One of the last lines in today’s Beacon that covered an arts summit in Summit county (does it get any better?) quoted the following: “Because of that (budget cuts), we can’t afford to borrow things, so we must show things mainly tied to our own collection”. This is in reference to the Akron Art Museum but affects all art museums across our country. Now I know you think I am going to write a bit about how we need to fund the arts and all that jazz. Well, yes we do but so many others have already written about that issue. As usual, I see this a bit differently.
Yes, it is too bad that big budget shows and other such options are currently out of reach, but if such venues would look in their own backyards rather than lamenting the fact that they can’t hit the road as much, I bet they would find something worthwhile to fill the walls. For the sake of keeping this local, AAM can be our sacrificial lamb for making my point. Situated in what is probably the most ideal location in the Midwest as far as access to talent, surely some “local” artists are worthy of the hallowed halls of a “museum”. Just a quick inventory turns up the Cleveland Institute of Art to our north, the Pittsburgh Art Institute to our east, the Chicago Art Institute to our west, Columbus College of Art and Design to our south…..not to mention the Cleveland Museum of Art (north), the Butler Institute (east), Carnegie Mellon (east again), Indianapolis Art Center (west), Chicago galleries and museums (west again…) and on top of that, hundreds of galleries and studios housing some of the best artists in our country. Just because they don’t live in New York or LA or Miami does not mean they have not “made it”. It means they are a bit more centered, rooted, and financially responsible to name just a few reasons.
Big budget shows and in some cases “stunt casting” of exhibitions does bring in media coverage and hoopla, but so do local talents. Many of those side galleries in these big institutions could house a decent show by Votaw, Murray, Close, Strauss, or McNulty to name a few. Our local Canton Museum does an excellent job of showcase local talent next to the bigger shows; they are no dummies in knowing that locals bring in local followings that bring in friends and so on. Midwesterners are scrappy people, I bet many of us would be happy to load up the trailer and transport our shows to your venue for a modest fee. Sometimes I feel there is a bias towards using local talent. It is as if because you live here, you can’t really be that good because all the “good” and “real” and “professional” artists are from “there” (as in anyplace else but “here”).
One advantage of showcasing artists at a major institution (one with a “name” which people associate with giving someone some “street cred” in the art world), is exposing locals to all the talent that exists within 250 miles of whom they may not be aware. Midwesterners are also a gossipy bunch and word of mouth builds reputations. Case in point, Anderson’s brings in “locals” whose work is now spreading out and about as is their name as a place for creative exploration. I bet their 2010 season rivaled what could be seen in “big name” places and having been to Chicago, Toronto, and Vegas this past year, I will declare that yes, there is a lot of “art” out there for which I would have a hard time taking away the quote marks.
In reading the article today, and if I still sat on a board, I would say to them to take a map, put a pin in your location, attach a string and draw a circle. Somewhere in that sphere of humanity, I bet there is a blockbuster show sitting in somebody’s studio just waiting to touch the lives of locals who want something to do on a snowy afternoon.
Funny (okay not “funny” but snarky) story from Vegas, I walked into a gallery that had a display of maybe 6 paintings by some female artist which were steps below much of what is available around here. The prices however were way up there and the bio about her was very fluffy. The gallery guy about fell all over himself getting to us since we were dressed well (by Vegas terms) and taking the time to read her bio and look at the work (more so because “are you kidding me?” was circulating through my brain). I am not sure how we got on the subject, but he made a big deal to point out that one of their artists (some rock star) had just had a show at “The Butler Institute” in Ohio. I looked at him and said “I’ve been there too” (meaning artwork) but he thought as a tourist. He also had to point out that the opening had been held 100 miles up the road at the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” as if that is a scared institution for only the best artists (not that he was a rock star or anything which could have had something to do with it….). We extradited ourselves shortly thereafter, more so because my husband knew I would shoot my mouth off and wanted to avoid the resulting blood splatter, but I know that Diane B. is having a show at the Butler soon and she lives locally and as far as I know, does not play the guitar. Good thing she has talent as an artist to get her work in there.
So heads up all you hallowed marble hall harbingers of culture, until the economy comes back and funding for the arts becomes a priority once more, your halls and walls could be graciously filled with great works of art should you decided to put away the wallets and open up your windows.