Mar 312011

An exchange about what meaningful online conversation about the arts and humanities entails. What kind of cultural dialogue would best serve the purpose of the Mass Cultural Council? To focus on the creativity of artists? Or to encourage critical thinking?

By Bill Marx.

On MCC's ArtSake: Elizabeth Searle and Lise Haines discuss some of the central issues of our time.

In his recent commentary for The Public Humanist (the blog of MassHumanities), Dan Blask, who coordinates programs for individual artists at the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), argues that the MCC’s role in supporting the arts, humanities, and the interpretative sciences should go beyond funding organizations and individuals. He rightfully insists that the MCC is also about encouraging thoughtful conversation among artists, historians, and their audiences and that the MCC has gone online in that effort via its informative blog ArtSake.

He asks a good question–“what are the arts and humanities if not dialogue?” He is right, but I wish to point out, in a friendly way, the intellectual limitations in his approach to public dialogue. And to suggest that these boundaries undercut the admirable efforts of the MCC to generate a conversation that takes the arts and humanities seriously. Here is my response to his piece on The Public Humanist.


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  2 Responses to “Fuse Commentary: What Do We Talk about When We Talk about Cultural Dialogue”

Comments (2)
  1. I appreciate both Dan’s seriousness — hearing from artists as cultural agents is very valuable — and Bill’s more-than-a-nudge to return serious independent criticism back into its rightful position in the cultural ecology. There’s no need to choose one over the other: we need both. I would add, though, that while the MCC awards individual grants to writers in many genres (playwriting, fiction, poetry) there is no category for criticism. (And no, “creative nonfiction” doesn’t cover this.) Given that I’ve just been writing about Shylock, this compels me to inquire Hath not a critic pixels?

    • I don’t question that both are valuable and needed — only that the cultural ecology, for a number of reasons, regularly encourages artists as cultural agents but overlooks bolstering serious independent criticism. Debra’s point that the MCC doesn’t have a grant category for criticism is well taken and revealing.

      The feeling at the MCC and elsewhere comes down to a matter of convenience — it means doing nothing. Dan suggests in his commentary that arts criticism is important, and somehow it will happen, no need to worry, the ground is covered. The latter point is just not true.

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