Doing, Being, Creating, Becoming
Today I attended a press conference at Austin City Hall that brought together a handful of heavyweights–Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, City Manager Marc Ott, Austin ISD Superintendent Mariah Carstarphen, MindPop Executive Director Brent Hasty, and Darrell Ayers of the Kennedy Center–all assembled to announce that Austin is the seventh and newest partner city in the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child Program. To quote the MindPop press release:
“Any Given Child seeks to bring access, balance, and equity to each child’s art education, using an affordable model that combines the resources of the school district, local arts groups, and the Kennedy Center. This program creates a Long-Range Arts Education Plan for Students Grades K-8.”
So, hooray for us! I’m not sure what all that means, but it sounds promising. And anytime you can put city officials, school district administrators, publicity flacks, and local and national arts reps in front of TV cameras talking about arts education, you have done a good thing. There was a respectable crowd of the usual suspects in attendance, and it was nice to hobnob and catch up after the PR dust had settled.
It got me thinking about how one spends one’s time in the creation of art. Having been at this for about thirty years now, I have been associated with all kinds of folks. Some are creatives who are completely immersed in their artistic pursuits, to the exclusion of all else. Others are administrators, ‘big-picture’ types who spend all their time in meetings and at conferences. Still others are publicists, experts at drawing attention where they want it and packaging the message for the general public. And of course the activists, who stay vigilant to threats to arts funding at the local, statewide, and national level.
Then there’s me, all of the above. To quote The Who, “Schizophrenic? I’m bleeding Quadrophenic!”
I didn’t start out that way. Like most of us, I began as a creative, and that’s where my heart resides. But I learned early on that creativity alone was not going to pay for Showtime. So gradually, I got in to all the areas to varying degrees. Sometimes it’s exhilarating; sometimes it’s demoralizing; usually, it’s exhausting. But playing music still recharges my batteries for the next round.
And we need all these types. The creatives are the life blood of any art scene, but let’s face it–many creatives couldn’t organize a game of dominoes. And the administrators, while sometimes a bit bloodless, are crucial in getting the procedures in place to get things done. The publicists get people’s attention, and the activists protect cash flow, without which we all may as well go home.
There have been times when I have been sitting in some meeting or other, trying to steer a group of people somewhere they don’t necessarily want to go, when I think to myself, “The heck with this! I could be sitting on a bridge running Coltrane changes! I could be composing, or recording, or hustling gigs. What am I doing here?”
The answer is: planting a seed. I’ve walked down a lot of shady streets. Somebody planted those trees a hundred years ago, and I’m enjoying them today. The least I can do is attempt to make life a bit more pleasant for my great-grandchildren’s grandchildren.
That’s why I’m excited to welcome Any Given Child. Not because I think they’re going to transform Austin, because that’s already underway. But their consultants’ expertise can only serve to more effectively refine what this city has to offer in arts education, which is considerable. And if we can reach critical mass in the imagination of the public at large, there are no limits to what can be accomplished here.
Long story short: way to go, Brent!