Tag: art establishment

Creative Folly

Creative Folly


The Illusory Support of American Artists by Arts Organizations & Funders

c  Lisa A. Miles 2014

Over a decade ago, I published a book about a woman artist and her work, and the larger role of an artist’s work in American society.  Another one formally begins here, to expose the lunacy that underlies American arts organizations and funders’ support for the individual artist, and to propose alternatives far more sane, just, creative and certainly do-able.

My biography of Esther Phillips, This Fantastic Struggle, commented upon the concept of Artists as Workers, deriding the little respect mainstream society has for creative workers of all genres.  This current work tackles in-depth the illusory support by the American arts establishment itself, which is supposed to be championing the artist’s cause.  Across a broad spectrum that includes community arts agencies, philanthropy, larger urban cultural entities and much more, it is a required critical look at the lack of real support for those that produce substantive creative contributions to society– the artists themselves.  It is informed by my own longstanding work as a creative artist, but also many others working similarly in the United States.

Where “Fantastic Struggle” railed against mainstream society’s lack of understanding of artists and their work, Creative Folly takes on the insiders, those very entities who proclaim to have artists’ best interests at heart.  Instead, their policies are entirely incapable of making measurable, significant difference in the lives of the millions of true working artists in this country.

This is a book that art administrators will denounce and hate– unless they’re willing to take an honest look within their community at what and whom they purport to be helping.  Foundation officers, and those directing the scant number of corporate giving programs out there, will certainly outcry, too– mortified that their work is exposed for its little genuine benefit.  Even arts organizations’ low-level workers may scoff, taken aback at the suggestion that the nonprofit they advocate for isn’t advancing the arts.  But that goal is something which is best done when you actually support and create work opportunity for individual creative artists.

I don’t write to please the art establishment.  My focus is to expose and examine the long-standing policies and practices in place within the art-funding world and arts organizations large and small.  Those who are presumed to do no wrong– philanthropy and the creative nonprofits.  When in fact they could do far better to effect meaningful impact on the lives of working artists.


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Pittsburgh Stagehands Circumvented for “First Night”

Lisa A. Miles c2011                                      SEE POSTSCRIPT AT BOTTOM!

Pittsburgh Stagehands don’t work Pittsburgh’s First Night.  The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust hires other workers to man the stages.

You’d think a city with vibrant cultural district would have plenty of work for arts professionals.  So much entertainment– little use of Stagehands.

The story gets stranger.

The Trust has employees who do that very work.  On payroll.  Pittsburgh’s Stagehands–  IATSE Local 3 members (International Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees).   They build scenery for A Christmas Carol and make sure U2 sounds cool in a football stadium, with everyone safe under state-of-the-art equipment perched precipitously above.  They run sound and lights for the Symphony and seamlessly work together to unload semis with half-ton show equipment in dark of night.  You can’t get any more talent and working class, both, than a seasoned stagehand.

J. Kevin McMahon, President of the Trust, said of the stagehands, “Obviously, we respect them.  They’re skilled members of the Trust family.”  (Post-Gazette, 12-17-11)  But they’re circumvented for other labor.  

They are under-employed, and should be working First Night, Three RIvers Arts Festival (also Trust-managed), the Regatta, Dollar Bank Jamboree….  All public tax-dollar funded.


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