Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Winds of Change in the Local Arts Scene?

Is it possible the Fine Arts Fund has figured out that the arts serves not only the pockets of the private sector but also benefits the cultural health of the community?

Mary McCullough-Hudson and Margy Waller, President and Vice-President of the year-old Arts and Culture Partnership of the Fine Arts Fund lay out this vision in a column in today’s Enquirer. They seek to “live in a region with vibrant arts and cultural offerings that provide value to the entire community.” Speaking about the importance of the arts in the community, they make a solid argument for supporting the arts in Cincinnati to benefit the community culture; an argument arts and community advocates have expressed for years.

Of course we’ve seen these changing trends in the arts before. After years of viewing art as a mere commodity, and now with a threatened economy the adoption of a new language of culture and community is immediate. Somehow we must keep the coffers healthy and this shift in focus from financial needs to “the role of arts and culture in serving the interest of the community” may be a strong step in this direction. However more steps must be taken. For over the last 5 years, too much of the city's art scene has been in control of development officers, pr professionals, and art educators who admit not being concerned about educating patrons as much as just getting them to walk through the front doors and enjoying their visit. I’ll allow that these individuals like art. Heck, they may even love art, but too many of them know too little about it to advocate the change in focus for which McCullough-Hudson and Waller seem to advocate in their column.

To have a productive “conversation about the role of arts and culture for a vital community,” the Arts and Culture Partnership of the Fine Arts Fund must seek out those who can speak to those who are community advocates and organizers who understand that the value of art is not on a price tag or the size of the patron’s wallet. This, and not just the language, is the fundamental change that needs to happen in Greater Cincinnati.