Your commentary is a good starting point for those interested in studying the subject of Central Indiana’s attitude toward the arts and artists (Hoppe, “How We Talk About Art,” May 23-20). In the ’80s, I was in with a small group of arts advocates at a meeting (if you could call it that) where a lot of different approaches were discussed. There were some off the cuff speeches about how we as individuals should endeavor to take advantage of all the opportunities available even though there were few. More radical elements there thought that trying to organize to “get the word out” was begging and the real problem was that you have to pay your dues. I wasn’t sure if they meant individually or collectively.
Indianapolis is still growing up and we have done all the wrong things to stimulate the arts. I’m not trying to insult anyone, though it makes me pretty mad, some of the dumb things we do. Art competitions are sometimes designed to flatter the sponsor or their product than they are the arts and people have to break from their better projects to participate. If art sponsors really wanted to stimulate the arts, the competitions’ rules could be broader (for art’s sake) and the sponsor could look less self-serving but more grown up in the end. The bar or restaurant that has a showing of art could put a hold on the drum circle and nostalgic fashion show and be a little more grown up about the arts. Then there are the groups who say they are dedicated to promoting the arts but only show their circle of friends and don’t allow outsiders a crack at the call to entry. Then there are others who charge $50 to look at your stuff (but you are not guaranteed a place in the show and your money is not refundable) that will complain when they generate no interest. That radio station, weekly newspaper, local park official and/or historical society that promises nice prizes should actually feel obligated to deliver that publicity and those prizes. Hopefully they’ve solicited something nice from merchants who only need minor mention instead of it turning out again to be about them and not the arts. That would be grown up.
Once I was invited to a local arts promotion to announce the winner of a poster competition that I had entered only to hear them say after the winner was chosen that it didn’t hurt that they had been a volunteer in the program last year. That wasn’t very grown up. A photo competition that I am in is supposed to be on display at French Lick Resort Casino at this writing but I have yet to receive a confirmation letter or notice of what I’ve won. These things cost money and time to enter and yet no press release or anything has yet to have been issued as far as I know. The show will be over in about two weeks.
My personal pet pisser are the shows that sell or destroy “artwork” there on the spot. I could not bring myself to support something like that. That’s not an art show, it’s a side show. All of the situations described here I have experienced firsthand. The questions is ... How do we help ourselves mature into a place where people accept art as an important part of our lives? I’ve got a few ideas about it, but I’m just one person.