Art Is Everywhere When You Look At The World Through A Creative Lens

Sort of dovetailing with my post yesterday about art and science nourishing each other, you may have seen that scientists have named a new species of gecko after Vincent Van Gogh.

Yes, everyone reporting on this is calling it Vincent Van Gecko.

The scientists were inspired by the markings on the lizard which reminded them of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

This is one of those instances when having a smidge of artistic exposure allows you to create an engaging story around a scientific advancement which may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

In the conversation between the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and Director of the Census Bureau I posted about yesterday, they talk about the importance of good data collection methodology to decision making and reporting about the impact of arts and creativity on society. But they also discussed how creativity and artistic expression facilitates effective storytelling and communication about the relevance of  scientific discoveries and achievement in our lives.

Alignment of Storytelling

Back in February I caught a broadcast of NPR’s podcast show Code Switch where the episode was about the music that came out of or was inspired by Japanese internment. Artists like Kishi Bashi and Mike Shinoda of the band Linkin Park are among descendants of internees and wrote music how that impacted their family, especially in terms of the silence that was maintained about the experience.

The story particularly resonated with me because our local art museum had just closed a show of Ansel Adams photos taken at the Manzanar War Relocation Center during the internment as well as a show in another gallery depicting life at Granada Relocation Center, here in CO, better known as Amache. The museum apparently didn’t know at the time the show opened that President Biden would sign an act creating the Amache National Historic Site a couple weeks before that show ended.

In 1944, while the war was still going on, Adams displayed the photos he took in a controversial show titled “Born Free and Equal,” referring to the fact that most of those interned had been born in the US, perhaps generations prior.

The show here in town had a significant impact in the greater community. Attendance was at some of the highest rates the museum has experienced. I happened by the front doors one day and a family exited in silence until one of the parents said, “Well that was something. What did you think of that?” A man who had been interned at one of the camps as a child traveled some distance with his family and brought a book he made of his drawings and remembrances he created while there. He presented a copy to the museum director and one to the curator.

While I was listening to the Code Switch episode, I wished they had run it a few weeks earlier to align with the shows at the museum so they could have expanded the story they told about the relevance of the shows.

I also wondered why there seemed to be such an alignment of information about the Japanese internment recently. The hosts of the radio story mentioned that the US government had issued an apology some years ago and paid out reparations to internees and their families. Those people in turn have donated money to organizations who promote Japanese culture and history in the US, including increasing awareness about the internment.

 

Getting Into Art Can Require Seeking Something Of Yourself In Art

Last month Vox had a piece by Courtney Tenz about how to interpret art. It isn’t the sort of article you can simply link a social media post to for your audiences to read. One of Tenz’s core points is that art often isn’t immediately digestible at a glance. But there are takeaways organizations can use when having conversations like “If art’s such a central tenet of our culture, though, why do so many of us feel like we just don’t get it?”

Tenz says one of the barriers she likely faces is being told by a teacher she would never truly understand the beauty of Monet. But she still desired a relationship with visual art:

I realized, I had to build a relationship with art. I not only had to take it in regularly — akin to something the writer Julia Cameron calls “artists’ dates” in her book on creativity, The Artist’s Way — but I would also need to sit with it when I did.

The first step she lists for learning to interpret art is to view it as an interactive adventure where you as the viewer have license to decide what is interesting and meaningful about the piece. In that vein, take the time to evaluate what you think about the work rather than just give it a passing glance.

Correspondingly, the second step is to be open to feeling discomfort with the experience:

…And truthful art can make people wildly uncomfortable. “But that discomfort is such an important part of the work,” Deal says.

In this case, part of not getting the art could stem from a reluctance to confront that discomfort. As Langer writes, teaching art is an education in feeling; when art gives rise to emotions that we do not always have access to, it can feel too tough to manage. Yet it is in grappling with those emotions that the connection to art — and, ultimately, understanding it — is forged.

