To jumpstart this project’s discussions before I even leave the country, I am offering “Dinner Dates” for local groups of artists and creative thinkers to discuss what impact you all think that visual art has on our communities.
This weekend, three “Dinner Dates” were held, and my goodness! What a tidal wave of thoughtful information!
(A HUGE THANK YOU to Missy Renuart, Shana Garr, and Rodney Derrick for hosting these amazing events in your homes.)
Below is a sampling of the astute observations that these groups of insightful artists and thinkers brought to my attention.
Art helps us understand who we are. — As a reflection or observation or dialogue or protest, art can be an opportunity for honest exchange within communities or between strangers. Art can be an opportunity for artists to reveal themselves or reveal sides of their community that may or may not be easily identified.
Art will exist no matter what. The real question is where it will be located and who will be able to see, feel, and experience it. — Thinking about accessibility forces artists to determine who their target audience is. The artwork made for expensive clientele reflects those sensibilities, while artwork made for common non-art-historically-saavy audiences reflects those sensibilities. And, for me, the challenge I am constantly analyzing is how do I spark discussions about serious social issues in a wide variety of populations without seeming elitist or insincere.
Public art bolsters civic pride. — Whether murals or sculptures or performances, public art can provide a spark for discussions about the core of a community’s identity. If that identity is tangible and potent, then the piece of art can be a lightning rod for a sense of communal pride.
Art isn’t inherently challenging or meant to build community. — “Art” comes in many shapes and sizes, and the image that pops into your mind and the image that pops into mine when the word “art” is said may be very different. Many artists assume that their approach to “art” – whether it be purely conceptual or purely aesthetic or some combination of both – is the only truly valid one.
A year or so ago, my youngest sister called me on the phone very confused about an assignment she had for school. Her teacher asked her to define what “art” was. Her distress was palpable, and I simply asked her, “Well, perhaps the easiest way to define ‘art’ is to talk about its elements.” We talked about how “art” isn’t just a single type of material or a single style or a single message… Ultimately, we determined together that “art” is an intention.
So, if “art” is an intention, then artists’ “art” that is for commercial purposes is no less valid than “art” created for activism or tradition or romanticism. “Art” created for public consumption is just as valid as “art” created for private collection.
If the focus of this project is on how the visual arts can be used to rejuvenate communities, that may be present in a wide variety of contexts, and I must keep my eyes (and mind) open so that my unconscious biases don’t prevent me from making valuable connections.
Thank you again to all the amazing artists and thinkers who spent their precious weekend hours with me, listening to my thoughts and sharing their own. I could have spent days picking your brains! (Not in the zombie way.)
If you would like to host a “Dinner Date” to bring together creative thinkers that you know to discuss these issues and many more, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
If you are passionate about connecting to people around the world and learning more about how the visual arts can be used to revitalize communities, then your contributions will insure the 13/13/13 Sketchbook Project grows and develops.
Visit the “Support” page to learn more about the sponsorship levels or click the button below to donate.