Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nude Tuesday! Arts forum report, pianist and composer on Boston radio, taking apart art

"Insouciance" by Pat Gilmartin. 
Gilmartin, of Columbia,will be one of 27 artists in a 
show at the S.C. Book Festival  Saturday and Sunday
at the Columbia Convention Center.

Talking about the arts
Lately we’ve been having a lot of meetings about the arts. A couple have been forums that have revolved around candidates for city of Columbia and Richland County offices, but a meeting Monday night was aimed more at those in and interested in the arts.
It was part of the S.C. Arts Commission getting input for its once-every-decade “Canvass of the People.”

Some good, interesting things got talked about, but first the bad news. About 30 people attended and 10 of those work at the Arts Commission; several people who spoke were only concerned with their own tiny portion of the art world; I spoke up several times.

The first big question tossed out by the moderator was “What’s working in the arts.”

Here are a few of the offerings:
The “healing arts” program in Kershaw County.
The impact of the arts on economic development in York County.
The good attendance at a local choral group’s concerts.
The Columbia City Ballet performing in Chicago (offered by the artistic director of the ballet company).

To the question the biggest challenge:
Providing more funding for programs about Native Americans (offered by someone who does such things)
Letting people know the difference between the restoration and conservation of artworks.
Getting churches to do arts programming. (Although I do like where the guy who talked about this was coming from it certainly doesn’t seem like big issue.)

It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges is getting people to look beyond their self interest.

I said (I told you I talked too much) that some of the things that are working are the Columbia Museum of Art doubling its membership and attendance in the last couple years, the way the 701 Center for Contemporary Art opened just as the economy tanked and hasn’t pulled back from its ambitions and how the S.C. Philharmonic has turned into a really good orchestra. Someone else gave props to the Southern Exposure new music series. Debra Smith, director of the Newberry Opera House which does all kinds of varied and quality programs, said that attendance and individual donations are going strong.

Everyone agree that getting enough money is a challenge.

Dancer and arts organizer Sherry Warren said getting organizations to work together and to coordinate events so they aren’t competing directly is an issue. (At the time the forum was going on there was an event taking place at the Center for Contemporary Art.)

“You have to change the political climate,” said artist Noree Boyd. “Everyone says ‘The arts are great and a tool for everything that cures everything, but we’re not going to fund it.’”.

Several people pointed out how difficult it is to get young people, especially teenagers, interested in the arts. Some of them, noted art conservator Craig Crawford, are discouraged from pursing an arts career because it is seen as impractical. Aaron Pelzek who is behind the fun “Playing After Dark” series, said even his group, which is aimed at younger people, has trouble reaching them. (My response: hormones. Also, I’m amazed at how many younger people do take part.)

I looked around the room and noted all the people who were missing – city council members, city administrators or anyone from the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties co-sponsor of the event. Lack of interest among those who should be interested – even for the wrong reasons – is the biggest challenge. And money. And an educated public that understands and appreciates art or least wants to.

Piano on the radio - at the big Boston station
Marina Lomazov, who teaches at USC, recently performed on a live broadcast from WGBH radio in Boston. She played pieces by Schubert, Chopin, and John Fitz Rogers, who also teaches at USC. She played Rogers' "Blue River Variations" which Rogers wrote for Lomazov. You can listen to the concert for a few more days at the WGBH website. Go to http://www.wgbh.org/995/index.cfm and scroll down a little and you should see it.

Unstacking sticks
Don't forget - you can go to the USC art department gallery today at 5 and help take down Jonathan Brilliant's coffee stirrer sculpture.  And if you haven't seen it yet better hurry on down.

Apology and credit
The very cool stacked television video installation at "What's Love" was made by Betsy Newman. Here it is again.


  1. OK, since you mentioned on Facebook that you wished people were responding here, I'm complying. :) And nothing to chew you out over, but then I have no sacred cows that you may have barbecued.

    I actually thought about attending the Arts Commission event, but blew it off (as you know, since I ran into you outside right afterwards) since a) I figured it would be a minimal turnout, b) I don't know enough of the specifics of the Commissions projects to offer insightful suggestions, and c) the lure of both happy hour and checking out some new dvd's at the library proved to be too much.

    That said, I think people who turn up at events like this *should* (but aren't) regular patrons of the arts, i.e. middle class suburban moms and dads whose taxes support the arts, but who are too busy w/ jobs and families to give input on what they might want to see.

    Hopefully, if the programs you mention in Kershaw, York, etc. are indeed working, then the Commission staff was already aware of this.

    To me, the semi-outsider, what's working seems to be people who are doing it on their own, with or without funding from organized groups, with or without a local paper to publicize things. The Frame of Mind events, and the varying events at 701 Whaley being good example, and the packed 80808 opening for Laura Spong just the other night being another.

    My own take is that the Art Museum, the Philharmonic and the Newberry Opera House have probably been especially successful due to two things: accessible programming (people actually vaguely know what Impressionism is) and a TON of paid advertising and marketing.

    Scheduling events so that they don't open on the same night *should* be an easily solveable problem, but remains a huge issue.

    And obviously funding.

    I think people may not realize something about getitng young people into the arts, however. If they watch MTV, then they are watching the performing arts. Not the kind grown-ups may want to promote, but performance is performance. If they saw Avatar, then they saw visual art. Computer-generated, animated visual art, but visual art nonetheless.

    As you say, lack of interested, and lack of an informed public, is the almost insurmountable challenge.

  2. Kudos to Betsy Newman, loved her installation and still hear "have sex" canting in my brain from the video. :) Melissa


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