photo of Ben Wegman by Amelia Cox at CERN
Art Making, Artistic Process, Arts Leadership, Hiking the Horizontal

Artists without Edges

I’m recalling from memory an incident that happened over the summer. I was at a gathering of artists, curators, and presenters and an artist was asked about a recent quote, which referred to her work as “white girl art.”

The artist answered that she didn’t want to be put in any box, and certainly not that one. Of course she didn’t, no one wants to be put in a box because once you are in one, it is hard to get out. Artists know that if categorized in one way, it will be hard to get observers, presenters, critics and curators to see them in any other light. And so the denial begins. It is sad to watch, and sad to be in that circumstance.

I know all of this from experience. I have been at various times in the Jewish box, the modern dance box, the post-modern box, the female box, the middle aged female box and soon to be the old-female-white-girl box. If people could hold all these ideas at the same time, it wouldn’t be so bad, because I am all those things. What is detrimental to us all is when a label is applied as a single definition, which makes truth too simplistic.

Personally I love structure and structured thinking and I don’t mind the box imagery although as you can tell I hate the “you can only be in one” mentality that seems to accompany it. I don’t mind it because I know when the Jewish box knocks up against the postmodern box knocks up against the urban rural boxes…well great things can happen at those porous borders.

However, since I am at a new stage in my life, I would like to leave you with this: How about a group called Artists without Edges? No countries, no disciplines, no organizations, no boundaries, no edges. And then we can begin to redefine ourselves and be seen with the multiplicity.

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Art Making, Artistic Process, Arts Leadership, Philanthrophy, Teaching

The Amazing Rebecca Blunk

Courtesy of berkshirefinearts.com

Courtesy of berkshirefinearts.com

Today we got news that the amazing Rebecca Blunk will be stepping down as head of the New England Foundation for the Arts due to health and personal reasons.  I entreat everyone to take a moment and just close your eyes and thank Rebecca in whatever form you express gratitude.  She is a remarkable leader who has made so much possible for so many of us, with a quiet yet forceful style that we can all emulate.

I first met Rebecca in 1983 at the Practicing Cultural Democracy Conference held in Omaha, Nebraska.  We were both young, both seeking, both full of passion about a vision that was beginning to take shape that each of us felt compelled to follow.  It was a view that held that the power of art and art-making could be harnessed in so many ways.  Yes to dance making! Yes to community dance making! Yes to unorthodox means of making and seeing art! Yes to old people dancing! Yes to changing the politics of the country and the politics of the art world… and so it went on… yes, yes, and yes.

That is the thing about Rebecca.  She knows that risk lives in trying and experimenting, in doing and evaluating and then doing again.  I know this on a personal level as she has been a truly valued friend and colleague who has expected the most from me   And I know it on a physical level too as we made dances together just a few months ago.  Yes to the body healing!

 

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