The New Artist Corps

Posted by on Jan 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

Read this: Obama’s call to the arts

Clearly this could not have come at a better time. Especially in Florida, where year after year, our congress finds a new and exciting way of shaving off hundreds of thousands of dollars from the education spending.

But what exactly does an Artist Corps do? How can we more publicly champion the importance of art education? To be honest, my understanding of history comes from my understanding of art history as I was taught at Douglas Anderson. (Which, by the way, is amazing. Ms. Lynch is an art history goddess.) History doesn’t make sense to me unless I can think of the art produced in that time. And the same can be said for the present–it is essential to examine the things we create to better understand the world we live(d) in. Our art reveals our motives. Our motives reveal our demons and our dreams.

How do you think Jacksonville, or Florida, or the South, or the country will respond to this initiative? A million plus one connections have been made comparing Obama to Lincoln, but try another: Lincoln could emancipate the slaves, but it didn’t end racism immediately. Please pardon the loaded metaphor. Do you think it’ll take decades until the American public can appreciate Matthew Barney? Laurie Anderson? Robert Smithson? What happened to our cultural literacy? Did the art world lose touch with the real world? When did that happen?

I’m curious as to what details Obama’s plan entails. Will there be lessons in color theory?–because I see people even in one of the top art universities in the nation who have never heard of optical black. Will we have everyone learning pencil-sighting techniques or doing blind contour? What is there to gain from arts education that previous administrations and current legislations have ignored?

Post by Kelly Pope.



  1. markcreegan
    January 18, 2009

    Its a very intriguing idea. If it is to be focused on elementary and middle school art and music education, which I think it should be, I would hope that it would be comprehensive. It would include hiring community artists to work with the schools but would mainly be a completely refocusing on art and music as education fundamentals (not electives).
    I think the federal govt should require school systems to incorporate a certain number of hours of art and music ed each week.
    What should it cover? Well, my wife covers some very excellent and rudimentary concepts (she was teacher of the year after all!)- she doesn’t just hand out crayons and coloring books . In fact, many of the skills she covers I find lacking in the majority of my freshmen college students. Every one of the foreign exchange students who have taken my classes already have basic to excellent drawing skills and knowledge of color theory and design principles. And a majority of them are not even art majors (try engineering and pre-med!)
    There are a slew of arts education experts in this country- this program should utilize those skills.

  2. Akbar Lightning
    January 18, 2009

    i certainly hope to be surprised by Barack, i hope he exceeds my expectations that have become so low after the last 8 years, i am still frightened that there is a wolf under that sheep’s clothing, but i hope i’m wrong.


  3. Seana Parker-Dalton
    January 19, 2009

    Speaking of Matthew Barney, and Kris, I have a theory that the Cremaster Cycle was directly influenced by the book “Go Dog, Go!” I’m totally serious. Maybe Bjork was reading it to her kid a lot or something. I’ll go away now.

  4. Princess Simpson Rashid
    January 19, 2009

    I read this post and really got excited! To the question of how will Jacksonville and the country respond this Art Corp idea, I think the artists are ready and willing. But if its going to work, the Obama administration must really have a plan..not just rhetoric.

    In regards to the Art Corp, I would hope that the plan would be modeled after Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). The program employed tens of thousands of artists while it existed. It kept many of them afloat during the Depression. Maybe Obama’s team could improve upon this model.

    When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, I had art and music classes as part of the curriculum. It wasn’t was part of the required class schedule. I don’t understand why many schools today at best need the PTA to fund their arts programs. Where is the money going? And what changed over the years?

  5. markcreegan
    January 19, 2009

    Yes, this is interesting Princes. And I wonder if the main model for a program today would be the WPA or the Peace Corps or perhaps a hybrid of the two? The reason I ask is because, from what I know of the WPA, many artists were hired to create public works of art like murals. And at the time, the Mexican muralists like Rivera and Orozco heavily influenced and inspired such projects. Also, we are talking about a period when there wasn’t much deviation from standard art mediums like painting, photography, etc. So it was easier to organize projects involving these mediums.

    Of course there are several artists available to do similar things but I wonder how say a video installation artist could participate? Or someone like Matthew Barney? I think it may be interesting to find out. I would also expect a continuation of street artist participation (perhaps the new “official” muralists?)

    And would this corp (in the same way as the peace corp) utilize artists to actively work in the communities, actually assign several artists to work at schools for example? Perhaps it could operate on both a paid and volunteer basis (Mr. Barney wouldn’t need any financial assistance!)

    Perhaps it is just a matter of reinstating and expanding programs like that the Cultural Council used to do- actually hire local artists to do projects with at-risk teens?


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