The arts have a crucial role to play Part 3, Organisations need to change but so do artists

November 27, 2012

continued from previous post, The arts have a crucial role to play Part 2

Organisations need to change, but so do artists

By their nature, organisations and systems  don’t support change- they are designed to perpetuate ‘the same’, (‘We have always done it like this’), and will fight to stay as they are. As a result they atrophy and begin to break down- look at the banks, healthcare systems, education etc.

The problems these structures are facing can’t be solved from within the same paradigm that caused them, that is why creative thinking is needed and artists are being called on by every organisation imaginable from corporations to government bodies, healthcare institutions, prisons, and school systems. Artists bring the essence of creative practice to areas like these where it can make a difference.

One of the most important points in the book is that it isn’t just the system that needs to change in order to bring arts into a central role where it can do its transformative work, but artists too need to re-define their contribution and position.

Bert Mulder is a Dutch innovative thinker lecturer, author, futurologist, and information technologist. In Chapter 26, Between Grace and Fear he challenges us artists to get off our position of, ‘Oh, I’m just on the fringes and all these external factors (subsidy cuts, attitude toward artists, organisational difficulties, government policies) are against me getting work and making an income’. Mulder:

So, you see yourselves at the edges of society. But I was in the Welford School (UK) yesterday talking to a teacher and she said,

“Well, we had the national curriculum and we were all dying from it. It was horrible. So, we said we can’t go on like this anymore. Then we had a couple of artists coming in and all of a sudden, the artists said, ‘We will just start and ask the kids what they want to do’.”

The kids came up with ideas, which actually  deeply changed her view of what a child is.
For the first time, she noticed that kids can do much more than she ever envisioned. It actually transformed her notion, as an educator of what a child is.

How is it that you have to bring artists into the educational system to bring about that kind of transformation?

And when artists bring about that kind of transformation in education, in business, in the care sector, and in democracy in the larger civil society, how are you (artists) dealing with it?

Is that a responsibility or do you still think that you’re at the edges of society…

Maybe I’m projecting onto you more than you want or more than you are able to respond to.
That could be a problem, because this need in society will be filled. If you don’t fill it, somebody else will, but not with the same kind of quality.

– Bert Mulder, from Between Grace and Fear.

Mulder goes on to say that artists need to take responsibility, for themselves, their work, their communities, and be intentional and committed.

In the 60s and 70s art activism was mostly in the form of political protest- think of John Lennon and Yoko Ono televised in their hotel bed in New York protesting war. Actions like these were mostly one-off isolated gestures. Our times call for a different kind of art activism.

Artists need to invest their time and energy in their cause and commit to it. They need to form relationships with individuals and organisations  related to that cause. And finally, to be effective, they need to embed themselves in the community where they want to see the positive change happen.

The new art activism engages people and provides a context for them to take action, making, creating and giving voice to their vision. Creativity becomes a tool to improve on the context, giving a gift to it, not using it for one’s own brilliant agenda (M.Matanovic). It is definitely about art in service to.

But the real message is that if we artists don’t take ourselves and our work seriously, no one else will either.

One Response to “The arts have a crucial role to play Part 3, Organisations need to change but so do artists”

  1. Well said – as usual!

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