Local Art

“I’m encouraged by the “eat local” movement. Some studies show that our stomachs weren’t actually designed to be able to digest such an endless variety of foods at all times. Thanks to globalization, we now have access to fruits and veggies from all parts of the world during all seasons ANY time we want. I wonder if the same may be true for the arts. While I wouldn’t advocate strict restrictions on what art people consume, I just wonder if there is something about local art, created in our own communities that especially resonates with and soothes the mind and soul in a way that other communities’ arts can’t.”

Amanda Opelt

The quote comes from this excellent post.

I’m intrigued by her analogy of “local art” to local food.  Here’s more from her post:

“In his novel Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut writes about how back in the old days (before advances in transportation, trade, communication), there would be one artist or one songwriter or one storyteller in a village of, say, 1,000 people. And that one artist was loved and supported and needed by that whole community. His or her art was unique to that distinct population, and could tell that one community’s particular, specific story. And while that artist may not have been a prodigy or genius, he added value and was valued by the community. Vonnegut writes:

“…Simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions…. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap-dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an ‘exhibitionist.’ How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, ‘Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!’

And Vonnegut wrote that before the internet.”

It rings true to me that moderately gifted artists who would once have been community treasures, nowadays are likely to be generally overlooked.  (Although no doubt some will respond that this isn’t true in their community.) I realize that just as there are a core group of people who come out to the farmers market to get local food that has the taste of the community, there will be some folks in Boone who buy Amanda’s record or come out to hear her play.  But the radio stations will be playing Clear Channel or K-Love and the vast majority of the people in her hometown will have never heard of her, just as 99% of the people in most communities still go to the grocery store to buy generic food from who-knows-where rather than the great food grown right in their communities. My guess is that will be the story just about everywhere these days.

In any event, I like the idea of recovering and celebrating truly “local” art–songwriters, musicians, poets, painters, sculptors, potters, singers, dancers, writers and artists of all other stripes, whose art might be said to have the terroir of a specific place and community, and therefore is of great value within that community, regardless of how it stacks up critically or commercially against superstars, masterpieces and mass-produced one-size-fits-all art.

My computer swap was delayed a day, but I’ll be offline for the next few days. Back soon.