DIY and DITogether
Art talk for all of us
By Suzi Steffen
Passion, power, performance, participation. They’re all key for the arts, and so is a non-p word: funding.
On the blog, where I’ve lately been trying to post reviews and previews as soon as I’m finished with them, one commenter started a discussion about all kinds of issues: How should the city of Eugene fund the arts? Should the Hult Center and its companies win the bulk of city arts money? What about smaller companies that aren’t part of the large performing arts center downtown? I’d add: How should the city of Eugene support visual arts? Who decides where the funding goes for public art, and how can the city encourage private developers to incorporate more public art? As a small city in one of the most economically depressed states in the country, how can we become a destination for arts; how can we encourage the talents of kids who barely get enough funding for a full school year; how can we support a wide range of music, visual art, performing arts, performance art, dance, small galleries, spaces in flux and a more exciting, invigorating arts scene for everyone?
I have some answers to some of these questions, y’all, but so do many of you. I’d love to hear more about them, to answer them together. In March of 2008, Clay Shirky published a book called Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, which highlighted social media. You know: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more interactive ways for people to find each other and make everything from plans to protests to works of art.
In the world of newspapers, that means that the letters to the editor section — still a vital, if sometimes just plain weird, part of the Eugene Weekly — isn’t the only place for our readers to offer feedback. That freaks out some journalists and reviewers, which after much experience of mostly one-way communication is not surprising.
Instead of a one-way street, the online world offers many opportunities to create discussion and build a true web of understanding how the city, a neighborhood, an arts scene, a transportation system, etc., works or doesn’t work. We have our EW! A Blog, of course, and the Web serves as a great field of democratic opportunity: Anyone can have a blog. They’re free. And anyone can have a Twitter stream. The best ones, the thoughtful ones, the fun ones, will garner more attention, but your voice can be heard.
Bravo focuses on Hult Center companies, the UO, established performing arts institutions and, when we have their info, young arts companies that have found a way to become scrappy upstarts. (I emphasize when we have their info because even though I might be a fan of your company on Facebook or follow you on Twitter, I’m not the only person at the Weekly, and I’m not always here: It’s key to send us email, especially the calendar editor, cal at eugeneweekly dot com.)
In that mix, here’s what I see going on with social media and outreach to audience members: The Eugene Ballet, in a smart example of ways to connect, asked its audience members to be open about taking photos of Sleeping Beauty. The Oregon Bach Festival uses its Facebook fan page and Twitter feed occasionally, and I imagine this use will increase as we get closer to the festival.
The Lord Leebrick and the Eugene Opera both have fairly good Twitter feeds. Mark Beudert, general director of the opera, told me that he and the board made a decision to invest in social media, and what with live-blogging from backstage, Facebook links, photos of rehearsal and YouTube videos of opera principals from other companies, I’d say that decision and investment have paid off. But if you think opera’s uncontroversial, you should take a look at the comments on my opera preview story (http://wkly.ws/27) and weigh in. I long to see the well-managed Eugene Symphony on Twitter and Facebook, to hear a clip on the OMP blog of Glen Cortese or principal orchestra members talking about the Oregon Mozart Players (board president Robert Canaga, who’s on Facebook, certainly posts about the OMP), to see some of the Very Little Theatre’s awe-inspiring collection of historical photos pop up on Twitpic, and oh, so much more.
In the meantime, I’ll be posting a series of interviews and thoughts on arts funding and arts education on the blog. Please join in the discussion.