Often when the concept of Professional-Amateurs or the capability of everyone to be creative comes up, there is a feeling of resistance that rises up among arts professionals. The study on creating public will for arts and culture that I have been citing this week addresses that a little.
Finally, our research found A POTENTIAL FOR PUSH-BACK FROM EXISTING CONSTITUENCIES for arts and culture (e.g., some arts leaders, working artists, arts educators, and arts and culture enthusiasts). Here, some respondents expressed concern that a focus on creative expression represents a dumbing down of the conversation about the value of arts and culture. Some artists, for example, chafe at the notion that “amateurs” and “hobbyists” might be lumped into the same category as those who have dedicated years of study, practice, and exploration to their art.
…Rather, the question of framing the subject is not either “creative expression” or “arts and culture,” but both/and. To those ends, our research suggests that framing the discussion in terms of creative expression is an entry point through which more people are receptive, increasing and diversifying the audience for whom the conversation has relevance.
Getting more people engaging in a conversation about arts and culture is a good thing. One of the benefits to people becoming more interested and invested in their hobby or area of interest is that the more they learn, the more they realize what they don’t know.
The only problem is that people are often satisfied with what they already know and don’t seek to learn more. As involved in the arts as I am, when I saw the “I Could Do That” video I included in a post last week, I had new respect for Piet Mondrian’s Tableau I. I wasn’t aware how difficult it is to execute using oil paint.
While I have never been dismissive of the work, I could have gone my whole life unaware of the technical skills necessary to create it.
But it can be valuable to remember that the arts aren’t the only arena in which people underestimate the degree of skill required.
Every year millions of kids around the world play baseball. It is a game that is easy for amateurs to participate in. Everyone understands, however, that only a select few have the skill to hit a baseball traveling in excess of 90 MPH…except for thousands of fans jeering at the ineptitude of the losing team.
Sports are still better served by having leagues of people of various ages, abilities and degrees of organization participating rather than athletes feeling threatened by the idea that people are being encouraged to think they have athletic ability.
It bears noting that participation in sports is waning both among those interested in playing and audiences. There may be a growing opportunity to engage people in creative expression as an alternative pursuit…or this may be a sign of a decreasing trend in participation in all types of activities.