Past Comments

April Issue 2010
by Tom Starland

An Old Friend Returns

Since the last issue I received an e-mail from Judith McGrath - all the way from Western Australia. If it takes weeks to get e-mail from Sumter, SC - I wonder how long that took to get here.

Judith was wondering if I remembered her and sent along a few words from down under - as if. After I stopped laughing to myself, I sent her a return e-mail telling her that she was far from forgotten in the Carolinas. The entry page for her past comments places consistently in the top 20 pages selected by visitors to the Carolina Arts Online website and most of the time (not all) - one slot above the page for pulling up my past commentaries. Go figure!

I told her to enjoy that fact for a few minutes, but then I told her most of my fans - whoever they are, had shifted over to my blog - Carolina Arts Unleashed - which has been the top page winner almost since it started in May 2008.

But I was glad to see her writing about the visual arts again. You see, about the time the bottom dropped out of the economy and shortly after for us and the art community - she and her husband, Owen - started their retirement. Judith took a break from writing and started teaching some art classes and taking some classes, but she had come to a point where she wanted to" keep a hand in the game." And, I'm glad she thought of us when she started writing. Like many of those people reading or re-reading her comments made over the years on our website - I missed reading her views and observations too.

I'm not saying she's totally back and I'm definitely not saying we're back from the abyss we fell into, but it's a nice sign that things are not as bad as they were. We have a long, long way to go to just get back to were we were several years ago, but you can find Judith's comments - from down under on Page 16. It was nice to have the space to fit it in.

Figuring Out The Next Ten Years

By the time most of you are reading this the SC Arts Commission will be finished with the public meeting part of the 2010 Canvas of the People - making a plan for the next ten years for SC's art community. I went to one of the gatherings in Bluffton, SC, and will probably have attended the one in North Charleston, SC, and maybe one other.

I love getting together with other folks working in the arts and talking about problems, solutions, and goals, but I also don't like wasting my time either, and that's the feeling I get before, during and after I participate in the Arts Commission's Canvas process. Those feelings are mostly based on past experience and a review of what was gained or accomplished after each one of the three I have participated in. It's not just the Arts Commission's meetings that give me this feeling - it's most meetings I've attended throughout the years dealing with local, regional or statewide art communities. Very few have ever seemed worth the time - mostly because there is usually no follow-up meetings, work sessions or follow-through on what came out of the meeting. And, I don't see any sign of those kinds of things happening or even being planned for in this Canvas of the People. You would think that by 2010 (the sixth Canvas) the Arts Commission would have a new and improved - Canvas. But, no - they're using the same formula, but with a twist.

At the Bluffton meeting I heard something new. And the new revelation was that this plan isn't for the SC Arts Commission - it's for us. They're going through this process for us to discover what is working, what our challenges are, and what opportunities are out there for us to seize. Aren't we so lucky? I know I feel lucky. I might even win the lottery - if I ever remember to buy a ticket. The odds are about the same - of me winning the lottery and anything good coming out of this Canvas process. At least in its current structure.

And, after all these years, it is so very clear to me that the good folks at the Arts Commission don't have the answers - any answers to most of the problems we are all having. All they have is some money to throw around, but that pool of funds is shrinking daily and you can see the worry in their faces - their future is in question and hard men at the State Budget and Control board are looking for cuts and the Arts Commission could be one of them.

Hey look, I'm worried for my future too, but I've been living in the real world, like most of you out there, where I have to earn the money I get - the old-fashioned way.


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