Is it just my imagination or does it seem that there are a whole lot more festivals on the calander than there used to be? This past weekend we had Tremont, the Ingiuity, and something at the Botanical Gardens, plus a lot of other diversions like antique tractor shops, horse shows, and such.
And it has been like that a lot of weekends this summer.
So many things to do for festival goers: choices of where to go, and what to spend your time/moeny on. These are the same factors that make for stressers on the planners and vendors of these events. When another well publicized fun thing comes up people run to what is new…. always looking for something better, bigger, more exciting. The truth is those established festivals have their own audience, a reliable population that returns year after year to seek out specific artists, or to support specific performers. That core of people does not fluctuate too much. It is their friends, and those who respond to the advertising that are the additional portion of the crowd to the event. I can remember the first year Tremont art and culture started the crowd was perhaps 6,000, but it was a first event, and many there were supporters of the artists and the performers. At a high several years ago they had over 50,000 and the place was electric with energy, enthusiasm and a passion for the arts. I dont think the numbers were even half of that this year, and while weather played a big factor, it felt like there was not that zippy electric energy in the air. On the otherhand, it may have been me, filled with antibiotics and enjoying a war in my body between good and evil bacteria for the ultimate prize of more space in my body. I sure was not electric in any way shape or form.
Is it my imagination or Are more people coming to view festivals not for art but as entertainment? I was speaking with an artist friend named Ann and she repeated just what was running through my head. We joked and I told her that i called it feeling like monkeys in the zoo…. The crowds creep slowly by your tent looking, ooogling, scanning, watching, but they don;t stop, and they don;t make eye contact. Boldly commenting with malicious banter about the work, the person or whatever strikes their fancy right in front of the artist. As an artist often your work is hung out there making you very vulnerable, feeling naked and exposed. Good art should always pull deep at the soul. Being tied so closely to the outcome…. from first thought through inception, creation, to completion – it is the ideas of your head come to life through your hands, executed onto some material (in my case, it is silk) that is forever affected by the work i have done to it. Sometimes art is agonizing, a struggle to get it just the way it was in your head. But the visitors at festivals treat this as cheap entertainment, wander the park for free, and gauk at various forms of creativity without the desire to understand how it is make, what went into the process, or what skills it took to bring it to completion.
Here are a couple theories about these crowds that lurk, and are not friendly:
1. It probably has a lot to do with the younger generation raised without the humanities. Their limited to no knowledge of art appreciation, art history, or design limit their capacity to see beyond what they see. They don;t bring the frame of reference to stop in their tracks realizing someone has used a specific artist’s style to influence theirs. Truthfully is art still taught in middle school and senior high?
2. Social politeness does not seem to be required in settings like festivals, where there are complete strangers in tents. Say what you wish because you will probably never see them again, and if you do they will not remember. Alot has been said for one generation loosing effectiveness passing on social norms, social skills, and common courtesies… I suspect this is yet another case of someone’s parents not correcting wrong behavior, and now they have grown up into adults that think they can act how they wish. (Please note, that is not everyone. we me a lot of very polite, well heeled individuals too. But there seems to be a rise in the not so nice.)
3. It might have something to do with kids being raised with large doses of TV and latchkey…. Caring for themselves, and not having the guided direction and encouragement into the arts. I remember salavating over a day at a museum, and tell me it was CMA – OMG!!!! I loved the Cleveland Museum of Art since i was a small child. I remember looking up to the face of the thinker by Rodane, or staring at the amazing use of light and dark of VanGogh….. shall i go on. Point is I had parents that made time to introduce me to and encourage me to grow in the arts. Music abounded in our home, and we had several curious paintings my aunt tried to reproduce of the old masters works… hers were not good, and as i grew in knowledge i knew that too. In a fine city such as ours there is no reason to be illiterate of any form of arts. We have world class institutions that offer world class instruction, often for free or very little. The price, however, is time spent pursuing.
4. They were not raised with compassion. I remember my mom saying if you are going to open your mouth say something good…before you think to say something bad. Compassion realizes the person’s heart is on their sleeve literally… the emotions, the vulnerability can be crushed by a hapless thoughtless set of words.
I dont have magical answers for these things, but one of these days i am going to polish up the piece i have been rewriting for several years that challenges our society to begin to take back those things that have made it great… among which are appreciation of the place of creativity in our society, and how much this is as important as the bean counter that save the company a small fortune. It seems that the product of this current system of education lacks greatly on the ability to use complex thinking, or to have compassionate thoughts toward much more than themselves.
Perhaps it is just my imagination!