I had intended to say a few words about ArtsPlan06 to follow up on this week’s podcast; instead I’d like to respond to Ross Currier’s blog post in which he criticized my aversion to mediocrity, because it’s relevant to the implications of the Arts Plan.
I maintain that there IS a difference between fostering “an environment that gives emerging talent an opportunity to perform”, and a community that achieves the distinction of being recognized as an Arts Town. It is to be hoped that Northfield can do both. But to accomplish that, we need to recognize the difference. My point is that if we want to be seen as an arts town, we need to foster a standard of excellence, and not confuse it with our egalitarian desire to boost everyone’s self-esteem.
My daughter’s performance in the high school play was brilliant, but it’s NOT the Guthrie, and no one would confuse the two. That’s okay. I would suggest that emerging talent and demonstrated talent might best be served by different venues, rather than jumbling them together and making Northfield look like it can’t distinguish its ass from its elbow (or critically recognized art/artists/artisans over hobbyists who paint ersatz-impressionist landscapes for hotel lobbies, or make sock dolls with button eyes to sell on eBay.)
Having a community that provides opportunity for residents to perform or exhibit can contribute to our community vitality and quality of life. The NAG is an excellent example. On the other hand, we’re not likely to generate much of interest to the “creative class” you’re so fond of, Ross, unless we also have artists and performers who rank on at least a regional scale, if not nationally or internationally. (Spider John Koerner, anyone?)
Again, I don’t think this is an either-or situation (either we foster an environment for emerging talent, or we promote excellence); ideally it would be both-and. But in order to do that, I believe we need to distinguish which is which, and not confuse the two. My concern is that too many people in Northfield won’t know the difference, or won’t care; my fear is that, in our desire to gain “Arts Town” status, we’d instead end up looking like the cast of “Waiting for Guffman”.
By the bye… the local rug merchant might supply examples of material culture that are more ethnographically significant, or contemporary carpets designed with a higher level of artistry, than the child-labor-factory stuff sold by the bale at RugMart. But in Northfield, we lack a critical mass of people who can tell the difference.