Well, funding for the Wisconsin Arts Board has been cut by 66 percent and has been merged into the Tourism Department. What more needs to be said? There really is no difference between fine art and tourist attractions anyway, so why the heck not do away with that silly division? In fact, I welcome this change and propose that artists rise to the occasion and do what we’re best at: make something.
Not just any old thing. We need to make the biggest and the best of something. In the whole world. The World’s Largest Installation Piece, or The World’s Largest Bas Relief Last Supper, or The World’s Largest Georgia O’ Keeffe Lily… Or maybe an art history theme park! Step inside the Abstract Expressionist Room, so abstract and so expressive you may experience vertigo!
In all seriousness though, the only thing left for artists to do is to just keep making. Make and make and make until your fingers bleed and the carpal tunnel flares up. It’s the only way the arts will survive here. You stop making YOU DIE. Literally. If artists just throw in the towel then the haters have won. I don’t care if the only supplies you can afford are soda pop pull tabs and zebra mussel shells. I don’t care if the art you make is good or looks like total crap. It’s the “Field of Dreams” philosophy that if you make it, they will come. And we need to make IT and make it BIG and make it LOUD and automatically upon its completion declare it “World Famous”. Then we need to launch a five-state-wide billboard campaign “See the Art Spot!” or “Art on the Rock” or just “Wisconsin Art Trap!”, “World Famous Art Makers in Captivity!”
I could go on being ridiculous and pretending to be sarcastic about all this, but really it’s not so off. In even the most negative news, as a creative person, I try to think about what’s going to happen next, about what my response is going to be in my personal life. The only conclusion is to just keep doing what I do and keep trying to convince others that they should care. And it has been a secret fantasy of mine for a long time to actually make some sort of artistic environment. Like many artists, I obsessively create. I also obsessively collect unusual discarded objects with the intention of making something out of them some day. Sometimes that day is right away, sometimes it’s years later, but my studio partner and I have stash of thrift store finds and stuff found on curbs, old furniture, beat-up jewelry boxes, clocks, and the like. I have this recurring thought of making a chandelier out of old silverware. How is that impulse so different from House on the Rock?
Many of the best shows at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center have been collections of artists who did just that. The obsessive, eccentric outsider artists of Wisconsin have a long history of making breathtakingly beautiful environments as well as roadside attractions. Even in the most destitute conditions, artists continue to make. Even with no funding whatsoever, the urge to create is too strong to be oppressed. So in the wake of this news, that funding is being cut, that art is being relegated to weekend revelry, my only thought is that it does not change what I do. It actually inspires me to create more and now has me considering the question, “Why NOT charge admission?”. If I can make it, they will come. And if I can convince them it’s world famous, they just might pay to see it.
It also doesn’t hurt if we make something cow-themed or that comes with free beer after the tour 🙂