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All Art is Local . . . Joining Together For a Common Cause

by Gary John Gresl

We have all heard the expression, “All politics is local”, which I interpret to mean that even large scale State and National elections depend upon the turnout and results of local voting. The results of the small local precincts, villages, towns, and counties combine to determine the winners and policies at larger scale levels, and often the local winners voice their support for others in higher positions.
So...can this phenomenon be applied to the visual arts, and for the betterment of the visual arts, artists, patrons and the public? Hmmm...think about this.
In the Milwaukee area alone these artist organized entities exist: Riverwest Artists Association, Walkers Point Artist Association, West Allis Art Alliance, League of Milwaukee Artists, Third Ward Art Association, Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors Southeast Chapter, Milwaukee Sketch Club, ABEA. MATA....and several more.
There has been very little or no exchange between these entities. Each exists largely as a separate organization, having established borders and turf with local differences in culture… while all of the organizations have similar, if not identical, goals. For example, the goal to foster a climate whereby member work can be exhibited promoted and encouraged.
The end result is to put in place persons and laws that theoretically will benefit the most people from across all voting regions, and that goal is one which all voters understand without need for further analysis. From neighborhoods to the national level, the single goal is to get more votes for one’s candidate than the competitors get for theirs, no matter what the features of the local entities are.
Artists, and the organizations to which a lot of them belong, can do better than what they have done. The various organizations would do well to exchange ideas, since there are similar goals shared among share work together for the common goals of gaining media attention, public understanding, education and acclaim. Differences in the type of art produced in terms of subject, quality and media, must be overlooked to strengthen the common cause. Each organization can still have its own criteria for membership, whether that is by jurying, being in a neighborhood, or by merely signing a check. No organization need lower its standards for membership in order to work with other organizations. However, excluding groups because of elitism, prejudices, judgments of quality, will continue to divide visual artists and forever render them ineffective.
If the goal of greater exposure and support for visual artists is to be achieved to the greatest extent possible, joining arms to achieve the goal means that we must overlook the cultural differences of each artist organization...the marketplace will eventually determine and winnow thru the processes of selection. 

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