Monday, August 16, 2010

Aesthetics and Athletics: Not So Unlikely a Pair

Throughout most of my time in academia, arts and athletic departments always seemed bitter rivals. This is especially true when speaking about funding curricula. The well-rehearsed and received argument says dollars funding an arts-based curriculum will always be cut before athletes and coaches feel the crunch. I don't follow the money so don't know the strength of the argument. But pitting these two (what are they?) academic or extra-curricular programs (?), disciplines (?), interests (?) against each other may be an apples and oranges debate: both are different, but belong together.

For the past few months, I've been thinking more about how and when aesthetics and athletics pair up. For me, the natural starting point is ancient Greek sculpture of Olympic athletes. Of course this easily tapped reference is the result of an art history curriculum. What I am finding recently is a more natural pairing of the two taking place in recent conversations on Twitter and blog postings and general comments about art.

Art writer and sports fan Tyler Green pulls these two topics together effortlessly. With his more current America's Favorite Art Museum brackets and last year's Super Bowl bet between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art his readers can satisfy interests spanning what's been accepted as a wide spectrum. And finally, our human tendencies towards both competition and the arts has been more recently harnessed and presented in Bravo's Work of Art.

Still, there are many who feel it necessary to patrol the pairing of aesthetics and athletics. The Cincinnati Art Museum has enjoyed a successful summer of arts and programming around the theme of Americana, called SEE America. In these final weeks, they've installed a large screen t.v. on which visitors can watch a Cincinnati Reds baseball game or historical highlights of the first major league baseball team. Not surprising, there was some grumbling in the stands. A few think the museum is not a place to watch baseball and suggested this was simply a gimmick to get new patrons into the museum. With a whole summer devoted to American culture, the museum should be safe from such an accusation.

The only way to agree with this argument is to simply dismiss the historical compatibility of aesthetics and athletics. What do these critics have to say about Andy Warhol's Pete Rose on permanent display in this museum?

Are there other examples of the pairings of arts and sports? Can recognizing these cultural interests as siblings rather than enemies help strengthen school curricula?


Anne said...

Those Pete Roses give me a headache! :) But I love the fact that they're there.