This morning at breakfast, I’m reading the latest Utne Reader. Specifically, this article on creativity (the theme of the issue) – http://www.utne.com/2008-07-01/Arts/Putting-the-Arts-back-into-the-Arts.aspx
One thing that caught my eye was the interviewee’s assertion that when it comes to the arts, we have become a culture of consumers, sitting at the table of a few greats, rather than a culture of creators:
You write that over the past hundred years or so, Americans increasingly have become consumers rather than makers of art.
The products that allowed us to experience Americaâ€™s cultural mainstream in a new way â€”sound recordings, films, radioâ€”encouraged passive interaction with art. The skills of eye and hand and heart that were so much a part of making art in the 19th century, the after-dinner poetry recital or a musical performance or a fiddle tune played on a back porch, or even a cowboy poet reciting a poem around a campfire somewhere in the West, those skills were set aside.
Earlier in the morning, while surfing my RSS feeds, I saw that one of the local podcasters has gone from an internet only service to being on the TV in hundreds of Fred Meyer’s nationwide (http://www.myalaska.net/podcast-leaps-to-tv/). An admirable step, and I’m really glad that these guys are getting the success their hard work and persistence has given them. But it’s a bummer that the reason they are becoming successful is by creating advertising space in their art, to maximize consumption and turnover rate of product in Fred Meyer. I don’t begrudge them the success, at all. I wish there was a way to be successful and compensated monetarily, without having to do product placement.
So I wonder: why can’t we build sustainable lives on being creators, rather than consumers? I say that the argument that if we are all creators, we have no more consumers is a shallow one. I create music, and a podcast, yet I consume media and art from both commercial and independent sources. The divide between the two is an artificial one, a point made in the first article above, as well.
If we agree that this artificial difference is culturally enforced, we may want to do something different. How do we fight? How do we produce monetary compensation for independent artists?
Locally, how do we do this? I don’t see myself creating a national cultural shift, but can envision a group of individuals building some sort of system or institution to support the creation of art on an independent, individual, local level.
Here’s one thought; there are many more: buy a local bar. Turn it into a hub for independent artists who live and work locally. Through local promotion and marketing, get people to come see that local doesn’t mean bad. Build a group of artists and musicians and writers, gardeners and native craftspeople, nurse practitioners and web coders that come together to create a sustainable business that promotes ALL artistic and creative endeavors. Create seminars and workshops and hands-on training. Charge a membership fee or a session-by-session charge to attend and learn in these workshops. Create a showcase nightly for bands, artists, poets, filmmakers and other creatives. Sell coffee, alcohol (later in the evening, perhaps, for all ages access during the day), food. Have free wifi that’s fast and reliable with the tech savvy creatives to help out when on site. Sell schwag and other promotional art, tailored to the individual consumer/artist.
There’s no end to the fun that can be had. With a creative business person or persons, build a plan that creates a sustainable monetary compensation for the place, the people, and the creatives. A plan that treats everyone as a consumer, and everyone as an artist.
THis is just a starting thought. Bring your ideas to the table. The overriding concern is that we INclude, rather than EXclude. Let’s build the first artists inclusive cooperative, where everyone is welcome and creative.