Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Art in Difficult Times

One of Youngstown’s gems, the Butler Institute of American Art, turns 90 this year. This week on Lincoln Avenue, I’m talking with museum director Lou Zona about what’s happening at the museum this summer. On the top of the list is the anniversary gala. The May 28th event with feature actress Jessica Lange. An exhibit of her photographs will also open that evening.

Late in the summer, the Butler will host its annual Midyear Exhibition, a nationally-recognized, juried show. As Lou explains in our interview, this show is not only exciting to put on, it is viewed by artists and galleries around the country as an important exhibit for emerging artists. The Butler is also extending the Andrew Wyeth exhibit, and it has a new exhibit of small-scale collages from the National Collage Society. With so much high-quality activity, it’s not surprising that the Butler was recently re-accredited. In our interview, Lou explains what that means and why it matters.

But we also talk about the challenges facing museums and other arts organizations in this time of economic crisis. I’ve written elsewhere about how the current situation might connect with the 1930s, but so far I’m not seeing any signs of what I think is one of the most culturally significant aspects of the New Deal – the arts programs sponsored by the Works Progress Administration. Roosevelt’s stimulus plan, unlike Obama’s, funded arts projects as a way of getting artists back to work. In the process, those artists also created some significant new works and reached out to new audiences. In the current recession, we have to take on that responsibility as members of the community. By supporting the arts, we not only help provide jobs for those who make, exhibit, and distribute art. We also support the availability of art that can help us understand the events and issues of the moment and find inspiration to persevere in difficult times.

1 comment:

Jack Labusch said...

There's a handful of faded advertising signs painted on some downtown buildings. Many folks probably know about them. Any historic/architectural value worth restoring?