Monday, November 29, 2010

New thinking on the arts - 20 Under 40

Just over a year ago, I heard about a nifty new project to collect essays about new directions in the arts from twenty leaders of the arts under the age of 40 - called, appropriately enough, 20Under40. Having just stepped down as the leader of a nonprofit to go in new directions, and being just under the cut-off age, I had more free time than before to write a longer essay, and submitted my proposal for a chapter on ten important trends in the arts (which I wrote about on this blog in the link). My chapter was accepted, I finally got it written and edited (with some great editing help) and the book is now set for sale on this Wed, Dec 1 from the project website. 

We received our author's copies not long ago, and after a quick perusal (to be sure my chapter actually made it through), onto the shelf it went, behind a stack of other books I need to read. Then came the Great Flu of Thanksgiving...okay, maybe just a cold, but I was laid up this entire past weekend, and had more free time to watch movies and read books, and I decided to read the entire book.

I'm glad I did. There are some great chapters in here, with some pretty cool ideas. I'm not going to review the entire book here, but I can say that if you have any interest in the arts, arts participation, arts education and/or new ideas for the arts and arts education it is a great read. I liked many of the chapters and will likely be bringing up these ideas on this blog, and in my practice, in the coming months, but here's a quick shout out to a few that struck a chord, as a way to possibly stimulate your interest in the book:

1. David J. McGraw - writing on The Epoch Model - the idea being that we should make room for organizations with an "expiration date" instead of thinking every new nonprofit needs to last forever. Oh, how I wish this would become prevalent!

2. Ian David Moss and Daniel Reid - unveiling a fabulous idea for crowd-sourcing philanthropy. This one is gold. Their idea goes well beyond the simple crowd-funding models we have now (such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo) and envisions an entirely new system for philanthropy....and they even write the chapter as a proposal for a foundation to adopt their idea. I'm not sure if anyone will, but I've already used this chapter as fodder for some new ideas in the film world. Ian has a great blog post about the idea and this project here.

3. Kylie Peppler - on how learning to "creatively code" is fundamental to the "future of arts education in a digital world." Right on. This one really spoke to me, as it touches on ideas of what it means to be electrate (literate in an electronic world), and because the author makes it clear that coding can be done by anyone - and should be done by everyone - because it is "essential to communica(tion) in a digital age."

4. Bridget Matros of the Boston Children's Museum closes the book's submissions with an amazing chapter about the need for new thinking about teaching arts to very young kids (under 5) if we are to build a more creative society. Matros uses real examples from her time in the Museum to show how adult's fear of arts/creativity impacts youth - and sets their thinking into rigid boundaries that are the opposite of art. It reminded me of an old quote from David Lynch, about how his parents wouldn't give him a coloring book because they didn't want him to feel bounded by the lines on the page - he needed more freedom to create. Matros says much the same, and her anecdotes about frustrated parents limiting their kids creativity to "paint a flower for Mommy" (because of their own fears and preconceptions about art) are poignant. Reading her chapter, it becomes clear that if we want to change public perceptions on the arts (and arts education, importance, funding, etc.) we need to focus on how we teach art to 3 year old kids!

Readers interested in seeing brief blurbs on every chapter can find them here. Fellow authors not mentioned here, don't despair - I learned something from every chapter, but feel the ones mentioned here resonate most with what I write about on this blog, and I couldn't review every chapter here! I'll likely have more here soon on the other ideas in the book. Kudos also to editor Edward Clapp, for putting this all together!

You can also support a crowd-funding campaign for the book (a very DIY effort, worthy of support), and while I've already found the books on Amazon, buying it from the project website will support the effort (and I say this not expecting any revenue from this, just to support the idea of the project).  There's an all day launch party in Boston on Dec 10th and one will be scheduled in NYC soon. I'd love to see a similar book just about film. I've suggested my own 20 under 40 in film, and would love your thoughts on this in the comments.

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