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The Art Center Reverts to Type

Officially on the Dole

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 17, 2000.

The Dairy Center for the Arts is now officially on the Public Dole, and the nauseating pageant continues. It would most illuminating if someone, anyone, went back and did a concordance of all the financial statements made regarding the Dairy for the last 12 years and held people accountable, much as we should for statements about the hundred year flood. This never happens with Art Centers, though.

Always the art community, by which is meant the usual suspects, will propose some utterly unrealistic plan, and slowly over the years it becomes a burden on the general fund. The creative art groups, the ones that deal with kids and the poorer elements of society, are forced out by increased rent. The ones with the social connections and therefore the most funding stay and grow larger. It happens everywhere, and not just in Boulder. Has art improved, has new ground been broken, has the general public received much for the immense amounts of cash it has shelled out? Has it received anything?

Generally, it produces an orchestral unit of no distinction sawing through the Mel Bay Orchestra Book of Familiars. Also, a classical dance company of no distinction whose sole financial income is derived from the yearly Nutcracker performance. Neither group produces anything written in the last one hundred years. Also, lots of administration offices.

Who benefits? Well, the people who now have underwritten office space. Who are they? Just guess.

Really, of all the artistic performances you have visited in the last decade, what percentage of them that you liked were tax supported? I mean the ones where your friends weren't the artist, and you weren't sleeping with the first cellist, but the performances you went to for the performance alone? Really, do you go to the Nutcracker to be musically inspired, to weep for the dancer's beauty, to have a moment with the cosmos? Or do you go to see the neighbors kids cavort in costume. If the latter, and it is the latter, should we all be taxed to supply you with that moment, a moment that can be defined as not only a cliche with all original artistic meaning and beauty drained out of it, but as a badly performed cliche? Further, given the ubiquity of the music, how good was the orchestra playing something they play a lot, eh? Any bad moments, missed entrances, bad notes? You know there were. Admit it. Worth it?

And of course we have the local cable television programs, with a realistic weekly audience of fourteen exclusive of family. Those studios are in the Dairy. If a gaggle of terrorists invaded the studios and spit roasted the odd show host over a slow flame, would anyone notice? Would anyone care or reach for the phone for else but pizza? From the amount of press the controversial cable TV station receives, you'd think it was a front burner issue in Boulder. In fact, the overpowering unimportance of the Dairy and its contents is rather staggering - artistically and socially - to the city it purports to serve. If it vanished today and the press didn't cover it's lost advertising, what percentage of Boulder would ever know ;And it is costing you a lot to achieve this status.

I would be wobbled if all the money, all the effort produced much. It just does boilerplate performances, predictable efforts, and lots of publicity.

This is an old issue with me, one I continue to lose. I am very liberal on this, I hate censorship, I want lots of controversy and thought and argument about art. But if you are really interested in extending the role of art in American society, we now have the means to put the very best in front of our citizens, either by recording, video, or a booked concert. The worst thing you can do is put on inferior productions of Beethoven and dance, and excuse it by saying we performed it ourselves. It may be exhilarating for the performer but it is excruciating for an audience. Or worse, nothing at all. Time spent in nice clothing. The continuing decline of interest in classical music, dance, and theater is that too many people's first exposure to it is to crappy local productions and the unimaginative and stagnant production values of the established art powers. I am dead right on this, if little else. The public money spent on local artists is just about always anti-art, anti-public, anti-logic. And the proof is in the pudding.