April 20, 2013
I’ve been working on a book for the past years on and off. It is about why art is important and what its worth is outside of an economic one. Lots of the posts in this blog have been exploring this topic (see, for example the categories art and the market or art and healing).
The deeper I go into it, the more I see that it is not an isolated issue, that the changes needed and indeed happening in the arts are changes happening in every sector and will shake this whole society to its roots.
That is why it feels on topic to talk about an amazing TV program I saw here in Holland this week. Here is a link if you are Dutch. It was called ‘Transitions’ and addressed the present crisis and the creative initiatives happening at grass roots level to come out of it. Actually the projects in the program were not about ‘coming out of a crisis’ but creating a new way of living in society.
The main focus was on Jan Rotmans, professor of Transition studies in Rotterdam. He says that in Holland there are maybe 10,000 creative people who are thinking and acting in a completely new way,, outside the existing paradigm. They are the tippers (ie causing the society to tip into a new way of being), and the thinkers so far outside of the box that the box doesn’t even exist.
Rotmans says we are in a crisis that is different from any before, that this sort of crisis happens once every 100-150 years, and
it isn’t that we’re living in an era of change, but in a change of eras.
Briefly, this is a deep and far reaching systems crisis- we are in a transition period between a consumer society and a sharing society.
The program focused on 5 different projects each in a different sector- healthcare, energy, urban design, building, and mobility. For example, the neighbourhood care project (Buurtzorg) now in every city in Holland and soon to be picked up by the US, Sweden, and Japan. Jos de Blok’s simple idea is to put the responsibility for care and the organisation of care back into the hands of the professionals who do it,and cut out managers and middle managers. It is based on small local groups of nurses and social workers who hire and fire, manage their schedules, and pay system etc. This saves money and improves care. And it works.
Another project brings people who want transport together with those who are offering it – a new kind of carpooling, but via internet. Poeple make a profile, there is a feedback system, the payment goes via the site. (Toogethr.nl – founder Martin Voorzanger) Voorzanger says,
the trend is toward trust not only being a condition for a sharing economy, but the new currency as well.
If people increasingly barter, trade, rent- they take their consuming into their own hands instead of buying from big companies. then this will be the real economy and we’ll stop measuring in terms of economic growth.
The new values emerging in all these initiatives are trust, connection, community building, self sufficiency, sustainability.
So yes, it is crisis, and at the same time it is an incredible opportunity to build new ways of relating to each other, using energy, living in neighborhoods, taking care of each other, and getting what we need in terms of objects and services.
The arts too have a role to play in this transition- as tools to assist and catalyse transformation in times of change.
So I’ll be writing more about this topic in future posts, and hopefully one day gather it all together in a book to give hope and inspiration to everyone whose heart has been touched by music, painting or other arts. And whose heart, like mine, is breaking when they see how marginalised and commercialized the arts have become in this soulless society we’ve all created together.
We are capable of better, I know it.
April 18, 2013
Pittsburgh PA, photo source here
It has been awhile since my last posting. Things have been quiet here on the inspiration and work front. A couple of projects I was working on fell through and I’ve landed in a creative void. But I’ve learned that these periods always pass and bring with them a whole new energy or direction. So I am weathering this time of relative inactivity fairly well. And anyway, there is always the garden. Finally!
Another reason for not so much activity here is that I’m getting ready for a long postponed trip back to my home town, Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve not been back for 10 years and though Holland is now home, I’m needing to reconnect with my original homeland (though I was born in Ireland, but that is another story).
I want to speak English instead of Dutch, feel like I belong instead of being the eternal ‘buitenlander'(foreigner) , get the feel of the country, (re-)meet people and explore Pittsburgh. The old familiar neighbourhoods as well as all the new spaces that have been opened up and developed. I’ll have 5 weeks to do this. Hopefully I will figure out how to blog from there so I can share my impressions.
I loved growing up in Pittsburgh. It is an embraceable city, perched elegantly on the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers merge to form the Ohio. When I was a girl, the rivers were lined with monumental black steel works. When we would drive into town from the suburbs at night, the skies would be lit up orange as the molten steel was being poured.
Now the rivers are cleaned up, there are walking and cycling paths where steel mills once thrived, and everything has changed.
The things I loved about this city were the diverse ethnic groups, each with their own neighbourhoods and events, though still integrated into the whole. And the many large universities, making it one big university town, and the parks, and very rich cultural life, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the International Art exhibition, the Carnegie museums and libraries.
Funnily enough, I’ve landed in a similar place in Holland. I love Groningen as well, it has a lot of water moving through it, it is also a university town, and is rich culturally.