Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Monday, January 4, 2010

Start Making Art

Today's "You've Cott Mail" included an item from David Byrne's (Talking Heads) blog that should twist operas,' symphonies' and museums' panties in a bunch. In response to the LA Opera's staggering $32 million price tag for The Ring Cycle, and its $14 million bailout from the county (according to his post), Byrne suggests that state funding for opera, symphonies and museums should cease, or at least be drastically curtailed, in favor of arts education.

Sacrilege!

The part that Cott distributed was certainly controversial, but Byrne's post is actually about much more than that. It's about making the arts accessible. That is, it's about making arts-making accessible, rather than throwing money after "dead guys." Now, when I read Cott's outtake, I was at first annoyed at what seemed to be yet another example of either/or. Either we fund large institutions or we fund arts education. Either/or arguments really annoy me--maybe I'm an idealist, but I tend to reject these--what do you call them?--false dichotomies?

So I'm glad I went back to read the whole post. I would excerpted a later paragraph, specifically this one:

"I sense that in the long run there is a greater value for humanity in empowering folks to make and create than there is in teaching them the canon, the great works and the masterpieces. In my opinion, it’s more important that someone learn to make music, to draw, photograph, write or create in any form than it is for them to understand and appreciate Picasso, Warhol or Bill Shakespeare — to say nothing of opry. In the long term it doesn’t matter if students become writers, artists or musicians — though a few might. It's more important that they are able to understand the process of creation, experimentation and discovery — which can then be applied to anything they do, as those processes, deep down, are all similar. It’s an investment in fluorescence."

Theatre Bay Area has always--naturally--supported theatremaking. But we've also been following the trend--which has mostly been in the realm of audience development--of artmaking. That is, to get your audiences more engaged, they need to be part of the theatremaking process.

And now more than ever, people seem to be engaged in some mode of creation. Technology has helped: blogs, the relative cheapness of video equipment and editing software, etc. We have a huge DIY movement, and that's got to spill over into artmaking, which has got to spill over into the classroom--that's my hope, at least.

I can certainly see how teenagers, for example, could get a better grasp on Shakespeare and other "dead guys" but engaging in theatremaking to begin with. After all, Shakespeare didn't write for libraries and classrooms, he wrote for the stage.

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