Some Californians are Thinking like Lynette Jennings

I just read a blog post by Paul Hodgins about a “Vision Retreat” in Sacramento convened by California Arts Advocates, a group that represents the interests of the arts and lobbies state lawmakers on matters affecting culture. The purpose was to discuss  how to revitalize public interest and government support for the arts.

In 2008, at the CODA (Craft Organization Development Association – www.codacraft.org) conference in Little Rock, Lynette Jennings gave a presentation that resonated with me. In it, she said that society and art are separated by a wall; and that in order for art to be more widely enjoyed, ART would have to tear down that wall and become a part of society, not the other way around. I thought that was profound then. Now, three deep cuts into the Georgia Council for the Arts’ budget later, it was a wake-up call that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been much discussed in arts circles.

I don’ t have to go all the way to California to hear someone relate to me the non-value to his life some modern art exhibition of paint splattered drop cloth is. And how that taxpayer isn’t eager to fund the drop cloth exhibition with his tax dollars. We have, unfortunately, tuned out art’s ability to empower and enthrall. Hearing a church choir sing, watching a chef plate up a meal, stepping into an elegant home, are all directly enhanced by art.

In Hodgins’ blog post, he quotes Stephanie Geter, a cultural affairs commissioner for the City of Oakland CA… “In order for culture to be meaningful, it has to connect with the society that it lives in. If people don’t like the arts as they’re being delivered, then they deserve to go away.”

Hodgins continues, “The arts have somehow marooned themselves on an island surrounded by perceptions of elitism, classism and intellectual snobbery… The arts community has to find a way off of that island. And demonstrating to people that art and life constantly commingle is a good start.”

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