We are often warned that art, and solutions in general, created by committee isn’t any good and doesn’t please anyone. But I wonder, if everyone involved feels ownership in what is produced and it strengthens the community, does it necessarily have to be of high quality aesthetically?
The wide gazing eyes of Thomas Cott fell upon a project sponsored in Mexico by the Scribe paper company. The company attached a small apartment to a billboard to house the artist who would be painting an advertisement for the company.
Over the course of 10 days the artist took suggestions about what to paint submitted over Twitter. The result may never be hailed as a work of genius, but the project garnered a lot of attention for Scribe. (You can see section details here) I am guessing it also strengthened the company’s relationship with a good segment of their customer base.
I am not sure what sort of guidance the artist was given by Scribe about integrating suggestions into her work, but apparently about 50 were used on the billboard.
Let’s pursue art for art sake and strive for excellence always. But for as much as we talk about connecting with our communities, it can often have the subtext of “but only on our own terms.” As Howard Sherman pointed out, there is a lot of disdain for anything tinged as low populism community theatre.
The primary goal of a community theatre production may have less to do with creating good art than spending time accomplishing something in cooperation with your neighbors. Heck, most guys who go fishing don’t want to actually catch something, they want to drink beer with their buddies.
So we may talk about how the arts need to connect with their community, but are we really ready to produce art for community sake, rather than art for art sake, and run the risk of creating really bad art that results in people feeling more connected with each other?
It likely takes starting from a place where you put community connections first and the pride and ego of the organization second. Scribe could have ended up in a situation where they had their name attached to a really ugly billboard in a prominent spot and they had to figure out what was the minimum amount of time they had to leave it up before they could paint it over.
It takes courage to cede control in a very public way. Just as not every masterful artist has the ability to teach what they know to others, not every artist and arts organization has the ability to lead a project like this to a good outcome.