Vor einem Monat fragte die Los Angeles Times KünstlerInnen unter der Überschrift “ If I ran the NEA“ nach Ihren Ideen, mit der größten öffentlichen Fördereinrichtung, dem National Endowment for the Arts neue Impulse zu setzen.
Die Antworten fallen – logischerweise – sehr unterschiedlich aus, schließlich kommen die befragten Personen aus den verschiedensten Bereichen. Am wertvollsten ist aber sicher der anschließende Kommentar von Theresa Larkin, die an der California State University Professorin am Department of Theatre Arts and Dance ist und im Anschluss an den eigentlichen Artikel eine Vision entwirft, die zeigt, wie wichtig Kunst und Kultur für unsere Gesellschaft, aber auch für uns selbst als Individuum ist.
Ich würde mir wünschen, dass dieser Kommentar der Ausgangspunkt aller Diskussionen ist, die wir über Kunst und Kultur führen. Wenn wir über ihre Bedeutung, die Rahmenbedingungen, aber auch die finanzielle Unterstützung reden. Wenn es darum geht, einen Etat wieder um ein paar Prozent zu kürzen oder zu behaupten, dass Kunst und Kultur eh nicht mehr so wichtig sind. Ich erlaube mir, ihn hier in voller Länge zu zitieren, da ich der Meinung bin, dass das Szenario von Theresa Larkin so lesenswert ist, dass ich mir nicht anmaßen möchte, irgendwo Kürzungen vorzunehmen:
„I see real value in the vision statements presented by a few of the interviews posted, namely Kurt Anderson and Jon Robin Baitz.
I have restated a some of their ideas and added a few of my own in numbered suggestions for how I would coordinate NEA funding.
As an artist, educator, community activist, documentarian, and citizen, I would fund…
1.) A national system that creates a synthesis of young and old artists from across many disciplines to teach in schools and community centers that have lost funding for programs in the arts.
2.) Programs for artists, teachers, sociologists, politicos, workers, managers, business owners, and entrepreneurs to engage in generating extended collaborative artistic and creative training workshops and performances carefully addressing pressing social needs to be presented in all political and cultural environments ranging from the White House, Congress, Wall Street, courtrooms, galleries, restaurants, shipyards, hospitals, schools, churches, police precincts, shopping centers, to food banks, detention centers, jails, prisons, and homeless shelters.
3.) Commissions awarded to teaching artists of all levels of artistic status to create uniquely structured tour able performance lectures and workshop residencies designed to teach critical thinking skills and creative problem solving in order to engage citizens in a purposeful way with each other. These workshops could be topic-specific and offered to social service groups, underserved populations, the uneducated, the ill, the aged, the impoverished, and homeless. Have those same artists develop engaged and lasting partnerships with community members and their communities. Engage the corporations, small business owners, and non-profit organizations (including education and government) to coordinate programming for infrastructural development that supports community empowerment through activism. Forge alliances across cultures, sub-cultures, class, gender, religious, ideological, and language divides.
4.) Frequent town halls to be offered in lovely settings that are free to the public and are structured to encourage large and small community discussion groups. Allow structured time and space to be made available for sustained and open community discussions with trained moderators who know how to facilitate deep dialectical exchanges that encourage critical thinking skills and goodwill. Too often talks are one-sided, too short, taken over by hostile audience members, and moderated to address only a few ideas that are never fully explored. Audience members leave unfulfilled and frustrated by the lack of true discourse. Usually the audience feedback is just a way for struggling non-profits to obtain more funding and, as a result, is unsuccessful in forming lasting community engagements.
5.) Programs supporting creative partnerships and/or strategic alliances across the arts, industry, and education. Linking non-profits working alongside profits. Not simply to facilitate a better public relations image or tax-write off but in order to forge a true coalescence of forces, intents, purposes, and interactions. One example: Artists, architects, landscape designers, and city urban planners work in conjunction with City of LA Neighborhood Councils and the Million Trees Project to beautify and plant trees in blighted neighborhoods. Beautify the environments for everyone to enjoy. Add fountains with recyclable rainwater. Afterwards, have performing playwrights, poets, composers, musicians, dancers, videographers, and cultural ethnographers regularly perform in these urban idylls and interview residents about the change in the aesthetics of their neighborhoods. Coordinate and present the responses into a mediacized performance in different locations throughout the city and have members of the community, the city officials, and entrepreneurs hear how the community feels about having a more beautiful park-like green environments. Document the journey across the city into another documentary that is made available to educators, policy makers and community members for free and can be seen on YouTube.
