Avoid snug

December 6, 2011

Artists aren’t jocks. But that is the perception of educational institutions. Jocks or techies. In a slumping economy many are wondering about the existence of fine art programs at universities. We’re not talking about the training of sound engineers, cameramen, etc. Schools don’t create artists.

Some years ago Morley Callaghan was teaching a creative writing course at the University of Windsor. He asked the students how many wanted to be writers. About two thirds of the students put up their hands. “Well,” he said. “What are you doing here? Get out there and write.”

I think this holds true for all the arts. Writing, painting, sculpture, music, theatre. Even motion pictures. With the advent of cheap cameras, editing programs, and digital hard drives, making movies or at least short films can be very cheap. To get yourself a name. Even if you graduate from a film school you will have to go back to the street level to begin your career.

Of course there are the instructors. And in some cases this can be an advantage. But none of that has to happen in an educational institution. This should be happening in our cities. In our cafe life. In a studio life. In Toronto it is too expensive for students to rent studios or galleries. Then they should move. Leave Toronto to the bankers and accountants. In southern Ontario for example, Hamilton, only a few miles west of Toronto, provides an alternative environment. It isn’t afflicted with avarice. Open for new ideas. Affordable.

In my universe, young artists will abandon the schools of art, of higher learning and return to the streets. Talk to each other. Plan. Create your own theatre. Your own music. Your own galleries. But of course this demands a risk by artists. It is much easier to stay inside the walls of educational institutions. Easier when you’re comfortable. When you’re snug.

Change demands heroes. But does the generation that is nursed on apps, pads, and cell phones have the stomach for it?


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