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Re: [BKARTS] Secretary for the Arts

Clearly, Roberta, we need to clarify the meaning of “belong.” I would argue that your concept of “the arts belong to everyone” is an abstract, formal one – the kind of thing you’ll find in the UN Charter. I, for one, have no doubt that the arts should “belong” to everyone, but my experience is, that there is a huge gap between the abstract concept and the tough, everyday struggle to make them available to everyone – not as mere consumers, but as active participants, creators, deciders, *shapers*.  

Where we would surely disagree, is that those who support and encourage the abstract idea are most often, and often unconsciously, in a struggle to discourage the reality by any means necessary. You draw a distinction between The Big City and the "boots on the ground" of small-town America, and there is a distinction, but it's quantitative: the struggle is even worse in "the provinces." Why else would the kids flock to Manhattan, except to escape the day-to-day drumbeat of teachers and artcrats telling them the arts "belong" to them - as passive consumers and victims. Not that it's much better in Manhattan, mind you, but at least we have company in our misery.

Allow me to add, in passing, that there’s something a bit patronizing, and rather futile, about the idea of using the image of a black president to encourage black kids to buy opera tickets.  What if the kids become encouraged to become presidents, mayors, or political activists? Or is that the point of pushing them towards the arts to begin with?

Paul Werner, New York

WOID: A journal of visual language
"Museum Inc.: Inside the Global Art World" (Prickly Paradigm/University of Chicago Press)

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