Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Back when I worked in the corporate world in Boston we would all destress (drink) after work at our local bistro, “Les Zygomates”, which is french for the muscles in the face which make you smile. Mostly we’d compare the size of the bloody stains on the back of our shirts and ask one another, “Aren’t we all on the SAME team?”. My life is easier now, yet poorer, yet richer, yet scarier, yet nicer. But sometimes conversation around the food table at receptions can turn to little art disgruntlements. No world is fully gruntled. The topic Monday around the stuffed grape leaves (Hampden Gallery at UMASS has the best food) turned to arts coverage.

Support for the arts is becoming more and more scant in this community. Like the moon, it is waning quickly. This publication excepted, (and I am not saying that in an attempt to brown-nose the Valley Advocate folks just because I want a “subscribe to this blog” button on this page. Although, I do, and I am neither above or below that sort of wheedling and cajoling, but that’s next to and alongside the point) arts coverage is becoming endangered. One paper recently replaced their one day a week arts coverage with American Idol coverage. What does this say about what is newsworthy? Where did they put all the arts writers? To quote John Waters, “Who do I talk to about this?”

Other publications seem to be cutting back on their arts coverage as well, and it’s becoming hard to even get text listings for events. I think this is why my newsletter is growing so fast, even though it has been slightly covert and in promoting it, I have pretty much been inert. (Yesterday in my newsletter I resorted to Seussian prose to make a point and now it happens randomly). This area is so rich with art and talent yet it can be hard to tell that by picking up a newspaper.

Arts coverage is important for a million reasons. Art is a large part of what this community smells like and press coverage is useful in getting grants and other shows for artists, all necessary things to accessorize an artist’s resume, and it’s good for the community to know what’s going on in their backyard. So how did it get trumped by American Idol? Public consumption. And, evidently, participation. I hear that there is a movement afoot, via radio and internet, to get the public to keep voting for the Sangria guy to remain on American Idol, regardless of his talent. And I am not knocking that. I am all for movements. Are Idols necessarily the most worthy of idolatry? Idolatry, the concept, does not insinuate superlative talent but mainly is a measurement of mass appeal. (<–That part is NOT a parallel to my arts coverage rant, BTW. The art in this valley is superlative, in my opinion). So, rock on, Sangria, but why does mass local appeal not call for arts coverage?

And, why can’t we get together as well and weight the “voting” with our weightiness to get arts coverage back in the papers? Let’s have a movement. Jim Morrisson (of The Doors) once wrote a compelling college psychology paper about collective psyche and crowd manipulation in which he posited that crowds are susceptible to suggestion and their numbers can be used to create a movement in an infinite number of suggested directions. That’s kinda relevant to what I am saying but maybe not so much. Never mind that.

Anyway-what if we all tried really hard to convince the local papers to cover art again? We could have an arty protest or make t-shirts that read, “Have a heart, cover the Arts”. We could have a big group show about the lack of arts coverage. And we could make the inevitable non-coverage of the show what the show and the art was actually about. If we had a movement of sorts, or out of sorts, could we then get coverage for our protest over non-coverage? Or maybe we could just beg them, or call them every day, sobbing. Seems more productive than bitching next to the brie. Like the end of the movie, “Animal House”, when John Belushi tries to rally the frat house with the call, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, let’s get going.

Speaking of the end of that movie, I loved the “Where are they now?” bit during the credits when they show the really obnoxious, preppy, frat guy and the subtitle below reads something like: “Now a gynecologist in Beverly Hills” and the whole theater laughs. I recently read that a guy I dated briefly in high school, who was quite predatory in his female pursuits, is now a breast reconstruction specialist on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Comments (5)

Hey Mo,
Great idea – a show about the lack of arts coverage – we could call it “Cover Me” – that’s the phrase we used back in basic training when we were maneuvering through the woods with M16’s – somehow that phrase was meant to assist us in our quest to stay alive – hmmm I think I’m seeing a parallel here to the artist’s quest to stayin’ alive.

All I can say is – if the interest is there – we’ve got the venue.

By the way, there’s an interesting new read on this topic (The Happy Valley is not alone in lack of coverage) called
Critical Mess: Art Critics on the State of Their Practice.

Anne Laprade

Posted by Anne LaPrade on 4.5.07 at 3.40
you are doing a great job mo, if only there were mo people like you!

Posted by derek on 4.10.07 at 5.39
YES!!! I second and third your points, including the “subscribe to this blog” button. More art coverage means more art, in a way. I mean it is happening, but coverage is like sustainability, and creates a sense of movement and community and inspiration. I am all for the conversation being louder. Cover Me!
Thanks, Mo.

Posted by maggie on 5.16.07 at 19.15
Love your blog Mo!

Diane ;)

Posted by Diane on 5.16.07 at 19.30
Whole heartedly agree…and yes, in the face of mass consumerism, obesity, war, iraq, environment, health, apocalypse …blah blah etc etc

I do believe little things make the biggest difference…

If you don’t believe me read the ‘Tipping Point’ ..yes it is a marketing book of all things…but has some valid points.

Posted by Anila on 5.18.07 at 15.15

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