Is art that special?

July 13, 2008

Art and artistic expression shouldn’t be the jewelry of society, it should be part of the blood, part of the muscle, and part of the bone. When our strategies set us apart from the world so that we can be separately admired, supported, and valued, we shouldn’t be surprised when we are perceived as separate.
As John Dewey wrote more than 70 years ago:
As long as art is the beauty parlor of civilization, neither art nor civilization is secure.

This thought resonated very strongly with me this week as I sat on an interview panel for the appointment of a senior arts manager position here in Ireland. Many people told us how important the arts were and how better off we would all be with increased access and better funding. I don’t play golf. But I have heard seasoned golfers talk about the impact golf has on their lives. I don’t like it when I’m told (albeit in a roundabout way) that my life is somewhat deficient because I don’t own a set of clubs. It seems to me that many of us who work in and around the arts make the same claims – our lives are touched because we have seen the light. I don’t think so. Access isn’t about the arts – it’s about the choice to participate – or not – if people so desire. In the meantime I exercise my choice to refrain from the seduction of the golf course and hope that I can make meaning elsewhere. Golf isn’t special – neither is art.
Hat Tip Andrew Taylor