I was recently talking to Jerre Dye of Voices of the South. He attended a conference last year at which a speaker was discussing the fact that we are exhibiting the signs of being on the verge of an arts renaissance.
He was saying that since the 60’s (the dawn of McDonald’s era), people have wanted everything like fast food. Make it fast, make it the same. I don’t want to think, I need to go. Now, now, now…
But in the past five or so years, things have begun to shift slightly. Given the rapid-fire pace of our daily lives, our constant overstimulation at work, home, in the car (how many times a day do you find yourself eating your lunch, checking your email, text messaging, and listen to your ipod at the same time?), people are increasingly looking for a “slow down” experience. We are looking for a reason to STOP. For. just. one. minute… before it’s go, go, go again.
We are essentially looking for some meaning in our otherwise hectic existence.
So, the speaker said, people are beginning looking to the arts for that meaningful addition to their lives. If you had asked people twenty or even ten years ago where the arts fit in their lives, the majority would have said: a.) they don’t. Or b.) once in a blue moon when I get chance. But ask people now and, the speaker posited, they would tell you that they have created a place in their life for the arts. Whether it is seeing a play or exhibition, supporting a local music or art venue, people are beginning to value this experience because engaging in the arts provides you with a chance to take a deep breath, to reflect on your life, to think outside your daily existence, to perhaps see yourself objectively.
I must have repeated this conversation to a hundred different people. It really opened my eyes. I began to see this city differently. It seemed like every time I turned around there was another art exhibition opening, another art collaboration being forged, something exciting happening in our art community like I had never seen before…
That’s when I realized. Memphis is not on the verge of an arts renaissance. We are on the verge of an Artpocalypse!!!
I think in the real apocalypse there are four horseman, so my colleague McG and I were going to come up with four major signs of the impending Memphis Artpocalypse, but that’s when we realized… there are so many more than four! Here’s our hasty short list (below).
I know we’ve forgotten people in an effort to get this post up – so will you all please contribute your horsemen? We will add them in and keep this list continually growing, as proof of what an amazing and exciting time this is for the arts in Memphis…
Artblogs (we can’t even list all the great bloggers there are out there, giving us our daily dose of art news.)
ArtsMemphis (new website is a pretty comprehensive view of what's going on in the city at any given moment)
Broad Street rebirth
CODA (Those kids aren’t just going to make a difference in the arts, they already are.)
Filmmakers and local films (Craig Brewer was just the tip of the iceberg…)
Music (Anywhere. Any night of the week.)
Performing arts (Playhouse, Theatre memphis, VOTS, Hattiloo, etc.)
Unique spaces for artists to exhibit their work (Again, we're just beginning with places like Odessa, Material, Powerhouse, etc.)
VINI (just read about these guys on artbutcher)
Wow. That’s so inspiring to see all those things grouped together. All this is not to say that we don't have problems, or still a long way to go. But let's look at what we have right now. Memphis can be a pretty cool place if you know where to look.
The bottom line is that this is an exciting time to be involved in the arts in Memphis. It’s an exciting time to be in Memphis, period. We have something to be proud of. More people than ever are getting involved, becoming engaged, and seeking out the arts.
What do you think? Have you seen the signs of the artpocalypse?