ArtSpark’s conversation Salon on August 23rd was an extraordinary event with (very!) passionate participants (thank you Susanna, Chris, Karen, Richard, Burgy and Lauren).  Not only did everyone have thoughtful, critical and illuminating things to say that evening, but the conversation continued in a flurry of emails after the event.

The focus of the Salon was the ‘intrinsic’ value of the arts (e.g., Art for Art’s Sake), as reflected in a recent National Endowment for the Arts’ audience development survey results from ABQ’s VSA/North Fourth Art Center by Wolf Brown, a research firm in San Francisco.

Rather than attempting to capture the conversation through the filter of my own mind and words, here are some participants’ juicy conversation bits, unedited:

“My first response to the survey and our conversation is to walk into a field of questions. What function(s) does art supply to an individual, to sub-communities and to society? Why do we, as artists, tend to get defensive and speak about ourselves as though we are foot soldiers in a covert pre-revolutionary uprising?” and, “I believe that the underlying tension we feel is not a polarity between art enthusiasts and ‘other’, or a need to question art’s value. Perhaps we might dig deeper into a major cultural miasm, when we inquire about the nature of ‘value as cash amount’, ‘the bottom line,’ ‘the end that justifies the means’. “ – Karen Fox

“What I like about the NEA survey is that it digs deeper into the questions of what we value, and invites people to express how and why they valued their art experience. I think that would be a refreshing piece of the national conversation, and I hope the NEA survives the election.  and, “…how to support ourselves while creating art, the business of art versus the act of creation, the issues of selling art and whether the market contaminates the spirit to the point that art becomes just another commodity.” – Richard Malcolm

“Looking at art throughout time is seeing the development of our ways of seeing.” and, “Why should arts orgs be expected to be self-supporting anyway? Are highways? Is war?” and, “Management is changing and creativity, inspiration, <intuition> and compassion are being more highly and openly valued as desirable traits in corporate management. This survey points to these traits being awakened by Global Dancefest attendees and other events at which attendees were surveyed.” – Burgy

“Why is society so focused on money and our value as people defined by that money? Can this survey be the start of a way to change their opinions?” and, “Art is not considered necessary but it fosters so much positivity in our world. The intrinsic values are not usually measured but should be. Then all of those who love charts and percentages will see the positive results in their language.” – Lauren Rolls

We also talked about Lewis Hyde and others’ perspectives that art doesn’t really fit in a capitalistic/market economy, like other commodities, but belongs more in the realm of the ‘gift economy.’

The conversation will continue when another Salon is scheduled for October – so stay tuned!

In the meantime:  What are your thoughts?  What does the ‘intrinsic’ value of art mean to you?  It is important?  Why or why not?