Establishing and then maintaining active interest in the arts in small communities is almost always a challenge.
Patrons are few; audiences are small. Unlike European culture, ours has no obvious tie to hundreds, even thousands of years of artistic expression and art history. Small town residents here don’t get to eat lunch in front of a 400-year-old fountain by Bernini, or pass by the 2,500-year-old Parthenon on the way to work. Going to concerts or plays or exhibits takes time, and after all, isn’t it all on the Internet?
The arts aren’t promoted very much, either. The artists themselves aren’t usually much interested in self-promotion and since there is relatively little money to be made, there are no agents or promoters trying to drum up business for them.
Artists, writers, composers work in isolation mostly. It is work that requires solitude, dedication and a great deal of time and in truth, to be really good requires a degree of talent that most people don’t have.
People’s expectations affect how the arts are received as well. Whereas the movies, television, much fiction, pop music and decorative art are designed for mass consumption, crafted to create uniform reactions in a mass audience, the fine arts and performing arts create unique, personal, unpredictable individual responses. That is the metaphorical element that separates works of art from works designed to decorate, amuse, or provide momentary entertainment.
Many people in our society want predictable amusement and therefore are not comfortable with what the arts provide.
They provide the connection between the community and those who are striving to interpret the world around them and their place in it through visual, tactile and auditory expressions.
Every exhibit and every performance is an opportunity for people to share in those interpretations and perhaps in a small way be changed by them.
The current exhibitions at gallery 2: Sail, Riverspines and the photographs of William Jefferson Carpenter, and last week’s production of Deck by BDAC are excellent examples. They reflect an extremely wide variety of expression that promotes an even wider response.
It is oddly comforting to know that Ted Fogg, Erna Gobbett, Anya Soroka, and all those actively supporting gallery 2 and BDAC, are working hard to provide the community with such easy access to the arts. Not everything, after all, can be found on the Internet.
– Jim Holtz is a currently a reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette and WEEKENDER columnist.