Look out, it is the art police . . . again.
Auburn’s new mayor, Jonathan LaBonte, is surprisingly out of touch with the impact the arts have on the community, and the role the Twin Cities should play in investing in the arts.
L/A Arts has proven itself to be a vibrant and trustworthy artistic heartbeat for the Twin Cities. Now, LaBonte wants city councilors to put that heartbeat under their direct influence.
That is anathema to the artistic spirit. The moment art becomes the lapdog of those with the purse strings, artists and art in general will suffer to the detriment of the community at large.
Will the councilors attempt to say what art is, and what is not?
What credentials can they bring to their view of the arts? Do they have degrees in art, art history, art administration, dance, film, architecture or ceramics? On what educated basis will they make their stand?
Board members are named to fill an organization’s needs. If they don’t do that, most organizations reconsider their appointment. Do these proposed board members bring a supporting element to the arts in our area, or are they simply another governmental intrusion into our freedoms?
An arts board should bring things to the organization that are not based on being a fiscal or any other type of policing agent. Policing fiscal policy is done by budget review, not a place on the board of directors.
The budget review has been in place from day one, so why does the council ask for more input other than to attempt a petty power struggle?
I think that the councilors should show character and bow out of this arts policing policy.
It is a weak council that attacks an arts agency. I would think there are much bigger fish to fry, such as the perks, networking and kickbacks that attend political office. Those are things that should be policed.
It is heavily myopic for the councilors from the Twin Cities to extend their fingers into an area such as an arts agency.
Micromanaging is a ridiculous thing for councilors with responsible positions to do. They should learn to work alongside, and develop a relationship with L/A Arts, not police it. L/A Arts is an agency that makes the area attractive, vibrant and expressive.
I moved to this area because it was central to an area of artists that I respect, enjoy and want to be near. Now I am rethinking my choice because of this strange, politically-biased attitude portrayed in the voices of the city leaders. I dislike the ambiance it creates, and I question the validity of their arguments. I completely question the need for their presence on any arts board in the role of oversight agents, it is almost laughable.
Policing comes in many forms, some subtle, some more insidious than others. Michelangelo had to fight with his patron at the Vatican to paint images of high art, images we now hail as some of the greatest work of his age.
In Stalinist Russia, modernist techniques were allowed in propaganda posters, but any other signs of artistic experiment had been banned by decree in 1934 when socialist realism became official and artists were ordered to become engineers of the human soul.
Architecture was the most important of the arts for the Nazis. The innovative social housing projects of Weimar Germany, between the end of the First World War and the rise of Hitler were abandoned for a monstrous public architecture of authority.
In postwar America, the FBI secretly pumped millions of dollars into promoting the work of abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock and Theodore Roethke because it was felt that their huge abstract canvasses would bolster America's prestige around the world.
In Britain, the Tories have intervened in everything from education to the Arts Council, to promote a culture that stresses national unity and a common heritage.
Is this kind of propagandist expression really showing the American soul, the American dream of freedom and individuality? Is this the direction we want to go?
Our freedom begins right here, in the Twin Cities. To quote Tip O’Neill, “All politics is local,” and these small city based, personal issues, like local artists, rather than big and intangible ideas, are what those of us who live here in Lewiston-Auburn care the most about.
I hope the mayor and the Council hears these sentiments loudly, and clearly.
Leland Faulkner is an award-winning performing artist and film maker. He has served as a Maine Arts Commissioner, and was the former artistic director of Celebration Barn Theatre. He tours his solo performances around the world, recently returning from festivals in China and Russia. He is a resident of Auburn.