By Ann Marie Miller
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” Arts advocates do their best work when they demonstrate how the arts can truly be an important part of daily life, making it more than bearable!
Similar to the Dodge Foundation’s philosophy of “a society more humane, a world more livable,” the Knight Foundation focuses on promoting informed and engaged communities. They see the arts as a way to engage residents and bring communities together, and they have funded, in several key communities throughout the country, “Random Acts of Culture.”
One of my favorites is an impromptu performance by members of The Opera Company of Philadelphia who broke into the Toreador song from Carmen at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia earlier this year. Imagine one performer with coffee cup in hand, another in basketball sweats, and a capacity lunchtime crowd of all ages filled with delight in hearing a familiar classic in a totally unexpected setting. For a few, brief moments people going along in their everyday lives are part of a shared, communal experience that makes their community a more vibrant place to live. Similar acts have surfaced in shopping malls, grocery stores and board rooms in Charlotte, Miami, St. Paul and Akron.
A less random, but no less exciting, example of art in an unusual surrounding is Gallery 24/7 Art on Traffic Control Boxes sponsored by the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission. Among the goals of G24/7 is to integrate the visual arts into non-traditional venues to expand their reach, to broaden and diversify public exposure, interest in and access to the arts. Through a NJ State Council on the Arts Local Arts Program Grant, visual artists who reside in New Jersey were recently invited to create and submit original artwork for G24/7. The work is being selected by a panel of professional jurors and reproduced on a special vinyl adhesive film that will be applied to county owned traffic control boxes in late summer and early fall. Boxes were selected in areas of high visibility to pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic to provide unique opportunities for the public to enjoy visual art in a totally unexpected setting. Here is a photo of one box near the Somerset Medical Center with artwork by Elisa Rodriguez of Hillsborough inspired by downtown Somerville:
Performance art and public art, perfect together — both inspire, help make life enjoyable and certainly more bearable!
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