When Artists Go To War…They Bring Their Accordions?

Last month, the Tyler Art School declared war on their fellow Philadelphia area art schools, University of the Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Moore College of Art and Design and the Art Institute of Philadelphia. The Tyler Art School was relocating to the Temple University campus and apparently decided to incite some dialog among their art school brethren by offering the ancient gift of belligerents, the Trojan Horse.

The Tyler students constructed 12 foot high Trojan horses out of cardboard and snuck them on to the other campus with a note announcing their arrival in Philadelphia. (Photos and the note may be found here.. Video of the construction here.) I am thinking the only way they were able to do this on four campuses without being stopped by security is that the security folks were all too familiar with arts students moving strange things around campus.

The University of the Arts retaliation has been documented on YouTube. (Does anyone know what is with the accordion? The folks on Philebrity mentioned it as well. Some inside joke?)

A Moore College response, wherein they critique craftsmanship of the letter and horse, is likewise found on YouTube.

According to a story on the Temple University website, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art also responded. They returned the Trojan horse altering it to resemble a chariot and placing a statue of Helen of Troy atop it stating, “We have added a cast of Helen of Troy to illustrate how once again beauty defeated the beast.”

As far as the tradition of mascot stealing and college pranks goes, this seems a lot of fun. Hopefully it doesn’t escalate into a situation where the schools have to use paint thinner to undo the last foray onto their campuses.

This might be the sort of thing arts organizations in different places could engage in to draw attention and pique the interest of their communities. When the public is watching and wondering what the friendly rivals are going to do to each other next, they end up taking greater note of what each is currently doing on their stages and galleries.

The most engaging form of cooperation may be feigned discord. Imagine a group of chamber musicians who publicly call out a museum or gallery saying they have had enough tolerating their smug attitude throughout the winter and it is time to have it out. The musicians challenge the visual artists to a showdown at high noon in front of city hall in two weeks. They will be playing a certain composer and dare the artists to put their money where their mouth is and show up with a visual interpretation of the musical piece.

For the next two weeks, each group talks smack about the other on their blogs and signs in front of their buildings. Then at high noon they “face off” with the audience getting the opportunity for a free concert and mini art walk during their lunch break. Only downside of this particular scenario is that people may believe performances and visual art pieces can be thrown together in two weeks. Having the rivalry play out over months might lose its draw. Hopefully the edge to the attention the groups call to themselves would raise interest among people in the community. This sort of thing might help erode subconscious impressions that arts interaction is a passive experience and lend a sense of action and vibrancy.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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