposure to this extraordinary piece of writing was when Gene Wilder hummed it, nearly under his breath, in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. #

About Trisha Mead

Trisha Mead has written 2 posts in this blog. #

Trisha Mead works to develop new audiences for the arts through a variety of channels in Portland Oregon. As President of the Portland Area Theatre Alliance she founded the Fertile Ground Festival of New Work, a citywide festival or world premiere performance that takes place the last week of January each year and ranges from dance to theater to puppetry to film, all created or commissioned in Portland Oregon. Currently she works as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Oregon Ballet Theatre, after having worked in Marketing and PR at Portland Center Stage and Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland Oregon. She regularly contributes to the blog and conversation at 2amtheatre.com and was selected to be an official blogger for the New Play Institute Convening “From Scarcity to Abundance” in January of 2011 at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. At that event she had the weird but wonderful experience of being quoted out of context by the NY Times art blog in response to Rocco Landesman’s controversial remarks on the “oversupply” of arts producers in the U.S. Once upon a time, she also considered herself a theater artist, directing plays under the auspices of Mt Hood Repertory Theatre’s American Classics Festival where she was the Associate Artistic Director. #

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Comments

  1. Niel DePonte says:

    Are “lead” or “follow” my only choices?

    There are so many voices to be heard during this debate, and many who would reject both of these words to define their “purpose” in the community. Take the Creative Artist. Unlike the Political Artist, or the Satirical Artist, they may not even consider the creation of their work leading or following, just creating! If I write a piece of “absolute music”, music written out of self-expression without regard to program or politic, who is anyone to say I did so to either lead or follow? I wrote the piece because I needed to write it. That’s all. That’s not leading…I had no intention to lead. I may not even have had an intention to do anything but create!

    Now, the need to FORMALLY AND PUBLICLY critique and analyze my intention (or determine if I am trying to lead or follow) is an invention of the media. Human beings have their own assessment models for their arts experiences and tend to follow them quite carefully…if they like something they come back for more and if they don’t, they don’t. I don’t think they stop and wonder if they are being challenged (led) or if they are this week’s arts-lemming headed for the cliffs (following in the worst way!).

    The key question for me is, “Is the audience at all curious about what the POSSIBILITIES are within an art form, and are they interested in comparing and contrasting the difference between the perception of what was possible IN THE PAST with what is possible NOW?” Those who feel that “good” art is “relational” in nature (i.e. any one moment of experience should have some discernible relationship to the next moment of experience) might find this an endlessly interesting comparative process and, by default, require institutions to both lead and follow such that they may continue their personal comparative exploration.

    Frankly, I feel that ArtsJournal is really asking, “Should arts organizations discover what the public wants and deliver it, or decide what the public needs to know about the arts and educate them?” In trying to answer that question I rather think there should be some sort of “truth in advertising” clause in the documentation required to receive the IRS 501(c)3 non-profit tax exempt status that all arts organizations need to raise money. Each organization should have a code attached to each piece of marketing material, sort of like the PG13 movie ratings, that describes the upcoming performance as “intended to show you what’s new in the genre” (I.N. would be good here), “intended to have you bask in the familiar and comfortable” (I.F. could work here), “intended to maximize popular appeal and make money” (What about $IMP). In an attempt to tie this messy thread together I might say that in this way arts organizations could both lead and follow – appealing to differing audience demographics and desires.

    What worries me about the arts in America is not found in opining on the leading vs. following thread. What worries me is that a country that purports to celebrate innovation and originality has a corporate, and therefore political, culture that is rooted in the concept that new ideas that lead to making money are to be raised to honorific heights beyond those ideas that inspire the human spirit, or cause one to reflect on serious choices around the subjects of morality or ethics. Corporate America and its bought and paid for electronic media identify as the minimum standard of public acceptability that which lies at the median of human attraction; half the people like what they see and half do not. They then promote those ideas that generate the most profit, even if the median wage earner cannot afford that product or service, and then they positively go ape—- over anything that the MAJORITY of consumers in the 18-39 year-old age group is willing to purchase no matter it’s usefulness or its impact on society and culture. Is this why we nearly deified Steve Jobs when he died – he had a knack of creating devices that we all wanted and making a lot of money for Apple and stockholders? I mean I thought Jobs was brilliant, but all that media coverage? How does our American culture of celebrity building and “branding” play into our perception of what to value and where to spend our disposable income (pay for art vs. i-phone? Is the i-phone art?). And will John Adams get as much coverage when he dies?

    What of the brilliant idea (or artistic product) that attracts an educated minority to it? Perhaps this is the true value of art. Perhaps art is the place where ideas that fall below the median-attractiveness-to-humans-line go to live? And if we present these ideas to the public, are we then leading? And is that a good thing?

    Perhaps it is the arts organizations role role to discern not what is good or bad art, or even popular or profitable art, but what is IMPORTANT art; TIMELY art; VALUABLE art; REPRESENTATIVE art; UNDERSERVED art; HIDDEN art. Arts organizations must find the balance between serving the art form and the artists, and serving the public.

    Who needs what from us as arts organizations? Perhaps this is a better question to examine down the road.

    • MiJin Hong says:

      An enjoyable read, thanks.

      This struck me:
      “Our audience requires us to go places they cannot, with a depth and a perception that their daily lives don’t allow time for. We are specifically tasked to sift and juxtapose the artifacts of culture in search of new meanings, new architectures for the ‘fabulous stor[ies]’ out of which we will fashion an ‘empire’s glory.’”

      On a personal note, I agree. Life as it is, I depend on discerning voices to make choices on how I spend my time and engage with the world around me. Credible sources matter, reputation matters, and, yes expertise is valued. This doesn’t mean voices cannot be critiqued (a process I use to make meaning for myself). So it occurs to me, institutional voices open to critique may have real opportunities here. More food for thought under Diane Ragsdale blog, “If this is leading, what is following?”