Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Emerson and Theatre - Boston from New York on Amtrak

Scott Walters points to an article by Tom Burrop in which he takes the Acela to Boston from New York City. I am frequent business traveler on that route myself.

The article is about community arts development, and touches on how most of our cultural development methodology in the past has resulted in more of a distancing of art from the people of a community. It is the difference, he points out, between bondind and bridging:

In "Better Together," Putnam and Lewis Feldstein's 2003 book, they take traditional arts institutions and practices to task for their contributions to the decline in social capital. "Traditionally, however, arts institutions have done far more bonding than bridging … the system of financing and presenting the arts traditionally has reinforced entrenched patterns of exclusion." While illustrating several outstanding examples of programs that do the opposite, they
say, "we are becoming a nation of arts spectators more than arts participants, and this trend is likely to accelerate…"

It called to mind this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson in his Essay, "Art":

The fountains of invention and beauty in modern society are all but dried up. A popular novel, a theatre, or a ball-room makes us feel that we are all paupers in the alms-house of this world, without dignity, without skill, or industry. Art is as poor and low. The old tragic Necessity, which lowers on the brows even of the Venuses and the Cupids of the antique, and furnishes the sole apology for the intrusion of such anomalous figures into nature, — namely, that they were inevitable; that the artist was drunk with a passion for form which he could not resist, and which vented itself in these fine extravagances, — no longer dignifies the chisel or the pencil. But the artist and the connoisseur now seek in art the exhibition of their talent, or an asylum from the evils of life. Men are not well pleased with the figure they make in their own imaginations, and they flee to art, and convey
their better sense in an oratorio, a statue, or a picture. Art makes the same effort which a sensual prosperity makes; namely, to detach the beautiful from the useful, to do up the work as unavoidable, and, hating it, pass on to enjoyment.

It should be said that part of Emerson's jumping off point is his revelation, when going to see famous paintings in Naples and Rome, that the great works of art, no matter what culture they come from, are surprisingly un-exotic when you actually witness them.

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