Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Minister of Culture???

Cultural Blueprints hopes to develop area arts scene!
According to this article, the state Council on the Arts is holding sessions across the state
. . . to develop an area’s arts scene, culture and history as a catalyst for economic development, said Heather Hitchens, executive director of the arts council.
An important part of businesses deciding where to locate is the community, including the talent pool, local schools and arts and cultural resources, said Kenneth Tompkins, regional director of the Empire State Development Mohawk Valley Regional Office.
What an absolute crock!

Utica may be small, but its cultural resources are rich, and have been rich for a long time: The Utica Symphony, MV Ballet, M-W-P Arts Institute, Sculpture Space, Players Theater, Turning Stone, etc. etc. Communities our size elsewhere would die to have what we have . . . BUT THEY ARE THRIVING AND WE ARE NOT.

Anyone with half an ounce of awareness of what is going on around them can see that cultural opportunities, as wonderful as they are for enriching our lives, rarely contribute to economic development in the manner in which Mr. Tompkins suggests.

Rather, it is the other way around: As an area goes into economic decline, cultural amenities slowly wither away. Buffalo, which has always had a thriving arts scene, just lost its Studio Arena Theater. The community could no longer support it. Utica's Summer Arts Festival sponsored by MWPAI is only a shadow of what it was as little as 5 years ago, the performing arts offerings severely curtailed. How much longer will Greater Utica be able to support the Ballet or the Symphony? Fund drives seem to come more often seeking more money.
About 60 people attended various workshops during the day to identify weaknesses, opportunities and calls for action.

When the group convened later in the day, they had identified some common problems and possible solutions.

Solutions?
. . . better relationships and communications between organizations . . .
. . . better links between large and small organizations . . .
Creating a united voice and vision for state organizations . . .

Sounds more like a lot of opportunities for our elites to meet and greet . . . and to marshal social pressure for more public funding (grants).
Those who attended the event included officials from Otsego, Schoharie, Montgomery, Fulton, Herkimer and Oneida counties. They said they were generally pleased about its direction.
Of course they were pleased . . . they are public officials who have found an excuse to justify their positions . . . and to get a day out of the office.

If government downsized by getting rid of positions focusing on cultural and other types of development, and doing away with all the grants, the money left in people's pockets would fund entrepreneurial activity, which would create more jobs, which would increase incomes . . . which would support the arts.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe the should have had the meeting in the shell Players building on State St. What a poor example and a waste of money.

Mrs. Mecomber said...

Proof that a society is quickly digressing into a fascism-like organization is the need for a "minister" of culture to shove "educational" programs down our throats. This area is rich in history and culture, but we are too busy working 3 to 4 jobs so we can pay the taxes and still feed the family. No time for culture. So they come up with taxpayer-funded programs in order to keep their jobs.

Pamela Niskanen said...

I read your blog frequently and I think you usually have great information, and I agree with your opinions.

However, I think you are a little too vehement about the Cultural Blueprints event - you are responding to things you read, but you didn't actually go to the session, did you? I did, I am an independent artist and not a politico or official, and there were several other progressive like-minded individuals present - I thought we had some really constructive conversations throughout the day.

Utica's major cultural institutions are not elitist - the MWPAI has an individual membership for only $35 per year, which anyone who cares to give up the occasional glass of Utica Club could afford. The Stanley has high ticket prices to some events, but also offers their space free for art exhibitions and other events that benefit the community.

I know you want this to be a great city - I'm there for you, man, but if you want things to change you have to participate in change and not just talk about it.

Strikeslip said...

Pam - Thanks for writing. Your point is well taken.

You are correct, our cultural institutions are not elitist, but it is the opposite: they are very accessible. That's one thing that makes Greater Utica such a great place to be!

What I'm having a problem with here is the government involvement with our cultural institutions communicating with each other. I would much rather see the institutions taking the initiative themselves and steering their own ship. When I read of "a united voice and vision for state organizations" I sense a larger agenda that might not be comprenhendable at the local level - yet.

While for some aspects of our lives (eg environmental protection) government involvement is probably necessary, the arts do not seem to need this.

Government involvement leads to government control.