“How do you teach a willingness to be uncomfortable?” asks Ovenden. Even as an avid lover of art, she finds the emotional response doesn’t always come easy. “It can be really overwhelming.”

The third step Tenz lists is related to the first – “Keep an eye out for glimmers of your own experience.” Finding what is relatable to your life and seeing yourself reflected in something contributes to an increased comfort and perhaps increased understanding.

“Or, as Karen K. Ho told me, if you start to think about the arts as a way of transforming time or transforming your experience — if you move beyond the surface response of “this is a nice picture” or “this is a picture that sucks” — then looking at art can be a really interesting endeavor”

Some Ticketing Reform Bills Being Manipulated To Benefit Secondary/Speculative Market

A nod to Erick Deshaun Dorris for the link to a Guardian article about how ticket resellers are leveraging the hatred being directed at Ticketmaster to manipulate legislation to their benefit.  The article mentions that a lot of legislatures only have a superficial understanding of the ticketing industry, mostly informed by complaints generated by big name artists like Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift.

The article quotes Kevin Erickson, Director of the Future of Music Coalition who discusses how the language of many proposed bills will actually benefit some of the larger secondary market players rather than consumers:

“Companies like StubHub, Vivid Seat, SeatGeek have been rather successful in appropriating legitimate public frustration with Ticketmaster to advance an unrelated policy agenda that’s mostly about maximising their access to inventory, to continue to be able to get as many tickets as possible and sell them at inflated prices,” he says. Erickson explains that BOSS SWIFT would eliminate legitimately helpful fan-to-fan resale sites and require “transparency of hold”, meaning that artists and venues have to disclose how many tickets will ultimately be available ahead of sale. “That sounds reasonable until you understand that that’s incredibly helpful to the brokers making their purchasing decisions,” he says. “It doesn’t benefit the individual family who just wants to buy a ticket to be able to attend the event.”

Erickson says BOSS SWIFT is unlikely to pass and fortunately a more artist and fan friendly bill, Fans First Act which mandates the full cost with fees be advertised and prevents speculative purchases, has more support and potential for passage. The article also cites efforts by individual states to provide protections through consumer protection laws. It mentions legislation in Maryland which is scheduled for a vote in the next week or so which requires price transparency, outlaws speculative ticketing, and limits price mark ups on the secondary market.

The article quotes MD State Senator Dawn Gile who says they spoke with a wide variety of venues and performing groups during the process of drafting this law. She cites experiences that many venues have faced, including my own and those of my colleagues, with regard to speculative ticketing and resale on smaller events:

“…even a local production of The Nutcracker was affected by secondary markups, while another venue found speculative tickets being sold for mezzanine and balcony seats “when the theatre doesn’t even have a mezzanine, nor a balcony”, says Gile. “The issue is pervasive. It’s been eclipsed by the topic of these really popular shows, but it’s not just Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé that are affected, it’s our smaller venues here.”

[…]

Additionally, says Gile, these companies are “suggesting that somehow if we move forward with this legislation, we’re not going to have any shows come to Maryland ever – that we’re effectively killing the live entertainment industry here.” The argument is disproved, she says, by the fact that several states already cap the secondary market – including the razzle-dazzle centre of Las Vegas – “but obviously the live entertainment industry continues to exist”. Her bill, she says, “just removes the incentive from brokers from being able to try to profit off the consumer”.

What I appreciated most was a final quote from Kevin Erickson about shifting how arts and cultural activities are framed:

“There is an opportunity here to accomplish a shift in how we think of music and the arts and live events as not just about something that has economic value, but to talk about the intrinsic value of live music as a vehicle by which communities form, a vehicle for historically marginalised voices to be heard, a way that communities define themselves. Policymakers at all levels have a responsibility to centre the voices of music communities who are imperilled by the rise of extractive business models.”

You only have to look at the photos coming out of each date on the Eras tour, in which thousands of teenage girls are having their first live music experiences, to see the vast potential for community activation: here are the roots of future lives spent in music…