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com Kate began with the proposition that “art” is “the most basic human language. She referenced the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) research agenda, saying that it regarded “the arts as input.” She then provided three focal points for her presentation: ● How Art Works ● the Greek Parthenon ● the concept of initiative Regarding this last item, she quipped that her daughter was once described by a Montessori educator as having a “sense of initiative” that is “uncontrollable.” Initiative: Reflecting on the time she lived in Europe, Kate noted that much that is done in Europe is by pattern, but within the arts, there is “unbridled initiative,” producing a “magnificent soup” By contrast, this sense of initiative in the Arts is much more limited in the United States. there are many reasons, but attempting to exist in a market based structure has a huge influence. The idea of the “arts as input” can be illustrated by the example of the Parthenon. The 20 second lesson in Greek history is that Persians sacked Athens and Pericles decided to rebuild the Acropolis to make a statement about the glory of Athens. The economic outlay was staggering; the Athenians valued their civic pride. As Pericles is quoted, "Our polity does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves .… “ 1 All manner of mathematical and architectural skills were needed in the building of the Parthenon. And not only architects, sculptors and painters, but administration and artistic vision as well. Sculptures were seen as symbolising the triumph of reason over animal passion and representing the ideal inhabitants of the citystate. Athenians were depicted as vigorous healthy
“ … Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition.” Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book II, 37, (New York: The Modern Library, 1951) p. 104
people, looked upon with favor by the gods. The focus, however, was the people over the gods. Not one column of the edifice is perpendicular, yet it does not convey a sense of heaviness, but rather one of grace and beauty. The Winged Victory 2 is an example of a pattern which was set by the classical Greeks. Seen in isolation, it could just as easily be thought to be an example of Renaissance art. How Art Works 3 is the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) five year research agenda. It might be noted that while the arts are supported by taxes in much of Europe, this is not the case in the US. The NEA budget represents just about one hour of the military budget. The Systems Map, reproduced on page 11 of the report, gives a schema for looking at the benefits of art to the individual and to the society and shows how interactions among segments of the society are vital. Recalling that the Parthenon could not have happened without collaboration, the map attempts to fill in the gaps by providing a clear visual tool to articulate the value of art especially by including quality of life and broader societal impacts within the map. To fund the arts based on a “return on investment” (ROI) mentality is a travesty. The notion that the arts have to be argued for their value is stupefying. What can we do about it? Kate and Doug Cox have tried working at it in different ways: ● expanding appreciation across all segments of society horizontally and in common with all ● the schools do a great job but there is the threat of loss of funding ● with a proper infrastructure, the arts can thrive The Arts System Map shows the way to share the arts at the core of community life it is the human impulse to create and express. We need an agora 4 to meet and talk through these things. Questions and Answers: Some possible examples of towns that have “gotten beyond ‘stuck’” include the Berkshires, Paducah (KY), Chattanooga (TN), Toronto (Canada), some coworking arts incubators with subsidized rents, but the equation is not well defined.
agora “In ancient Greek cities, an open space that served as a meeting ground for various activities of the citizens …. connotes both the assembly of the people as well as the physical setting; it was applied by the classical Greeks of the 5th century BC to what they regarded as a typical feature of their life: their daily religious, political, judicial, social, and commercial activity.”
"agora." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. <http://library.eb.com/eb/article-9004058>
Some differences between the US market based economy and the European model is the recognition that art by definition is not market based. It can’t have the constraints imposed by the question, “Will it sell?” Art is the R&D of life and requires an infrastructure. A concrete example in Europe is the fact that art is integral to daily life. Another participant noted that how we talk about our community reflects how we see ourselves. An example is the reference to the so called “malfunction junction,” which is the “Plaza Park Intersection,” recalling the time the town took an area with no marketable use and made it into a park. This led to the reflection that art is about perception, both that of the artist and the viewer. Perception is key for a better conversation. There is a division in our minds between the arts and practical life, due to the way we label the parts, according to another participant. At Town Meeting, we talk about money and taxes and forget what we are buying with tax money. We want a “bigger bang for the buck.” Every building depends on making good joints in the beams and rafters. All kinds of fabrications go into successful ventures. The Windham Regional Commission’s recent charette on aesthetic criteria for the replacement of the I91 bridge is an example. 5 It was perhaps the first time that VTrans utilized aesthetics as part of the bid selection process. Here aesthetics would account for 20% of one half of the input criteria. 6 This participant also noted with appreciation the worker who snowplows his street without knocking down the mailboxes the art of snowplowing! A final comment dealt with the paradox of initiative in Europe. While there were places where patterns were revered and maintained to keep a sense of order, the theater was a place where initiative was not at all boxed in. 7 There is no perfect world or equation. Perhaps the evidence that Europe could not contain her daughters’ initiative is that she is now a fine arts major, interested in violin, drawing, writing, photography and is a stiltwalker. 8
Report: Recommended Aesthetic Criteria for the Replacement I91 Bridge Over the West River http://windhamregional.org/news/232reportaestheticcriteria 6 Locals evaluating I91 bridge plans with eye toward aesthetics, Brattleboro Reformer (VT) Friday, December 7, 2012 7 cf: Trailer Rigoletto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZYouPgbnqM
Treasures in Downtown Brattleboro!