Today, the first day of spring, is also Arts Advocacy Day. In case you’ve missed it, the arts and humanities are on the chopping block in the proposed federal budget.
It comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that I’m a huge advocate for the arts. I found this link incredibly useful in that it offers a variety of ways to reach out, respectfully and thoughtfully, to your representatives. Your reps (remember, they work for US) need to hear from you regarding your opinion on matters that important to you.
If being in band shaped you into a better math student (and it probably did – they’re closely related); if being in theatre helped you overcome a fear of speaking in public; if sculpting helped you decide to become a mechanical engineer – then you benefited from an arts education.
If a play made you think, or a dance made you feel, or a painting made you question, or a symphony made you weep – then you have been touched by the arts.
If those things are important to you, your family, your children, your community, our culture and society, I urge you to connect with your elected representatives and explain specifically WHY it’s important that the arts remain a part of the federal budget.
There are a variety of links on the page that explain in greater detail what I’m talking about. Click on each one to gain a greater understanding of how the federal money is distributed, used, and matched.
Many of the thoughts shared by Joi Ito resonate with me, and I really responded to the the thought that “linear thinking is becoming less useful as a model than complex, intuitive thinking. The most important things that we do in the world today are about orchestrating complexity.”
On a trip to the Bahamas in 2012, I got the chance to feed a group of grey reef sharks. Now, feeding sharks is not an activity to be taken lightly. It’s a complex challenge that essentially requires you to coordinate a group of wild animals; you want them excited enough that they stick around. But you can’t just dump lots of food in the water, because that will whip them into a frenzy, with potentially disastrous consequences.
You spend a lot of time training for a dive like this. And the most important thing is for all of that training to be second nature. If you’re present and aware in the moment, the action just happens intuitively. The sharks, in all honesty, feel almost like dogs. They have personalities — you see which ones are a little bit more aggressive and which ones have a personality that borders on…
I recently had the opportunity attend a Live Talk in downtown Los Angeles featuring Ed Catmull from Pixar Animation Studios. Ed has been promoting his new book, “Creativity, Inc”, and this talk was part of that promotional effort.
The talk lasted for an hour or so, with a host and Ed seated in front of a crowd of 100 or so attendees. Those in attendance were a wide variety of individuals; the full range of age, ethnicity, and experience, which was quite nice to see. During the talk, he related a number of tales from the book and discussed how he came to believe what he believes. He discussed the success of implementing his ideas at Pixar, then expressing his concern at scaling them up to work at Disney; only to see them flourish in that environment as well.
Over the next few days, I finished the book. Upon thumbing back through it, I realized I had dog-eared more places in this book than many of the books I’ve read over the last few years. I’ve gone back to it a few times since to look up specific passages.
In some ways, it’s hard to remember that just 19 years ago, Pixar was a scrappy animation house fighting to make and release the first computer-animated feature film. The book holds numerous tales of that time period; when Ed, John Lasseter, and Steve Jobs were trying to figure out how to actually do what they wanted to do IN THE WAY they wanted to do it. Just convincing people it could be done was a Herculean task which Ed had been trying to pull off for years (which seems amazing now, given how far the industry has come in the last two decades).
In the beginning, the three heads had somewhat morphing responsibilities but ultimately; John was the story guy, Steve was the deal guy, and Ed ended up being the people guy.
He relates this in Chapter 4, “So for the next couple of years I made a habit, when giving talks, of posing the question to my audience: Which is more valuable, good ideas or good people? No matter whether I was talking to retired business executives or students, when I asked for a show of hands, the audiences would be split 50-50…To me the answer should be obvious: Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas…It is the focus on people – their work habits, their talents, their values – that is absolutely central to any creative venture”
He goes on to talk about many facets of running a creative business; communication structure, rules, limits, perfection, stability vs balance, trust, “craft without art” and many others. One of the most fascinating is the concept of the “braintrust”. This is a group of creatives that meet with the director of the current film to exchange views on how to solve problems. The braintrust is expected to deliver candor, which is tough to do. No one really wants to tell a director that his ending sucks; but if that’s the truth, someone needs to say it – and it’s this group of passionate, committed, artistic peers that does it. Another key element of the braintrust is that the director is required to hear and consider all of the feedback but is under NO obligation to act on it, if he chooses – BRILLIANT!
I think we could all implement our own version of a braintrust. I know I have mine – a small, select group of peers who aren’t afraid to be honest and lay it on the line – because we’ve established that the only consequences for honesty are a better product, or a better show, or a better photo; not retribution or petty grievance.
“Creativity, Inc” is a fascinating read for a number of different types of people; whether you’re a Disney-Pixar fan, a business leader, a student, or a creative type, you’re bound to find numerous ideas and concepts here that resonate with you. I recommend it highly.
Today’s share comes for Artsblog. In it, Lisa Phillips details six reasons why she believes the arts prepare students with the skills needed for 21st century success. Even thought I’ve posted similar items to this before, I think it’s always worth highlighting and repeating. Education today has become about standardized testing and the arts have been subject to budget cuts in many districts. Lisa Phillips, and those like her, make a business case for the arts that is important to hear and understand. Skills learned in the arts apply not only to their relevant art, but can be beneficial to the business world; if only because they create a more well-rounded individual.
In celebration of California Arts Education Week (Sep 8-14), this week’s posts will all focus on arts education.
Today’s post, from Backstage.com on April 13, was written by Harvey Young, a professor of theater at Northwestern University. In the post, he shares his thoughts on three reasons a theater degree is important:
1) Theater is a business.
2) The business of theater is good preparation for other careers.
3) Social importance and salary do not always correlate.