For Arts Professionals in the Know
Many municipal public art programs in North America are creating permanent public artworks in response to policy, funding structures, and a variety of other reasons. And yet, there is a recognizable shift towards durational works that focus on experience and process over object-based work. It also seems many of us are reaching capacity—more works entering into the collection and less funds to take care of them all; more time dealing with the vast unknown of conserving new media works; and overloaded staff capacities to manage all parts of the process. Are we at the tipping point where change has to happen before we see implosion? I would argue that we are. I would argue that we need to develop the conversation in our field, nationally and internationally, to have municipal policies, funding, and programs that reflect the need and desire for both shorter and longer-term public art.
And, in tandem, we need to not shy away from why public artworks do not need to, and cannot always, last forever. Discussion is imperative—deaccession is not a bad word.
Temporary: Why it Matters and Why it Works
An excerpt I recently read from the publication Locating the Producers: An End to the Beginning, the Beginning of the End by Paul O'Neill & Claire Doherty , explored the established notion of place-based practice and stated that the book's aim was to show, through research and case studies, “...that a fundamental shift in thinking about 'time' rather than simply the 'space' of public art commissioning is required to affect change at the level of policy.” This may be the crux of where our conceptual thinking around public art can be refocused, adjusted, and rethought. Site response and notions of place are important, but we need to also break down words and terms. In my current public art world, we are hearing a lot about community engagement, but what does that mean? What are the real questions being asked; what is the desired outcome; and what are we asking the artist for and why? I think the desire for engagement is about experience and memory. It is about bringing together people and inciting conversation. In many of my favorite temporary projects, the strengths lie in the artist's freedom to explore risk; unravel issues; and create a platform for meaningful public interaction, participation, and collaboration.Read More
Comedy can play a number of roles in promoting political change. First, many people will be open to comedy in a way they won't be to a political speech. We turn off political ads, while turning on funny online videos all the time. Second, the best performers with a knack for manipulating nuance and crafting memorable lines have the ability to communicate about progressive ideas more clearly and powerfully than many elected officials. A third feature is the endurance of mockery. When you raise your voice at an opponent in a political argument, you can seem shrill or out of control. When you raise laughter at your opponent, the effect of making him or her the butt of your joke can stay with an audience -- or a voter -- for a long time. Fourth, there is the power of surprise. A good punch line catches you off-guard, just as a good argument may push someone out of an entrenched stance.
But there is another power of comedy -- just as important as its ability to surprise, persuade or attack: comedy's power to unite, give those who laugh together the sense that they belong to something larger together.
I have had the pleasure of seeing this play out through the work of Laughing Liberally, the national comedy enterprise that promotes democracy one laugh at a time. Laughing Liberally comedians have toured the country, local Laughing Liberally Labs have sprung up in over a dozen cities, and our team has worked with non-profit and advocacy partners to mix the power of humor into their creative campaigns, communications strategies, and online initiatives.
I didn't start Laughing Liberally (with comedian Katie Halper, innovator David Alpert, and others from the Living Liberally family) because I had a team of comedians that needed a title, but the other way around: I had an audience that needed to be inspired.Read More
I have always used humor to get through life’s personal challenges. But as a playwright, I discovered that humor can also help communities come together to talk about contentious topics and/or deal with difficult topics. I will share with you two examples: fracking and aging.
I happen to live above one the largest natural gas deposits in the world – the Marcellus Shale Formation. This was not news to me, because I spent much of my childhood on my grandfather’s farm on the banks of the Chenango River. It was a lot of fun. Especially when Grandpa lit the tap water on fire. As a little kid, I thought: wow! This is really cool. We can actually light our water on fire. It didn’t occur to me that we were also drinking that same water. Maybe that’s why I turned out the way I did. A bit on the wonky side.
So we always knew there was gas. Like lots of farmers, my grandfather leased his property to gas companies for pennies an acre. But nobody ever drilled any wells because it was located in pockets of shale and couldn’t be extracted at a profit. Fast forward fifty years and south of the border, in Pennsylvania, wells are being drilled for that same shale gas. What has changed? Fracking.
At the moment, there’s a moratorium on fracking in New York. But there’s no moratorium on the debate about fracking. It’s a highly polarizing topic, predicting either economic boom or environmental doom. A lot is at stake but it’s impossible to move past talking points and shouting matches to a civil discussion of the issues.
Then I had a “what if” moment. What if I could write a comedy about fracking that didn’t take sides? You see, I believe that humor can connect people in a way that lawn signs and bumper stickers cannot. So I wrote a play about fracking. The title was a no-brainer: Frack You!. My first two characters flung themselves into my laptop: Frick and Frack. I was fearless – had no clue what the story would be – didn’t even have an ending – but how could I go wrong with Frick, Frack, and a catchy title?Read More
When University of Utah College of Fine Arts students asked for tools and resources to prepare them for the transition into the workforce, Dr. Liz Leckie, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, listened.
The students’ request resonated with Dr. Leckie given that it reflected what the collective voice of more than 100,000 arts graduates from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) was saying, which is that in addition to mastering their craft, art students want more time spent on career and post-graduate advising.
And, earlier this month, the students got exactly that. By hiring and empowering student staffers, Dr. Leckie created a team that envisioned and executed the highly-anticipated first annual ArtsForce conference, a two-day, student-driven event including an array of workshops, panels, networking opportunities and a keynote presentation by the esteemed associate director of Vanderbilt University’s The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, Steven J. Tepper, PhD.Read More
In a recent episode of Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White’s wife was angry because he took his son to play with Jazz musicians at his nightclub. She feared that it would upset the order of his classical training. Traditionally, business executives have felt the same way. They would bring in bright young prospects and make them “organization men”—and later women as well—who would work their way up through the system and then indoctrinate the next generation.
Yet the past few decades have altered things considerably. The LBO craze in the 80’s, the PC revolution in the 90’s and the digital disruptions of the 21st century have radically changed how we need to approach business problems. Strategic planning has become less tenable and we need to adopt more adaptive approach. Jazz holds important answers.
A Struggling Artist In New York
Coming from a meager background, Carl Størmer was determined not to be a starving artist, but after graduating with two graduate degrees—a Masters degree in Music and another in Arts Administration—that’s just what he was becoming. He spent most of his time playing in clubs and improving the mastery of his craft, but making very little money.
So he started learning computer code, got a job as a database consultant at a Wall Street law firm and then started a career at IBM. Later, he founded a startup and became Marketing Director at a Norwegian airline. Størmer had, in every conventional sense, become a successful business executive.
Yet he still continued to play and the more he did, the more he became dissatisfied with corporate life. As he thought about it, he realized that business organizations operated a lot like classical music, with structure dictating action rather than the other way around.
The thoughts turned to writing; the writing turned to consulting and even led to a Harvard Case Study. Today, his organization, Jazzcode, works with executives at some of the world’s largest corporations, such as IBM, Siemens and Novartis.Read More