Friday, March 25, 2011

Art in the online comment forums

I made a grave error this morning...I read the comments on an online Record article. I should really know better.

I'm talking about this article:

The article itself is great news for the arts in Waterloo Region. Any organization whose mandate seems to be attracting creative talent (and funding for said creative talent) to this area is good news in my books. And it sounds like Ms. Sinclair has the credentials to pull this off. I'm not sure how it will benefit me directly as an individual artist (I'd suggest you go read this extremely well-written article to understand what I mean...go read it, I'll wait...all done? ok...) but anything that encourages the arts as a whole in this area will certainly benefit me indirectly, both as an arts practitioner and an individual citizen. I can see that. Unlike the people in the comment thread, it would seem.

I don't mind if an individual person "doesn't care" about the arts. That's their prerogative. But I get so tired of people who use supposedly incomprehensible public statues to claim that the arts are useless and shouldn't be publicly funded.

This particular one caused a lot of controversy. It is called "Aporia" by artist Edward Zelenek and is installed outside the Kitchener courthouse on Frederick Street. Lots of people don't "get it" but personally it is one of my favourite bits of local public art. I'm sorry to hear that people don't like the fact that their tax dollars go toward things like this. It benefits me and improves my quality of life. I certainly don't begrudge them the fact that my tax dollars help to pay for many services that I don't use that might be relevant to them. Isn't that kind of what living in a community is all about? We pool our resources to create a living space that benefits all residents, not just you. Unfortunately that requires a bit of compromise, because you can't make everyone happy. If you can't get behind that, maybe you should go live in a cabin in the woods.

But, I digress. Arts! Culture! I shudder to think what a cold, dark world this would be without art. I just wish the naysayers could see it too. And in the future, I think I'm just going to stay away from the comment threads on online news articles.

Photo courtesy Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery


  1. I think I'm going to have to finally write that greasemonkey script that blocks comments on The Record's site unless specifically requested. Just gets me too riled up!

  2. Steve and I have had conversations about the people who comment on online articles. We've also decided it's not a good idea for us to read them. *grin*
    In art school, one of my professors brought up the fact that when people see a piece of art they feel is irrelevant they say things like, my 6 year old could've done that. No, your 6 year old couldn't have done that because THAT artist did that. Theory is tough even for an art student to wrap their heads around. And even better, when you don't necessarily agree with the theory behind a piece, art can take on an even more meaningless feeling. But I stand behind the idea that art is created to evoke emotion. Whether you hate it or love it, it's doing its job.
    Culture is like castor oil....sometimes you have to ram it down people's throats because it's good for them. *grin*

  3. One thing that just stuns me about the comments is the bitching about a $150K salary for a CE freaking O. CEOs are *routinely* hired by private companies and governmental organizations alike with salaries, signing bonuses and golden parachute packages worth millions (only to crash, burn, take the parachute and move on to the next company - rinse repeat), and we're told that they "have" to pay CEOs so much because it's the only way to attract the best talent.

    This woman has some serious chops, and she's a bargain to this region at $150K.

    Aporia leaves me pretty cold, but the idea of no public art at all leaves me colder, so..

  4. In general, Adrienne, I don't argue that someone taking on tremendous responsibility-- even in a non-profit role-- should command a salary to match.

    Often there could be a discount that the candidate might agree to (a compromise between the candidate's market value and the intangible benefit of working for a cause rather than for a bottom line), but if pushed too far, all you get are bad candidates.

    Good people cost money. And to demand that good people shouldn't be able to command a competitive salary simply because the money is coming from the public purse is an excellent way to make sure that only the worst people are in public and non-profit roles.

  5. I think a lot of people just get upset when they hear about someone else making more money than they do. It's a very visceral reaction, I certainly fall prey to it myself, before the rational brain takes over. And since publicly funded salaries are the only ones required to be disclosed...well. It gives people something to yell about.

  6. @skelly: People saying their 6-year old could have done it often miss the fact that what they *mean* is that they could have *copied* it. Art by definition is often innovative to some degree. Sure, it's (usually) easier to copy something, but that not being innovative.

    @Chris: I like to imagine we're living in a world with a 'C-level salary' bubble that will crash eventually.

  7. Is Edward Zelenek the same artist who made Convolution (the red worm that was destroyed by explosives on the UW campus in 1976)?

  8. @Jim I can't seem to find an image of it but preliminary Googling indicates that yes, it's by the same artist. Seems his stuff is controversial all around!

  9. I recognize some of those names from the LRT articles. The "just give them all a car" or "give them all a bike" people who think that the local government is conspiring to bankrupt them personally.