Real Art for Real People--The arts community has only itself to blame for tepid public support.
Thursday, July 16, 1998
Whether in The Herald, Coast Weekly''s very own Squid Fry, or scribbled on Morgan''s Coffee House''s sagacious white board, there is somebody griping about diminished funding for the arts and a "stodgy" naysayer, often a beleaguered Monterey councilperson, defending the rejection and demonstrating the financial shortcomings of the organization from which artists are trying to pry dollars.
Is it really about money? It certainly seems so. But the idea of artists being overly concerned, or concerned at all, with funding strikes a somewhat odd chord. Could the ongoing strife result, not from a lack of money, but a blatant lack of respect for artists'' contributions? Perhaps that they, the artists, are important members of our community?
Apathy towards art from rank-and-file Americana is practically pandemic. Like beggars on the street, art organizations panhandle. And for one simple reason--nobody really cares. Herein lies the real challenge.
It is unfortunate that people in general, and consequently the leaders we elect, see little value in art or its importance in everyday life because, on the contrary, art''s importance is everywhere.
If the average person better appreciated art, funding would flow like the Carmel River in an El Ni¤o season. But it doesn''t. It doesn''t because art has become an arcane cloister of esoteric social circles that has diverged so far from Main Street that we pedestrians simply don''t understand it. Exclusive cheese and wine parties in the galleries of sheltered Carmel are sinking the art boat fast. We need to abandon that ship because art (gasp!) needs to become more common.
It needs to do this in order to procure financial backing and general respect. It needs to do this because people need art. And people need real art. Art that speaks to them, that conveys passion, raw human sorrows and fears. Art that moves people. The poor, ill-defined faux art so commonly displayed: the randomly splatted paint on canvas, the grotesquely misshapen mounds of clay, and the hacked-out angles of iron we see are much like home movies. They mean something to the person that made them, and to no one else.
Art has many definitions. My personal favorite, and admittedly one of my own creation, is that art is the physical expression of human emotion. I believe that to be the most true and pure definition. I also believe that our ability to express our emotions is declining at a horrific rate, contributing to both national tragedies and individual angst.
There are certain songs, we each have our own, that evoke certain memories and special feelings. People should be able to have such vicarious emotional experiences, not just with music, but with painting and sculpture, poetry and verse. Art should be that lucent.
Artists should be that good.
There''s also a practical, real world side to art forgotten in modern discussion. If middle-aged businessmen understood art, the vacant, hollow feeling experienced after one makes it to the desired rung on the ladder would dissipate. If elderly widows understood art, they could counter the haunting loneliness that pervades their lives. If young adults could express their anger, they would not be so violent towards one another. If we understood art, we would experience how wonderful and precious each of our lives actually is, just the way it is.
Artists and the art community can lament their lack of support but, until they demonstrate to the general public the significance of their work in the lives of non-artists and speak to the people in a language that the people will understand, they just won''t get it.
And we all will suffer.
David Dickinson is a Monterey resident who believes in the importance of art.