When I was volunteering at the APASO conference, I got the pleasure to hear Arlene Goldbard speak. She is a writer who has taken her own path to teach the public about the cultural arts. This is what we always refer to as “the arts” but that term doesn’t give it the importance and correct frame that it really is.
The beginning of her speech was very much like what we would hear about the situation from our country from most anyone in the cultural arts. Funding is being cut and we are trying to fight that battle the old democratic way; with petitions, letters, and getting the men and women we voted in to get change moving. Arlene pointed out the benefits but then went on to describe how our country has changed and we now cannot ask the question, “funding for the arts?” because that keeps us focused on the much smaller idea of the picture. The real question she asked was, “Who are we as a people? What do we want to be known for: our stupendous ability to punish, or our immense creativity?”
That question resonated in me for the rest of her speech. What do we want to be remembered for? While that left tons of thoughts firing in my brain, she then went on describe the six skills to social transformation that also parallel with artist’s essential habits of mind. For the benefit of sharing a lot of information, I’m just going to bullet point them
- · Social Imagination
- · Empathy
- · Ability to Improvise
- · Awareness of cultural citizenship and the ability to inhabit it fully
- · Connectivity
- · Creativity
Arlene really got me thinking after these six points were made, but then she spoke about cultural arts in our daily lives and it completely screamed at me. For me, this is the bridge to awareness of why the arts are needed in all of our lives.
Wherever I travel, I see people plugged into their iPods, listening to music as they move about their cities and towns. Some commentators regard this as a social problem: we are isolated, we don’t talk to each other anymore, and so on. But I see it as exactly the opposite: I think we are self-medicating, prescribing for ourselves music that attunes our bodies, feelings, minds, and spirits to precisely the support, inspiration, beauty, and meaning that will sustain us through the day and its challenges. When we want to express identity, understand each other better, connect to sources of strength, find inspiration, create pleasure, celebrate and commemorate peak moments, we turn to music, dance, drama, still and moving images.
Whenever we human beings have free choice in how we use our time, for a huge number of us, the choice we make is art. We, the fellowship of art as the secret of survival, know this in our bones. It is inscribed in our own stories of becoming artists or those whose path in life is to manifest creativity in other ways, building arts organizations or teaching those who will become practitioners. Think for a moment: what set you on your path?
If only the population really understood that the cultural arts played a huge part in their lives, would they then stand a little more firm in the ground for getting more funding and making it play a larger part in our society as a whole. I understand that there are still many steps to be taken before we are to get to that point, but once we do, then we will have a more structured plan forward as well as a unified one.
Arlene soon went into a wonderful conversation about paradigm shifts and how they happen often because older systems of understanding do not necessarily hold true with new train of thoughts. This conversation evolved into framing the picture and that if we frame what is happening or needed correctly, then we can make the bigger impact. It always goes down to marketing in today’s society and framing the situation does just that.
This speech was then followed up by a workshop about creating social movements. Do you see why she spoke to me so clearly? I’m not going to go into that because that is something for Arlene herself to share with you. If you are interested in her workshop, then definitely get a hold of her and invite her to conduct one with your organization. It will be truly impactful for what is happening in your lives. I am going to end this post by a quote and a couple open ended questions. The quote is this:
“Life is a mistake that only art can fix”
If you find this quote true, then how do we get everyone aware of how it is used in our daily lives? We all have forms of art, whether it is music, painting, dancing, puzzles, television, decorating, playing house with children, it all has real-estate in our lives. Art will not leave us because it is in our DNA so we need to nurture it and give it all the tools as a society in order to be more efficient and productive as the whole. I encourage all cultural arts groups to take time out of your day, highlight the art in peoples’ lives. Then, maybe even use those public moments in public spaces, create art for those unaware masses and expose them to something that they have never seen before; a type of dance, live painting, collective rhymed speaking, theatre, whatever, but get it out there so the exposure is there. This also includes using technology to its fullest. As I continue this year, I will continue to show you the amazing revelations of art using technology because I think it is important in order for the cultural arts to become s power house in our country. Without the support that is needed for the cultural arts to become a significant placeholder in our country, the cultural arts will stay that finger painting that gets thrown away after a day on the fridge. We cannot continue to let the cultural arts be the societal trash of our country which sits right along healthcare and education….. But that is for another arena.
If you want to read all of Arlene Goldbard’s speech, check it out here.