Monday, May 7, 2012


Bruce Aiken, Frances Reimer, Bob Breunig, Alan Petersen and Diane Rechel.  Benchmarkers in the Flagstaff art community.
I started this blog two years ago, in August of 2010, as a reaction to National Endowment for the Arts research that claimed only 34.6% of Americans attended art exhibits or performances in 2008. I was pretty shocked at those statistics.  As part of my job, I promote over 380 cultural events at Northern Arizona University alone, and so I know there are plenty of really good cultural offerings, both at the uni and in town. 

From the start, though, I had a hard time justifying the limits that NEA had put on what they defined as "art events."  According to them, they only measured certain events as bona-fide: "Benchmark activities tracked since 1982 are attendance at jazz, classical music, opera, musical plays, non-musical plays, and ballet performances, and visits to art museums or art galleries."

But the art world is a changing place.  "Benchmark activities" are no longer so measurable.  Sometimes a benchmark experience, one that sets the standard, is making calaveras masks and rolling around in a tractor tire while watching a street performance.   Or having an experience of synesthesia during a Klezmer music concert.  Reading poetry,  connecting with the local art community at the Viola Awards, and hearing about the importance of art in education--these were my own personal benchmark art experiences this year.   And I'm afraid that the NEA doesn't really want to hear about it.

Or do they?

Turns out that the art world is actually getting BIGGER, not smaller.  The people interpreting NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts data say that now "Analysis includes a fuller spectrum of artistic genres and participation via electronic media and personal arts creation for a clearer, more accurate picture of arts engagement," according to a news release from NEA last year.

Well, that's just great news.  With that reinterpretation, all of a sudden " 3 out of 4 Americans participate in the arts" every year.  Automatically, the arts are recognized as being more integral to people's lives than we previously thought (or were told.)

Turns out we just had to broaden our understanding of what art really is if we're going to keep it alive.

Sky Black, Flagstaff's newest (and youngest) working artist, at The Pike.

No comments:

Post a Comment