You stink because:
- You are from the Midwest, specifically Wisconsin, a cultural
backwater from which no important art emerges.
- You paint landscapes and other subjects too worn and drained
to have reasons for public and media attention.
- If you create non-objective or conceptual work, that which
seems to get the attention of national cultural centers on the
East and West coasts, you will be dubbed retarditaire, derivative,
a copyist or imitator.
- You could not possibly create anything of importance because
you don’t have the life experiences or skills like those
who emerge in major cultural centers.
- Undoubtedly your training is not as good as others who have
attended more notable progressive art schools.
- Even if you create art that might be worthy of broad regional
or national attention there is no notable regional media to which
the nation pays attention that might give a boost to your reputation
- Even building a career and success in Wisconsin and the Midwest
is simply not good enough because the local aesthetic standards
are below the national norm.
- The only way we can make it big is to move out of Wisconsin.
Ah! So those are the reasons we struggle! It is everyone
Shall we get real? Shall we reach down to our own boot straps
and begin to tug? Shall we stop complaining and instead rigorously
build our opinions about ourselves? Shall we not only work
at and support our own art and careers but also promote the work
of our fellow regional artists? Shall we become positively vocal,
telling everyone we know about the high quality and diversity of
the art we find in our state? Shall we look at the Wisconsin
based artists who have indeed “made it big” at the
national level, and those who have contributed greatly to our unique
regional history? Shall we bring to the attention of school
systems and the public the importance of visual art in schools
and its vital function of enlightening and promoting creativity? Shall
we be willing to speak to the economics of art making, reminding
businesses and government that the visual arts lift economies,
tourism and a sense of general value and pride in our communities?
In this issue of “Art in Wisconsin” there is an article
about the recently renamed Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend,
and its planned expansion and renewal into a new modern building. This
new museum vision is a big deal!
We have seen huge millions of dollars being spent on buildings
for the visual arts in the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Madison Museum
of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center, the Racine Art Museum,
the Center for Visual Arts in Wausau. This support is a big
Earlier existing visual arts buildings and venues around the state
continue to serve us, including the inspiring John Michael Kohler
Art Center in Sheboygan, one of the most progressive and attractive
venues in our state and in the nation. We have the Rahr-West
in Manitowoc, with one of the most useful gallery spaces around. From
Door County to Kenosha, across to Beloit and northward we find
public galleries and schools that breathe life into communities
and maintain our histories of art making. These are all big
In the recent past we have seen the creation of the “Wisconsin
Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Awards”, whereby attention
can be given to artists and institutions which can be inspirations
and sources of education for the visual arts. And there are
the Governor’s Awards for the Arts which need more
public and media attention. Big deals? Yes!
Around the state there are dozens of artist organizations that
have for decades come together for the good of their membership,
but also for the good of their communities, cultures and economies. Reduce
turf wars. Reduce jealousies. Reduce personality conflicts. We
don’t need art communism, but we could use a lot of arms
around the battering ram to wake up a sleepy media and public.
Thank goodness we do still have arts writers who occasionally
report on our regional artists and do what they can to pump the
art blood thru our public arteries. But do we give them the
support and vocal attention they need in order for them to get
more column space and air time? Are their superiors and editors
being told to improve arts coverage?
Hey! It is not wrong to be vocal and even complain about conditions
that don’t seem to be right, that don’t serve the interests
of those of us involved in the visual arts, and which need to have
attention! But it is wrong if we merely complain and
don’t do anything about it ourselves.
We need to have individuals and groups stand up and come together
rather than just lob grenades into the establishment bunkers hoping
for change. We may need to make the changes ourselves!! At
the very least, we need to try thru our own actions and statements. And
on a very personal level, what is the nature of your art? Do
you question your direction, and are you really satisfied with
what you do. Are you considering evolving, or are you locked
into your own status quo?
So, if we stink it may not be entirely the fault of others from
outside or inside our art communities. It might be that we
have not recognized the value of what we already have. It
might be because we have not worked hard enough for the good of
our fellows or even for ourselves. Perhaps we have not been
supportive and receptive and positive, and we have not made our
opinions known to the right people. It might be that we have
not experimented and stretched and tested our creative urges enough
to gain attention and garner support. It might be because
we are lazy and we just want others to do our work for us.
Maybe we haven’t been our own champions. Maybe we haven’t
stirred up enough stink to get noticed.
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