Friday, August 21, 2009

How's your French?

With sawdust and old coal dust and probably asbestos flying around as I try to "make room for one more" in our old house, this is a day that seems far away from so many of the things and projects and people who have been so central to my life for the last decade. La Fonderie: to value, encourage, inspire, and embolden Christians working in the arts.

Then, a quick pause to check email. Like a cool breeze on a hot Missouri day, a message from a friend. No text, just a link to an article made up of a series of interviews with several artists who are a part of La Fonderie. It is in French, so maybe not accessible to everyone.

Reading their perspectives and a bit of their stories reminded me why we worked so hard for so long in Paris, and why we still care so deeply for the city. (Okay, there are also the cafes and bridges...)

Still waiting for the mist to burn off in Missouri, these voices were a promise that what we do can make a difference.

And for that I am grateful.

Where are you investing?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nonprofit art galleries

The relationship between money and art can be an ugly one, and the realities of how tough it is to make a living as an artist is never so obvious as during economic periods like the one we find ourselves in right now. But it is never easy to make one's living through art, whether in visual or performing arts, on the stage or behind the camera. When things get tight financially, it is even more difficult for artists to do their art...and pay the bills.

In an interview by Zoe Feigenbaum, Daniel Joseph Martinez said that commercial galleries and museums are mechanisms in a system that is "well fortified and very difficult (for artists) to penetrate. Yet it seems to be in full control of what we think of as taste. This suggests that there is a relationship between sales and the actual meaning of art, which, of course, there isn't."

Martinez, a controversial L.A. artist, suggests that the end of the nonprofit art movement in the 90's limits the potential of the distribution of ideas and the dissemination of art through exhibitions. I don't agree with his politics, but here he and I are on the same page. Because I, too, am interested in the distribution of ideas and the dissemination of art.

One of the reasons la fonderie opened an arts gallery/cultural space in Paris was to provide a platform for artists and musicians and playwrights. It is not a commercial gallery or concert venue, but it gives artists a chance to have their work seen and heard. And it is a very busy place.

Some have rightly thought that it was a unique space because of the values and spiritual commitments of the team of volunteers who run it. But at the deepest level, it is a space that is committed to unleashing the voice of the artist in whatever art form he or she might work. It is about entering into the conversations that are happening in culture, and about starting a few new ones.

And although that does not make what we do unique, it makes it the kind of place we hope will increasingly be found in our towns and cities. What is going on where you live?
The illusion wanes, and in time we return
to our noisy cities where the blue
appears only in fragments
high up among the towering shapes.
Then rain leaching the earth.
Tedious, winter burdens the roofs,
and light is a miser, the soul bitter.
Yet, one day through an open gate,
among the green luxuriance of a yard,
the yellow lemons fire
and the heart melts,
and golden songs pour
into the breast
from the raised cornets of the sun.

from "The Lemon Trees"
by Eugenio Montale
(Translated by Lee Gerlach)