In April of 2011, I completed a graduate program in Arts and Cultural Management from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. It was celebrated with a light blue 2011 Lexus IS250 C on a slushy Saturday afternoon. The idea of accomplishment would eventually lead to a lifetime of debt. I often ask why I talked myself into doing it in the first place.
There are occasions when the degree comes in handy. I no longer can feign ignorance to someone posting about a musical performance at a venue that would not be on anyone's radar. Nor would I pass up on a good exhibit at a museum. Perhaps running into an old classmate who has established a career in said institution. Admittedly, I know many artists working in various genres and media. They provide further context in this work as well as the support of each other in our various forms of art.
If there is one place where support for the arts is emboldened by a strong creative community, it would be right here in the Twin Cities. Here is where you have a higher propensity of participation in the arts anywhere in the USA. It is not unusual for anyone in this community to know someone who is a musician, photographer, writer, poet and/or a visual artist somewhere in this community. You would also add the number of arts educators, administrators and curators who add context to this center of abundant creativity.
The places that represent the arts are just as extraordinary as the community they reside in. Walk into the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and you are treated to a complete history of global art forms. Enter into the Walker Art Center, and you are immediately propelled into a visual experience beyond the imagination. Ride the long escalator in the Guthrie Theater and absorb the excellence their stages had produced over the decades. Find yourself in Saint Paul and wander onto the lobby of the Ordway. On any given night, a different art form will come alive beyond the doors to the seating bowl.
I will admit being spoiled in the Twin Cities when it comes to the arts. In the media where I play in – the literary arts, photography, and a bit of music – there are many outlets I patronize, support, and even participate in. In fact, I owe some of my writing chops to Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, an interdisciplinary arts center that fosters a creative atmosphere where humanity is revered above all.
Why should we automotive folks care about the arts? Perhaps an explanation as why you should – or, actually do – are straight from the lessons I learned at Saint Mary's. The key to presenting and participating in the arts are what my former classmates and fellow artists utilize every day in our jobs.
The payoff for the arts is measured on the intrinsic value of the work to its patrons. In essence, was there a level of enjoyment and satisfaction after you viewed a special exhibit at an art museum or a classical music performance you may not have heard live before? If so, would that entice you to support the arts organization even more?
Arts administrators will tell you there is a delicate balance between corporate money and the exhibition. At Saint Mary's, I heard stories of negotiations on how large Target's logo needs to be present at a sponsored space. Yet, a lot of arts organizations know that a logo or a name should be used with respect to the performance being sponsored and a presence of the sponsor at the venue or on marketing materials. Automobile brands know this all too well. It would be easy to put an Audi A7 in the lobby of a live performance of the orchestra, but it is not the smartest thing to do, as it would potentially detract from what is happening inside the concert hall. Arts administrators would rather have the patrons focus on the performance or exhibition than the sponsor – plain and simple.
However, if a brand that you own or are an enthusiast of a brand that supports a particular organization – would that entice you to support said organization and its programming? This holder of a Master of Arts in Arts and Cultural Management says "absolutely!"
There is one automotive tidbit that is related to the arts. Sometimes, a vehicle is considered a fine piece of art. Not exactly the ones you see at meets and other places where cars converge, but ones you actually find inside of an art museum. Automobiles as art is not unusual, since there are interpretations of the kind around.
For example, the MIA houses a beautiful example of an Art Deco-designed Tatra. The rear-engined Czech-built car sits in the modernist wing of the museum shining in its silver paint and immaculate leather seats and interior. If anyone knows of Tatra's history would get why one would sit in a museum gallery. They were grandiose by being steamlined and uncomplicated – aside from the rear-mounted V8, of course.
Head across South Minneapolis to the Walker and you will find a wreck of a early 1990s Pontiac Grand Am. Why would a wreck be a piece of art, unless it is fully painted in a blue-tinted white all over? It may not be everyone’s idea of art, but in the guise of modern styles and avant-garde, this is simply an artist’s vision through the use of the automobile as a canvas.
The idea of the arts as part of our cultural intelligence is also up for interpretation. This is not just about art appreciation that makes us whole. It is the experience of being a part of it. That, in itself, is measured on how we patronize and participate in the arts – just as much as it is measured through our enthusiasm for the automobile.
Consider this: The automobile and the arts truly go hand-in-hand. Go support your local artists – including the great men and women photographing and videographing the automobile.
All photos by Randy Stern