I can't believe that it is already February! I guess time flies when you are constantly digging yourself out of the snow! This week it was actually colder in my home state of Texas than it was in Boston... that was a little bit difficult to hear because I am really looking forward to my week-long visit at the end of February.
I will be traveling to Austin, Texas, to speak at a symposium at my alma mater at the end of the month and I am both excited and nervous! I was invited to speak almost two years ago by one of my favorite former professors who is actually organizing the entire event also known as the Brown Symposium. This year's theme is, "Think, Converse, Act: The Salon and Its Histories." A really great post about what the Symposium's Director means when referring to salon culture can be found here. The symposium itself will feature three lectures on salon history by scholars and three moderated conversations "among professionally and ideologically far-flung individuals about important but elusive disciplinary intersections in today’s world: (1) art, science, and religion; (2) education, technology, and the arts; and (3) ethics, the arts, and public policy. (quoted from the Brown Symposium homepage)" I will take part in the last two conversations happening on February 24 and 25.
I find the prospect of speaking about education, technology, and the arts to be challenging as there are a few approaches that one can take. I think that technology has constantly challenged the way that artists create and audiences experience; however I believe that the changes that we are seeing are more widespread than we have ever before seen. Technology does provide useful tools and resources to build a new knowledge base for arts education, but I think that it comes at a very high price. The movement toward technology is expensive and in many cases institutions wish to “upgrade” but arts organization rarely have the resources necessary to do so and maintain said technology. Web based technology, like social networking, provide an easy way artists and arts organizations to share their work and events. Any type of technological tool also requires a certain amount of training and time, and the time spent maintaining social networks makes them just as much of a burden of anything else…. Even if they don’t cost money!
Speaking about ethics, the arts, and public policy is also a little challenging but for different reasons. Many of the challenges that the arts experience are due to things that have happened in the past. I think that the controversies that were spun out of control during the late twentieth century really shaped the way that the American public values art and sadly it is the root of what has become the struggle for the arts in this country. The tensions between the government and the funding of public arts projects or even funding arts education in the public school systems are sadly all related. Government funding for the arts in the post modern era has become a conflict of interest as the government does not want to be held accountable for what an artist creates.
All of these issues have been mulling around in my mind for the last year and a half because it is at the center of arts administration. The most challenging aspect of preparing for this symposium is deciding where I stand on issues. In most cases I find myself somewhere in the middle... I guess we will see where I end up after loads more reading and a bit more time!
Have a great week!