Op-Ed Up-Tick

One of the benefits of having a major arts organization almost go under is that it increases awareness about the value of the arts. In the past month or so, and as recently as this morning, four major opinion pieces have been published by The Oregonian (one, two, three, four); one in the Portland Business Journal; several letters to the editor in all of the papers; and an OPB radio program dedicated to the topic.

So here we are again, addressing the most fundamental of questions, "Why art?" I didn't like the way Emily Harris approached this question on OPB -- I found her more an annoying irritant than a thoughtful devil's advocate, the way she would not relent on questions that were not designed to enlighten but rather to divide -- questions like, exactly how much should go to major arts organizations vs. the smaller ones?, and, which arts organizations in our community are acting irresponsibly? You are all free to speculate on such matters, but it's either naive or mean to think that any informed guest on the program would or should answer such questions.

But. I don't mean to say that the question "Why art?" is irrelevant, and I do agree that we all need to get better at addressing the importance of art in our daily lives and in our community. But I also know that many hard hearts will never be convinced that art is a fundamental value, or that it's essential for the public sector to provide a foundation of support, so I really don't think we should spend all of our energy on an exercise of such futility.

Instead, I have been thinking that it would be great to just collect people's stories -- the personal stories always work better than the quantifiable statistics anyway -- and keep them available online someplace for us all to reference and point people toward any time we're looking to remind ourselves of the articulate things that people have already said in answering this question. Almost like the Multnomah County "When I Was 15" stories project ... but for the arts. An online repository of thoughtful essays and arguments. What do you think?

When I was Fifteen.

Fifteen is an exciting time for most kids. Yet it’s also the average age of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Positive, caring adults can help get them back on track.

People from our community are sharing their stories about how an adult made a difference when they were kids. These real life stories show how even a small act of encouragement can make a big difference in a kid's life.

Art Alexakis's story, for starters.


Stephen said...

Great idea... it is always better to put a face to these ideas. I will contribute. I have a real strong memory of how an arts organization affected me as a child.

radiogretchen said...

I love that idea!

When I was 15 and living in a small conservative town in western CO, my parents took me to the Denver Art Museum. There is nothing like standing in front of a painting by one of the masters. Cornball as this may sound, I felt truly alive there - perhaps for the first time in my life. It woke me up.

Collect those stories.

Unknown said...

I love this idea! I would definitely contribute

radon said...

This is a great idea for many many reasons. Putting a face on how early arts experiences make arts-involved adults illuminates all that we are doing well and all that we should be doing to connect with/create future audiences and patrons. And this is to say nothing about helping people help themselves create art-enhanced lives. Super smart.