Sunday, March 14, 2010

Boston and Art

Boston is my adopted art home, I was born and educated on the west coast. So my perceptions of the energy of the local art scene are colored by that experience, and equally by my participation in the vibrancy of the SMFA. I read the thought provoking Boston Globe discussion of the Boston art arena, "How to start an art revolution", and I began to think about a certain sense of fatalism I first perceived as a newcomer to Boston. The Red Sox had notably not won a World Series for a very long time, and that seemed to become an entrenched attitude about their chances - period. Similarly, I have had more than one conversation at a South End First Friday about the exodus of cutting-edge artists away from Boston as a many decades long phenomenon.

I have traveled to New York as do most Boston artists. I appreciate the variety and diversity I see there. But I don't particularly want to see the New York look cloned onto Boston, I want the Boston look to become both more energetic, experimental, and more unique as its own style of value in the world.

Article author/educator/painter Dushko Petrovich raises many valid thoughts about the problems and possibilities of taking the region to the next level. If the big money is in NYC or LA, then we do indeed need to create a viable working environment to encourage artists to seek out Boston. Part of these possibilities, the commitment to a new and permanent home by Mobius in the South End is one recent upward trend. The economy may be in a lull, but that is the exact best time that new faces can emerge on the scene, such as Walker Contemporary, NKG (disclaimer - my co-owned gallery), or Galvinized - all new to the South End. In the Greater Boston Area, the Arsenal Center for the Arts has a new energetic director, Sharon Glennon, and a new mission to promote visual arts side-by-side with its already strong theatre arts program.

For government and universities to change and be part of the solution, things quite a bit more difficult have to happen. Institutions like those are averse to risk, and will move much more slowly toward change. When I first moved to Boston, it seemed odd to me that Harvard University lacked a Master of Fine Arts program as an option. Relatively recently, Boston has added one low residency graduate program through AIB, Non-art focused colleges such as Babson have created artist in residence options. Bentley University has established a new Media and Culture Major that brings a high level of rigor and preparation to newer media studies. As an educator, I have continued to find the talents of student in my art classes to be exemplary - and most of them want to try and make Boston possible as their post college home. If we could all encourage communities to promote more public art - particularly more temporal and experimental in quality, everyone would benefit for the conversations that are created (love it or hate it). I would welcome more floating/ephemeral galleries, and see no end of possibilities - but it will take hard work with a healthy does of patience.

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