Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Do you like this story?
Matt Gonzales from the Indianapolis STAR has just written a piece regarding this post and the different perspectives on the "Photos for Health" project. You can check it out online here.
The Indianapolis Business Journal has posted on the topic as well, here.
I'm just sittin' on a fence
You can say I got no sense
Trying to make up my mind
Really is too horrifying
So I'm sittin on a fence
[lyrics, Rolling Stones]
PREFACE: I have been thinking and rethinking how best to approach the following topic since it was brought to my attention. After much discussion with numerous members of the arts community and doing some research and interviews, I then found myself contemplating even further on how to write such a post. When at first I set out to write about this I was pretty sure where I stood in this debate but after talking with numerous people and chatting with some friends who are not involved in any way with the local arts community and most likely never will, I found myself questioning my own personal stance on the topic and more so, what is the purpose of writing about it on this blog. Is it news? Maybe, but I would like to view this post and its subject as a catalyst for how we think about the arts and in particular how we think about the arts in the public/private sector. Why? In all honesty, I hope that this post will inspire a conversation, a dialogue of different perspectives, while leaving out any sort of name calling, anonymous flames absent of any constructive content. I finally have to just trust the process and hope that our readers are willing to have a constructive conversation. So here it goes...
Much talk has been going around both the local art and design communities the past couple weeks that has generated some heated debates. All this concern is centered around a new project called Photos for Health, which is to acquire art works for three new Clarion Health buildings. As you can imagine, three hospitals, that is a lot of wall space for a lot of art. Heading this project, is Jacquline B. Anderson and her new art consulting firm. I lay this out here simply as the base for the following discussion.
The set up being... Artists, doctors, patients, or anyone else interested in contributing to this particular art acquisition process, will be able to submit images online to a web site in which works will be chosen from. Works that are believed to be beneficial, "therapeutic and palliative in health care" will then be chosen for display in the hospitals. Clarion gets art for their hospitals and those who contribute their work to the process and get chosen will get the pleasure of knowing that their work may in fact help heal and or inspire peoples lives. That in a nut shell, is the framework for this particular scenario.
So what is all the fuss? The concern and issue raised by several artists, dealers and others in the arts community (note the design community has their own set of issues) primarily center around a few issues. Many of the artists and galleries, are most upset by the fact that the artists will not be compensated monetarily for there accepted submissions and this sort of process may in fact be a bad prototype in which to pursue such projects. [Those artists who submit their work perhaps should consider their submissions as a donation, similar to the donations artists may make to an art auction.] The other big contention is that Clarion is not in fact acquiring art works but digital prints. The works chosen from the submission process will be printed out from the submitted files and framed for hanging. These are the most discussed points concerning this project and I must say that people have expressed some very strong opinions.
It was posed to me, that we begin by asking, what is Clarion Health seeking? In practical terms, I would assume that Clarion is looking to fill three of their new buildings with art for their walls for a set amount of money in a set time frame. I honestly do not know what their budget is, which does limit my insight into the mindset of the project. Many corporations and hospitals simply buy posters on the cheap from catalogs, and quite often from out of state suppliers. Some in fact purchase works by artists, and some like RxArt go all out and create unique experiences within hospitals. In all practicality, RxArt most likely involves a lot of time and much more money than the other options. Is it not possibly, for the better good of the patients, to give them the best art possible if in fact it can help in their recovery. Obviously, art is more of a luxury, we should all be used to that fact, but I only hope that when it comes to health care, that hospitals do not choose staff and equipment with cost and time as the deciding factor.
Despite all of this, the private sector is not obligated to help the arts community, so should we feel obligated for them to purchase local art? This is a tough one for me on one level. I think the private sector should want to help, but free of feeling obligated to do so. Helping the local arts community helps build a stronger moral. Then again the private sector should be able to spend their money how they want. I certainly would want to spend my money the way I wanted. But not knowing the budget allocated for these projects it is hard for many to understand this process. Is the budget that Clarion is giving to the project adequate for the scope of this project?
I feel that we find ourselves debating over what sort of pie each of us likes when we are being served cake. Is it fair to criticize a project for what it is not, rather than what it is? This is often a fault of much art criticism. We tend to bring to the table our own concepts of what should be and attempt to discuss the art on those terms rather than the terms the art presents to us.
The problem for me still has to do with semantics. Are we really talking about art here? What separates the works used from being art to merely being posters. Might posters be art? I for one say, yes. Posters can in fact be art and there are a number of artists who work with the idea of posters as art. But what are we talking about in this particular context? If artists do not get to oversee the final product and approve the final product, is it still art? To compound further this concept and the issues concerning "original art" I would like to recommend the following article, "A New Definition for Original Art". This particular article brings up some of the many issues around the idea of "original art" and what that means in today's art world. These lines are constantly blurring in the contemporary art market but I do not see that it has blurred so much, to convince me that these hospitals will be receiving “original art” in any way. In my personal opinion, once the artist loses the right to approve the final output, the quality control, and other deciding factors that go in to making a work of "original art" then we are left with merely decoration.
In the end it comes down to this. The “Photos for Health” project is in fact upfront about their intentions to use the submitted images in the manner they desire and they are upfront about not compensating artists or other image providers with any form of monetary payment. In all fairness, despite personal views of how this project will be perceived, who will be or not be affected, or whether corporations such as Clarion Health should attempt to do more to help foster the arts in the community, the project is laid out as it is and any artist who is not satisfied with the project should simply not submit to it. For those who feel it is still a worth while cause and do not mind donating your work to the hospital, then by all means, gather up your images and prepare to upload them soon. The patients and those who roam the hospitals deserve the best art they can get, and I for one hope they get it, though I have some doubts that the general process presented here is the best way to achieve the final goal. If art truly can help in the healing process, then perhaps we should, or rather hospitals should invest more money into quality art works. After all great art lasts.
The topics peripheral to these debates, I feel we need to further discuss are the issues of artist health care, legislature to change artists tax claims to donated art works, and corporate incentives to purchasing and or supporting the arts. Perhaps these are things we can discuss further and in more detail in future posts.