Letter from the Editor: Resolutions of an Arts Consumer
I should probably lay it bare here: I don’t make new year’s resolutions.
I can’t wait until January first to make a life-changing goal. I can hardly wait till Monday. Each goal is like a new book with a spine that hasn’t been cracked. However, since many of you dear readers do make resolutions this time of year, I don’t want to be left out of the conversation. Thus, I’ve resolved to…make some resolutions. We’ve stepped through December 31 and into a pristine 2018.
Anecdotally speaking, one of the most significant arts audience demographics is artists themselves. I mention this because, unlike other arts audience demographics, artists have an extra share of skin in the game. Of course, we all have civic responsibilities to our community and an obligation to be ethical consumers (or as much of one as possible). Artist-art audiences, though, particularly suffer or thrive when those responsibilities and obligations are met or not in connection with patronizing the arts. So, the following resolutions may be of some interest to all arts audiences, but perhaps especially to artists supporting their own community.
A brief note: these truly are personal resolutions based on my current good habits as well as those I lack. I don’t intend for them to be a guide to anyone but myself. However, I hope it may be one of several sparks that ignites a desire to be an even more potent arts patron in 2018.
Resolution no. 1: Buy more visual art.
Let’s just say I’m not of the collector class. I’m a journalist, which may be telling regarding the size of my budget. Alright, it’s tiny (and that’s on the days immediately following pay day).
However, there is good news for collectors such as us. (1) This arts community is made for collectors like us. We don’t have an abundance of blue-chip, Basel-bound (Switzerland not Miami), Artforum ad artists and galleries. They are not in your budget (and it pains me to say it, but likely will never be in your budget). Rather, our abundance is in exciting emerging artists, artists who are on the cusp of being the sought-afters of New York and Miami, artists who have been overlooked by everyone else, not for lack of talent, but for simply getting lost in the saturation. This abundance is in your budget. Often, they are also creating the most exciting work: without anything (like a career) to lose, they are frequently more adventurous and innovative.
As a collector with comparatively little to lose (think hundreds versus millions of dollars), this allows me to also be adventurous in my buying. (2) At this level of art buying, I’m not buying to invest, I’m buying simply because a piece speaks to me. I do it only for my own pleasure. I’m not concerned with what is “good” or fashionable or from artists with promising CVs or ROIs. I only buy what I love. That said, my goal for 2018 is to purchase at least one work of art each season, four by this time next year.
Resolution no. 2: Read paper, read local, buy local.
I read a lot and, heretofore, I’ve stuck strictly to eBooks. They’re less expensive, easier to store, lighter to carry, occupy less space in my hand and bag and shelf—they are unavoidably more convenient in almost every way.
However, also unavoidably, they often steer me to the giants of bookselling: Amazon (Kindle), Google (Play) and Barnes & Noble (Nook). It’s also less social. On my tablet, while reading in public, I’m still reading in private, no outward facing covers. Visiting the Amazon website, or perusing the Nook app, there are only algorithmic recommendations, no shop keeper that sees the ineffable corners of my taste and personality.
While on a field trip, conducting research for an article, I visited St. Petersburg’s Tombolo, a carefully curated pop-up book shop. After asking all my journalistic questions I briefly wandered the small space. Alsace, the owner, helped me choose between offerings, showed off impressive embossing from an independent press, spoke with me at length and, finally as I walked out, handed me a bookmark, something I haven’t used in years. The read is essentially the same, but the purchase was so much more enjoyable (while also providing some value to my community, keeping dollars here rather than sending them speeding down ethernet cables and out of state).
So, my goals for 2018 are threefold: (1) To only buy books from locally-owned shops, (2) to get off the tablet and onto paper, and (3) to read at least five books by Florida writers in 2018.
Resolution no. 3: Make the theatre a weekend option
To be fair, my wife and I attend opera and orchestra performances frequently. With a bit of planning, we can often purchase a pair of tickets for less than $50. They are the cheap seats, the nose-bleeds, yes. But even cheap seats are better than recordings and headphones. Peculiarly, however, we have omitted theatre—plays, musicals, etc.—from our list of answers to “What do you want to do next weekend?”
I frankly have no idea why. Perhaps it’s because the theater often asks us to be more adventurous. My wife can hum multiple arias to each opera we see. But, for the most part, we wouldn’t know the synopsis behind a play before we see it. Unlike movies, we would be less familiar with the actors. After some reflection, though, this adventurousness that the theatre offers and demands seems to be a strength. As the big screen seems to dodder into irrelevance with safe bets on endless installments of super-hero flicks and reboots heaped upon reboots, local theatre companies have the freedom to stay relevant and timely and explore issues of hyper-local concern.
My goal here for 2018 is to (1) attend three performances at three different theatres this year, (2) learn about the discipline and (3) suss out my taste.
Resolution no. 4: Talk.
Perhaps like you, I’m the “artsy” one in my family. I go to museums to relax, I attend art receptions for work and fun, I see more operas than movies. But I also keep it all to myself. Otherwise, I feel like I’m humblebragging or intruding on the taste of others. But how much have others talked at me about Stranger Things, Star Wars, Kendrick’s latest album in the last year (admittedly, I enjoyed all three but still…)?
*Steps up onto soapbox* My choices for arts, culture and entertainment are just as valid as anyone else’s! Even if they are locally created and produced, not well known and are not on screens large or small. *Steps off soapbox*
Speaking to others about the arts and culture I enjoy frames it as a legitimate choice for entertainment. This in turn will encourage others to add local arts and culture to their list of entertainment options. Or at least that’s how the theory goes. I intend to test it in 2018 with the goals of sharing books I’ve enjoyed, performances that have impressed me, art that has moved me whenever it comes to mind. I’ll invite others to join me in attending art exhibitions, music and theatre performances, and museum visits instead of deciding for them by never asking.