This past Friday saw UNCG host the second annual Arts Summit. Held in the UNCG auditorium, The Arts Summit brought in three guest speakers to speak on the business and economy of art. Before the speakers started their presentations the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Peter Alexander, spoke on why we have this event and the importance of the arts. He referenced one of the speakers, Jason Duchin, director of DreamYard Projects in The Bronx, NY. Alexander stated that in The Bronx there is a 50 percent graduation rate for High School students. For students in the DreamYard Project, the graduation rate is 98 percent. Alexander completed his speech by saying how this is an example of how influential the arts can be and how art can improve the community.
The first speaker, Steve Pedigo, is a director at the NYU School of Professional Studies Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities. He started his presentation by explaining the importance of “where.” Often as artists we value questions like “what” and “who” and not often “where.” The “where” is important because different communities have different needs when it comes to art. Different locations have art unique to their economic and social atmosphere. Pedigo stated how communities rely on creativity and people who create. He argued that “Creativity fuels the development of the economy.” We, as a country, have placed significant value ongoing to school and getting a degree and since creativity drives the learning experience for a lot students. “The Creative Class is the core force of future economic roles in society.” The expansion of creative economy and welfare of our cities goes hand-in-hand. Success in cites derives from the communities of creativity. In a creative cluster including New York City there is a constant nourishment by the people and their creativity. This “cluster” is the driving force both economically and socially. The more people there are, or the bigger cluster, the more people there are to innovate and create artistic capital in the city. Pedigo stated the four things that matter most in creative locations is innovation, human capital, inclusion, and quality of place. In other words, locations need people to introduce methods of creativity, other people to join in the method, then we have to invite other people into the method, and have a quality place to participate in the method.
The second speaker was Jeannene Przyblski. She is provost at the California Institute for the Arts. The Institute was founded by Walt Disney and is the birthplace of Pixar. Przyblski praised the Institute by stating that when it was founded there was only one woman animator and now 70 percent of the animation majors are women. Along with being a provost, Przyblski founded The Bureau of Urban Secrets, an art program in San Francisco. The program focuses on radical art forms that challenge the community through art. For example, the program had their first event on September 13, 2001, two days after the terrorist attacks in New York City. They proclaimed the cities as playgrounds while President Bush labeled them as battlegrounds. The artists at The Bureau of Urban Secrets proclaim “whatever you’re doing you’re doing it as an artist.” Przyblski designated her work as the physical action of the points that Steve Pedigo made. The artists in San Fransico create “artful community engagement.” Przyblski, like Pedigo, made the point of the important of human involvement in a community. She told a story of how when an artist was performing an art piece on the sidewalk, a local shop called the police, who responded with “this is art, there is nothing we can do.” Przyblski pointed out that when it comes to art and expressions of art it is up to the community to work it out and not the police.
The third and last speaker was mentioned earlier by Peter Alexander. Jason Duchin founded the DreamYard Project for students in The Bronx to be exposed to the arts and given the opportunity to express themselves through art. Duchin went to Duke University with the intent to be become a lawyer but changed his mind when he was in a play his senior year. He moved to Hollywood and was offered a role in film, which would have given him substantial wealth but he turned it down and moved to New York to become a bike messenger and eventually created the DreamYard project.
Duchin didn’t want his definition of success to be rooted in money but wanted to spread art to those who didn’t have it. With the Bronx being an area that suffers from high poverty rates, Duchin used poetry written by the students of DreamYard to show how art has affected the young people of The Bronx. DreamYard develops skills and tools to connect students to the surrounding community. The students use art to work through their feelings about tragedies like hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. The students show emotional strength and endurance in their art. The students are taught to use art not to boost their ego but to help people. The students may healthily deal with their emotions and react to what is going on in the world.
Events like this highlight the rich diversity of arts found at UNCG. It also shows we are keeping tabs on the community at large, and are willing to discuss issues facing the art world. Providing students with knowledge about the current state of creativity is beneficial to our future artisans, and will be continued at next year’s Art Summit.