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Alberta Arthurs Photo: Flash Rosenberg

Crystal Trascot, Alberta Arthurs and Jeffrey Brown

In an essay for Art needed? (NYU Press), Ford Foundation President Darren Walker writes that the impact of art cannot be quantified because “the impact of empathy or love cannot be measured”.

Walker, who played an important role in strengthening Detroit’s artistic community during the city’s economic crisis in the mid-2000s, argues that art is not just necessary, “it is an example for all our work.”

Alberta Arthurs, co-editor Art needed? with Michael F. Dinishia agrees that art often goes beyond mere entertainment.

“We lack the fact that art is very intimate, and also importantly concerned with the larger problems of our time and the greatest aspirations we have as a nation,” Arthurs says. “We tend to bet [the arts] or use them to reassure oneself, not to see common sense and the political positions and actions that art should inspire. ”

Arthur will appear on May 12 in an interview with PBS NewsHour Chief Art, Culture and Society correspondent Jeffrey Brown and Crystal Trascat, playwright, director and founder of the Progress Theater, as guests of the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series “Made Local”. .

25 essays in Art needed? supervised by Arthurs, a senior fellow at the John Bradmass Center of New York University, who was president of the then Chatham College from 1977-1982. She asked poets such as Edwin Hirsch, artists including Mary Miss, art director Oscar Justis, composer Tanya Leon and choreographer and performer Elizabeth Streb, to write an essay on what makes art necessary.

“It was amazing to me that so few people refused me,” Arthur said. “I didn’t dare ask because they were all busy people, but they answered immediately.”

The collected works of the respondents become a template for why art matters. There are fervent requests to support art, moderate analysis and fact-based dissertations that try to prove the intrinsic value of art.

In an essay by Justis, he writes about a theater group that has toured the rural states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota with the staging of Lynn Notage’s play The Sweat. In her essay “Leading Institutional Change: A New Thinking About Mission, Values, and Goals,” Jesse Rosen, director general of the American League of Orchestras, and director general of the Metropolitan Museum Daniel Weiss write about the Louisiana Philharmonic moved by Hurricane Katrina.

In both cases, the opportunity to transfer art from the familiar to the new proved to be very important for artists and spectators.

Arthur believes that artists should not only make their work accessible, but also explain why they create art.

“They have an idea that the work will speak for itself, if they make it and hang it, mount it or put it in front of us in another way, you will find out why it is there,” she says. “They very rarely do what they do in this book, which talks about why they do what they do.”

Arthur adds that when artists are asked to talk about it, they do “pretty good work”.

“I think once you read about art in our newspapers, it’s when critics write about it,” she said. “You’re told to watch something or not, a good performance last night was or could have been better. It’s not how these things reflect the life we ​​lead and have aspirations for. It’s just a matter of execution. ”

There are many discoveries in the book. Most people don’t know or have forgotten that Bell Laboratories in New Jersey and XEROX Parc Laboratory in California once employed full-time artists to add creativity to their research teams. Or that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office hired James Huff, who served 27 years for the murder he committed as a teenager, as a resident artist.

Other artists share personal reflections. Photographer Deborah Willis cataloged her time of isolation during the pandemic in photographs and mentioned the value of Emmett Till’s photographs and George Floyd’s photographs. Angela Cox writes about the art of indigenous peoples in “This We Are,” and composer Tanya Leon tells the story of her journey from Cuba to the United States.

“I think a lot of the essays resonate with that reflection on the release of art into the wider world,” Arthurs says. “Art can be a means to that end. I think it manifests itself in different ways. “


Art needed? 18.00 Thu, 12 May. Carnegie Library Lecture Hall. 4400 Forbes Ave., Auckland. Live streaming is also available. Free with registration. pittsburghlectures.org

https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/revelatory-essay-collection-asks-are-the-arts-essential/Content?oid=21605946

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