What does an artist need? A clean, well-lit place? Genius? A tortured soul? Or is the answer less poetic? Cheap rent, time to spare, and a bit of pocket money. Does an artist need theory, training, and genius underneath it all? Or will his art spring like a geyser from the darkest, deepest place in his being if it’s placed under enough pressure? These aren’t the types of questions local government normally takes up.
This week’s feature offers a lens on the Piedmont Council for the Arts recently created cultural plan, an expensive and time-intensive study that included input from hundreds of people in the community. We are a university town, so we like to study our problems and build consensus before we move our chips across the table. For people who have drilled down deep into particular subject areas, it’s hard to scratch the surface of an issue without taking it all the way apart.
There’s nothing wrong with that. With the recent improvement in lateral drilling techniques, we may be able to turn all of our silos into a tunnel to the other side of the mountain. Joking aside, when you ask an open question about the civic value of beauty, it’s never going to be easy to settle on a price.
One of the parts of the plan that caught my eye was the expressed need for more and better art criticism. As the editor of a paper that takes the arts seriously, both as an economic and creative resource, I get the message loud and clear. There’s an important balance between marketing a scene and helping to define it with an objective eye. More and better aren’t the same, and the greater good can play the enemy of the best.