Have you ever taken a moment to think about how the arts are much like politics? You pour your heart out into a piece of art (be it a canvas painting or a dance work… as clarification, I’m usually referring to dance) in order to present it in front of an audience. At that point, your fate is no longer in your hands, but instead in the hearts of patrons; usually made up of a diverse group of people with varying tastes. As the artist, we like to think that we can change one’s mind or taste. That just because “ballet isn’t their thing” or they “like the abstract as opposed to the classical,” doesn’t mean that we are not going to be able to offer them such a heartfelt and true expression of our classical art form and blow them away.
Do you ever feel like this? For many of us, we hate to admit that people are set in their ways. Hate to admit that someone’s mind is usually made up before entering the theater’s house. And this is what keeps us going. We keep trucking down our path, eternally hopeful and optimistic that audiences will fall in love with us and not our competition. Does this not start to reflect politics?
It seems that every election season I find myself examining my art and the path with which I have taken. I see the candidates from both sides, filling our TV, radio, newspaper, and mailbox with their talking points and “election winning” policies. Then it makes me wonder… have I ever been swayed from one side to the other because of a superb performance by one candidate or another? Have I ever left my stance and taken up the path of a different perspective? Do I keep my creativity in a box because I don’t have respect for the other “side” or styles?
I guess this is where the similarities end. You see, I believe very strongly in the political views that I hold. It is hard for me to simply up and change those views because someone submitted an interesting take on the opposing policies. However, this is where I find the metaphor relevant: I will rarely (if ever) change my political position because of a good performance but I can (and have) gain respect for the opposition based on their delivery. I feel the same way about the arts. I have been to many performances that I was less than enthused about attending because of some presupposition built in my mind, yet I thoroughly enjoyed them. It didn’t change my preferences (I will always LOVE classical ballet) but it did open my eyes to something different and great.
We as artists and patrons need to keep that in mind as we live through our lives and share our art. We need to support one another, share our passions, and encourage healthy exploration of all forms and styles. Keep making your works because you love them; not because you want to change the minds of your patrons. Perhaps the arts should take a “purple state” mentality rather than a defined red or blue. I will always hold to my political preferences, but perhaps my exposure in the arts world can become more diverse. It seems we see the benefits of the arts at every turn, so why not support all kinds?
So as the political season shapes up for its “super bowl,” take a look at your range of art exposure. What is your taste? What have you declined to support? Maybe we can collaborate to create that esteemed purplish hue in all of our communities and personal experiences. Happy Election Season and Good Luck in diversifying your portfolio!