Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Trash to Treasure

I was on a routine trip to the downtown public library here in Des Moines yesterday afternoon when I came across something I hadn't anticipated sitting in the concrete lobby... sculptures.

These unique creations, I came to find out, are the result of a partnership between an Iowa artist from Ogden named David Williamson and the Iowa DNR's Project AWARE.

The collaboration which began in 2003 is called "Riverse" and you can read about it here.

The unique thing about these beautiful sculptures is that all the materials used to create them came from refuse collected from the cleanup of individual Iowa rivers selected for Project AWARE. I'm not sure how long they are going to remain on display at the Central Library. The website did not offer any details. But I highly encourage you to go down one afternoon and check them out.

For more of my own photos, click here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We Need Money.

Saw an interesting article today about how the recession is affecting the Performing Arts industry nationwide. It makes sense. Performing Arts are as much of a business as they are an art form. I think people who work in the Performing Arts (especially those in the non-profit sector) tend to lose sight of that fact. They somehow think we're immune to the financial fallout of the corporate community. That is until various levels of government begin cutting public funding. Then they rally.

Just this last week here in Iowa we had such a rally. It's called Cultural Advocacy Day. It's an annual event that gives artists of all flavors a chance to showcase the importance of arts funding to legislators as they begin annual budget talks. This year was the biggest turnout the state of Iowa had for a while. I imagine it was/is probably like that for most states around the country. And I think that is due in part to the current financial crises.

But should we, as arts organizations rely so heavily on public funding? I agree that we don't spend nearly enough on the arts.. especially here in Iowa where we only spend $0.42 per capita. But why is it that the only time we organize is when public funding is at stake?

Seems to me, arts organization on the whole (at least here in Iowa) need to be more business-minded. Let's start talking Market Strategy, Segmenting, Diversifying, and creating alternative revenue streams. Big businesses do it all the time. That's how they make money. And they still get their share of corporate welfare from the public coffer.

Independent artists nationwide have, for a while, invested in cooperatives allowing them to share economic, social, and cultural resources. That idea has even recently gained momentum here in Des Moines with the establishment of co-working communities such as Impromptu Studio and the Market Street Media Foundry.

Perhaps if the Performing Arts industry on a whole were more forward-thinking in their approach to their own individual business models, they wouldn't be begging all the time. Or at least they wouldn't NEED to beg as much. And that's something everyone would love.