6.) Vision Centers that bring together great thinkers and creatives, (similar to TED) to share, consider, discuss and vett new ideas through community dialogues what the community members really need and want. Then answer those needs with ongoing skills training, workshops and artistic performances addressing those ideas and developing initiatives.
7.) Archive quality video documentation of all the NEA funded activities coordinating artists with collaborating visual artists, composers, choreographers, videographers and editors charged with the task of making new art of the art that has been created within communities and position it all on YouTube for all to experience and enjoy.
Art does not just happen. It is cultivated. It fails and then succeeds. It needs time. It needs love. It needs support. It needs feedback. It needs funding.
Artists need funding.
Furthermore, the arts and education is not a one-way delivery system but a much needed collaborative relationship joining individuals and organizations. Non-profits dedicated to creating art need to refocus their purpose to not only producing artistic product, that may or may not tour to underserved or underprivileged communities, as suggested by many of your interviewees, but also teach and share the process of living artfully by creating sustaining engagements within those communities regardless of the artistic genre.
One way to encourage a win-win engagement is to allow artists, community organizers, activists, teachers, intellectuals, politicians, and citizens of ALL ages to be a part of the artistic creative process. Include funding for a deeper artistic happening that is structured in multiple dimensions of interaction through talks, master classes, developmental workshops, demonstration, and free artistic documentation, regardless if it is an art exhibition, dance concert, solo performance, spoken word event, dance, concert, staged reading, or fully produced theatre play.
Allow the artists to speak purposefully to their artistic process as well as the product cultivated by the funding and witnessed by the audience. Provide the much needed time and space for the artist to interact with the audience. To articulate why art was a path chosen in life. How the aesthetic is/was formed. Time and space to build bridges for all experiencing the artistic work to walk across…so each one can be empowered in an artistic way of learning, inquiring, exploring, thinking, responding to, and living.
The goal of the artistic work should be to stimulate the dialogues that lead one to more skilled, purposeful, philosophic, creative, and critical thinking life style.
Finally, to all the naysayers of public funding, please consider that watching film, television, late night talk shows, or listening to hate radio has had more to do with our culture declining, more to do with the numbing apathy, more to do with the young and old becoming alienated, being addicted to video games and internet pornography than any failed, misguided and poorly funded artistic project or self-important ’status-hungry‘ struggling artist.
Art can heal. Art can teach. Art can save lives, but only through collaborative and purposeful communication.
We all need to connect in positive ways with each other in order to feel a more vital part of our families, communities, and society at large. Once the basics are met, we, as active citizens living within a society, need to learn and grow in knowledge and experience. There is no better path to enrich one’s soul, mind and heart than the arts. ALL OF THE ARTS!
In the history of the world, the best artist, in every society, emerges as a sage, a truth teller, a heartfelt communicator, and a caring teaching practitioner who lives to give back to the community. Someone seeking a unique way to celebrate and interpret the times he/she/we are living. However, throughout time and to this present moment, too many truly talented people are never able to reach their true creative and artistic potential, are never developed primarily because of the lack of funding and the fierce competitiveness that suppresses more egalitarian noncompetitive artists and practitioners.
Each citizen in our country needs to seriously consider why we are so easily manipulated, so deeply in debt, so alienated from one another, so cynical, so frightened, so addicted, so intolerant, so filled with hate, so unfaithful, so disdainful of the “other”, and so violent. My answer is we do not know one another. We only know the other when we dialogue. We do not dialogue until we share a positive growth experience. But most of the time we do not talk with one another. We do not share. We do not create. And as a result, we do not care about one another or the world.
The arts can create a more purposeful dialogue. Greater caring can result.
NEA funding is one vital step in the direction of improving our selves, our communities, and our nation.