Monday, March 20, 2017

Funding Arts

So here's the current national government budget proposal, planning to remove funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities. Yes, yes, shock and horror. And discouragement.

I keep thinking about it. As usual, I am tangled somewhat in understanding the relationships of art and craft, and of both of those and entertainment. They have fuzzy edges.

It's no news that our country does not much value art. If it makes sense to measure our valuing by our choice to pay for it, artists come out low. Dancers rarely make much money. Potters rarely make a living. There are some exceptions: the work of stars and celebrities in any field, while their fad continues; art that makes a good investment, because it is generally recognized as marvelous ( and inherently rare); art that is popularly entertaining, like good movies. And there is the support of people who artists treasure, because they like what we make.

If I am not interested in car racing, should I have to support it? If you walk by my booth at a craft fair and are not attracted to my pots, should you have to buy them? Surely not. This is the market at work.

So why should there be national endowments for anything? It's the difference between public and private choice.  Like other government support, an endowment for the arts is meant to encourage what is not taken care of by individual or commercial interest. No one seems to think we should pay for highways just by individual user fees.  But there are people who say; I have no kids, why should I pay for schools? And there have been proposals to fund state parks by user fees.

So the question becomes: what rates public support? Clearly, things which contribute to public welfare. Public health services, for example, because germs don't care if you can pay for your own medical care. Your unvaccinated child's illness threatens all too-young-to-vaccinate children. The person who provides your food, and has the flu, can give you the flu.

Clearly, public schools, because a well educated next generation supports us all, economically, civically, and personally as we age.

The purpose of government is to think and act on a bigger scale than individual people or businesses for what is beneficial to the society, large scale and long term. So should it support art? Should there be an active national endowment? Should public schools be able to fund music classes and performing groups? Should grants support ceramics residencies for training? Where are the edges between private concerns and public ones? We need the conversation about this, not just the rants.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Working with a Learning Goal

I am taking Pamela Kozminska's pottery class at the ECC, a part of the San Diego Community College. It is presented as a beginners' class, though we may take it many times, treat it as a community studio and help each other learn past the beginner class. I was not expecting to learn much, beyond the sharing of ideas and an occasional technique. I started there to have company in making pottery, for access to cone 10 reduction firing, and for the stimulation of other people's work.

Last term the school required all students state a learning goal, and write formally how we plan to approach it, what obstacles we expect and how we may overcome them. There was, of course, a bit of eye-rolling at participating in a generic, structured format (This is art, a studio class works differently from other learning...).  At the end of the term, we reflected on our work in light of the goals and plans.

Surprise! I found it wonderful and very helpful. I had a real goal: to make pots that weigh less. It required patience largely, throwing slowly and carefully, trimming more, not being satisfied sooner than a weight light enough for my approval. Got there! No, not for every pot, but I am pleased, and making light-weight pots. I had not noticed how complacent I had become, accepting as finished less good pots than I can make. No way to show that in a photo, but here are some.

I knew how to do that, just needed to actually do it. This term I intend to make pots with clean, even bottoms, still light-weight. Do I know how? Somewhat, but I think I'll need to search out some teachers among the students for help. This is real education, to discover what one needs to learn and how to get there, and then to pursue the learning. I appreciate the push.