Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Case For Difficult Art, Part 2 of ???

I watched the conversation unfold yesterday on the newspaper's web site about Actors' Theatre.  One guy was most upset about money being spent for something was purposely offensive.  I know that there are people who feel that way, and I allow them their point of view that the artistic world is out to offend them in some way.

One comment I found particularly offensive was the assertion that artists are all liberal-minded elites who hide behind the notion of artistic freedom in order to fire some sort of destruction at society and culture.  I think this is part of the same argument about free speech, and whether or not free speech is a matter of individual, public, corporate, or governmental interference. 

Part of the argument is that the libs get to produce offensive plays all they want while ostensibly using taxpayer money to do it.  The cons assert it's a violation of their free speech that tax money supports something that is offensive to them. 

OK, so I'm generalizing here.  I know that not all conservatives feel that way, or even care about this issue.  I believe that most conservatives are more concerned about tax money being used for, well, anything more than they are about specific arts related issues.

And, I know that this one guy doesn't speak for a whole movement, segment of the population, or even a group.  He's one guy who stubbed his toe on something some time in the past and now takes out his anger and frustration on people who disagree with him for whatever reason. 

The argument for governmental support of the arts is thin, and I know that.  It's all based around an interpretation of the "promote the general welfare" clause of the Preamble to the Constitution.  In good times when the money is flowing freely, governmental support for the arts is less of an issue.  When money is tight, things have to get cut.  Arts groups complain about that as much as anyone else who is in fear of losing funding.  But, arts is seen as a luxury item and not a requirement.  Plus, it is somehow built in to the way we do business that the ones who are usually most offended by the arts are the ones who control the money.

Perhaps it's built in to artistic expression to poke at those in power.  So, by definition the artists are going to bite the hands that feed them.  One goes to a therapist to work on mental and emotional issues and it's not easy.  If you want to spend therapist kind of money on someone who is only going to make you feel good about yourself, then you might as well be hiring a prostitute.  I can give you numbers of some very good ones.  Therapists and prostitutes.

So, there is my hook, I guess.  I, as a member of the artistic community, am not out to bring down your religion, offend you personally, or denigrate the precepts of Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster).  My brethren and I translate the world around us into brief moments of interpretation.  For the record, we don't hide behind anything.  As I suggested yesterday, you put your name on a piece of creative work for production or publication, and then tell me how that worked out for you.  Putting yourself out there with something that you've created is an inherently difficult process open to all sorts of criticism, blow-back, brickbats, and shit-storms.

I am not your prostitute.  I am not your friend.  Actually, neither am I your therapist.  There are times that I will make you feel good, and there are times that I will make you very, very angry.  But you need me because I, on occasion, get it just right for you.  There's that moment when your eyes open to something new.

Shut me down today because I've done something to offend you, and you lose the voice I provide forever.  Arts organizations, theatre companies, writers, directors, producers, technicians, these are the people that make art happen (as well as musicians, painters, dancers, and so on).  Close an organization and these people go away somewhere else or into other professions.  You cannot and will not ever get them back.  For every Corpus Christi there is a Godspell, and so on.  If you want one, you get both.  That's just the way it is.  Arts are not committed to one point of view.

You need us.

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