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May 2009

Chapter 2: Seizing the Reins

Alice.ussf I agree with Maryo Gard (3/14/09), there is a false distinction between mainstream nonprofit arts organizations and informal groups that operate for profit or an artist collective that comes together to explore a shared interest or cause. While money is one distinction that separates them, I believe the second is service.  If they don’t deliver on their mission and provide needed services they cannot continue to operate since running on a deficit, spending money they don’t have, isn’t an option.  
The bottom-line is constantly informed by what their public wants and needs.  They have to listen to their audiences to survive.

Even in the best of times artists and arts organizations face challenges with funding and attracting audiences.  In the face of massive cuts during the 80’s that started at the National Endowment for the Arts and resonated through every state and local arts council conservatism swept through the arts and support for the individual artists dried up completely. Today the struggle continues as organizations attempt to balance budgets that refuse to balance. 

But this isn’t a competition, right.  Everyone is having a difficult time surviving this economic down turn that hasn’t hit bottom yet. Like Maryo said “we need to embrace the chaos and take a new look at ourselves”.  That said I want to champion the cause of the individual artists, who doesn’t have to embrace the chaos because they live it. I want to argue for a return to providing artists-initiated grants, money in the pockets of individual artists so they can make art that serves their community, however they define them.  For me the core of the ”Arts” is the individual artist.

As a collective community, we cannot know what is ahead, but we do know that a society without art is a truly bankrupt society.  We know that it is art that makes us human and in these times we need art even more than ever.  But, just as we used the arts to help students make new discoveries in learning, I want to advocate for art that lays bear our social relations to each other, to history and to the possibility of change. 

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