30 December 2007

United States Artists

I was searching the web this morning for links to work by Allan Sekula and came across the web page for United States Artists which is a new consortium of foundations who are distributing grants to artists (not art institutions) each year. Sekula is a 2007 Broad Fellow. Here is the "strange paradox" USA hopes to rectify:

A country that loves art, not artists

In a recent survey of attitudes toward artists in the US a vast majority of Americans, 96%, said they were greatly inspired by various kinds of art and highly value art in their lives and communities. But the data suggests a strange paradox.

While Americans value art, the end product, they do not value what artists do, the act of creation. Only 27% of respondents believe that artists contribute “a lot” to the good of society.

Further interview data from the study reflects a strong sentiment in the cultural community that society does not value art-making as legitimate work worthy of compensation. Many perceive the making of art as a frivolous or recreational pursuit.

USA hopes to help close the gap between the love of art and the ambivalence toward artists in society.

Other insights further illuminate the depth of the paradox:

• A majority of parents think that teaching the arts is as important as reading, math, science, history, and geography.

• 95% believe that the arts are important in preparing children for the future.

• In the face of a changing global economy, economists increasingly emphasize that the United States will have to rely on innovation, ingenuity, creativity, and analysis for its competitive edge—the very skills that can be enhanced by engagement with the arts.

As author Daniel Pink posits in his book A Whole New Mind—Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, we have moved beyond the Information Age and into the Conceptual Age. “In short, we’ progressed from a society of farmers to a society of knowledge workers. And now to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers. ...We’ve moved from an economy based on people’s backs to and economy built on people’s left brains to what is emerging today: an economy and society built more and more on people’s right brains. ... aptitudes so often disdained and dismissed—artistry, empathy, taking the long view, pursuing the transcendent—will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles. It’s a dizzying—but ultimately inspiring—change.”
Statistics referenced above provided by Urban Institute, Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists (2003), and Rand Research in the Arts, Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate about the Benefits of the Arts (2004).

USA runs on the same format as the MacArthur Fellows - you cannot apply directly but instead must be nominated by one of an anonymous squadron of nominators. As far as I can tell the program has operated only two years - 2006 and 2007; but it has indeed funded a bunch of people and those whose work I know are first rate. In addition to Sekula, fellows include photographers Zöe Strauss and Uta Barth and jazz musicians Jason Moran, Bill Frisell and Don Byron.

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Anonymous Dawei from Beijing said...

What do you make of Mike Huckabee's strong advocacy for art and music education in American schools?

30 December, 2007 16:11  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Th man can't be wrong about everything!

I suspect we would disagree about nearly everything invoed in art and music education (ecept perhaps technical competency in the instrument/medium as kids get older). And we surely would disagree about what sorts of art, music and literature kids should be "exposed" to.

30 December, 2007 21:41  
Anonymous Dawei from Beijing said...

Let's just hope his idea of music isn't Christian hymns.

31 December, 2007 14:22  
Blogger Jari Chevalier said...

Thanks for calling attention to the "strange paradox" with which we will come to terms or from which we will continue to suffer. Just want to let you and yours know that Dan Pink will be my guest on Living Hero towards the end of February. Just enter your email in the subscription box on http://livinghero.com to receive an email when the Podcast is broadcast. I’m writing to you and others in advance to give you a chance to participate in the formation of the interview questions. Just type your question into the question box widget on the right column of the page. Also, to see recent blog posts, just click into the recent posts question in the right side column. Once the Podcast is posted, comments can be added at the bottom of the podcast post. I look forward to a highly generative ongoing conversation and I do hope you’ll be part of it! Please spread the word! My very best, Jari Chevalier

06 January, 2008 11:48  

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