Friday, January 6, 2012

Some Thoughts in a New Year

Simplicity. Honesty. Clarity. Calm. These four words were a kind of "mantra" I composed for myself several years ago, and along with taking deep breaths every day, trying to relax and allow for more creativity in my thoughts and actions, and to attempting to let things happen "at their own right speed" (to paraphrase Carl Honore, of whom I am a big fan), form the intentions I set for myself for 2012. I hope - as I always do - that these somewhat lofty ideals will allow me to be a bit less of a stressball and a more thoughtful person. But enough of that...

One interesting thing I discovered in conversations just before the holidays, was that it seems that some people still think that part of appreciating the Arts means that you have to like all of the Arts all of the time. When two self-professed "un-artsy" people asked me recently what I thought of a much-discussed piece of public art, I said that it was a great piece, and one of the wonderful things about it was that it was stimulating discussions both about it and about the Arts in general. I went on to say that the real value of Art doesn't come from people universally liking everything that's produced, but rather that the value comes from the discussions a given artwork stimulates. In other words, you don't have to like it to call it Art, or to think it has a value to the community. The mere fact that people are discussing not only Art, but also what that piece of Art might mean, and that this may lead to broader discussions about our Society, is thrilling to me, and exactly what the Arts are for. In both conversations, the people I said this to remarked that they had never thought about Art this way before and that this might change the way they thought about the Arts in general. Even if it doesn't, I was very excited to have had that moment with them, and grateful for their being open to hearing my answer to their original question. Perhaps this is part of the transformative experience of Art.

I've also been reading several other interesting things around the web, including some very good work by Wolf Brown on audience engagement and sustainability. The pre-Christmas pandemonium meant that I didn't have time to read these thoroughly, but I'll be giving both studies a thorough going over as soon as I'm able. The last two issues of On Our Minds also have some very good stuff in them, especially Marc Goldring's thoughts on "The Creative Economy", and his reference to some on-line discussions around this (which I agree with - I revel in the fact people are questioning Richard Florida) in the December 2 issue. I also loved Dennie Palmer Wolf's Christmas wish for a long-term study on the impact of Arts engagement over a lifetime, and Jennifer Novak-Leonard's interesting thoughts on taking a closer look at those who engage in dance only through recordings and broadcast (e.g. those who watch So You Think You Can Dance).

Gig Magazine is always interesting for international news, even though I often read them several weeks or months out of date. I highly recommend both the magazine and the website.

In the "items to watch" category for 2012, it appears that changes to the regulations and/or legislation around charities is on the horizon for the federal government. I wrote about this in an earlier entry here. I think this is something we all need to be quite concerned about. As with Bill C-470 (which I wrote about here), there are likely a myriad of unintended consequences that will result from some of the proposed changes. The deadline for feedback has been extended from mid-January to mid-March, and I encourage everyone to get as much information as they can and send their feedback if at all possible. I'll be using this space to update information and point out links as soon as I have time to educate myself. My main concern is that the Conservative government's misguided attitude that somehow charities are not accountable or viable will provide them an excuse to reduce government funding to the Arts and other sectors in the non-profit world.

Even though this last was not the cheeriest of notes to end an entry on, I still do have hope for 2012. Both the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement have given me hope that there is less apathy in the world than I had previously assumed, and this encourages me - and many others, I'm sure - to keep going.

Simplicity. Honesty. Clarity. Calm.

..and Hope.

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