Greetings Friends and Colleagues, Whew! Spring is a big touring season for me. I’m happy to have seen so many of you during February and March. It’s been interesting to hear different perspectives on the economic downturn too.
In Nashville, I briefly joined union auto workers in a downtown protest and in Akron, Ohio I saw newly gentrified buildings downtown looking nearly vacant. In Fargo, I heard of a diversified workforce that’s seeing lay-offs nonetheless (big love to flooded friends in Fargo). And in New York, my shuttle driver spoke bitterly about just getting by – suspicious of the politicians who might be lining their pockets with the $10 toll on the Staten Island bridge. In Detroit, some are hopeful that the worst of the union lay-offs are over. Unemployment’s already above 11%.
One of the comments I’ve been interested to hear – in both print and conversation – is a criticism of arts funding in the original national stimulus package. Now, it might be easy to dismiss my interest in arts funding because the arts are my livelihood. But look a little closer at what people are saying when they talk about the importance of jobs instead of art.
The importance of jobs instead of the environment.
The importance of jobs instead of healthcare.
Have you heard these viewpoints? I have, and I’m dismayed about how we are framing these issues. Let’s not forget that arts funding creates work – for artists. Environmental funding creates jobs too, as does almost any type of funding that does not have to “trickle down” from the tops of large corporations.
The question is, what kind of products do we want to create? Think how many writers and artists could be employed if there were a publishing bailout instead of an insurance bailout? The question is: What kind of work will create a better world, rather than simply maintaining the status quo? Indeed, some auto-workers MUST lose their jobs if we’re going to stop the rampant consumerism that’s harming the planet. In adversity, we can envision and work for the world we want as aspects of the current world crumble around us.
Three of the festivals in which I would’ve performed this summer (in the U.S. and Europe) have folded this year due to lack of funding. This is sad and I mourn those losses, but I don’t think it’s useful to focus there for long. It’s more useful to focus on opportunity, on how to have a hand in shaping the ever-changing world. If we don’t do something – make choices and act – then the culture acts upon us to create more of the same.
As I suggest in my show Becoming the Subject of Your Own Story…, picture the world you want to live in – in positive terms – and then start acting as though that’s where you live. Don’t be delusional about it – choose small everyday ways and words to literally enact that world. Never forget, we are creating the world, even as it creates us.