Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Close Enough (But Not Really)

Fortune Magazine just named its top businesses to work for in 2007. Anyone picked up the latest copy of Fortune? (Yeah, like I read Fortune. Of course I saw it on TV).

Apparently Google is who you want to work for. They have comedy acts come to their lunch rooms, they have 3 free gourmet meals a day, they play volleyball outside and who knows what else. For more information on the perks of being a Googler, click here. It makes me wonder if they even have time to work -- or even want to go home to their families.

My job may not be that great, but it's a great job. When our current director started the job two years ago, she asked the staff to write a two page essay about why we work for the Utah Arts Council and why we love it. I might have been the only one who loved this assignment. It forced me to evaluate why I am where I am and what keeps me here. I thought it was a great way for a new boss to get to know each of us individually and learn about our motivations. I don't know if it was her intention, but this essay is great to read every time the bureaucracy gets me down.

I love the people I work with, the varied programs I get to work on and basically, making a difference in people's lives. So, if you care to, you can read the essay I wrote almost two years ago.

January 26, 2005

I remember sitting in my Contemporary Art class in the auditorium of the BYU Museum of Art. It seemed like all the art history students sat in the middle and all the studio art students sat on the sides. I don’t know when or how that happened. It’s not that we art history students didn’t like the art students, or vice versa, it’s just the way it was. To be honest, I think the two parties were a little intimidated by each other. The artists dressed differently. They wore vintage clothes, had disheveled hair and listened to indie rock. They seemed to live in a world all their own. Somehow I believed they knew more about art than I did. After all, they were the artists. I didn’t create art; I simply studied those who did. I studied their technique, their thoughts and their passions. I perceived them as aloof and uninterested in what I thought.

One year later, I began work at the Utah Arts Council. Artists were everywhere. I no longer studied them from afar. I had no choice but to talk to them, work with them, and understand them. My job was to facilitate their success. Suddenly, artists weren’t so different than I was. They were friendly, real, and they had insecurities just like I did. They didn’t have everything figured out and they didn’t always know more about art than I did. In fact, what I thought meant a great deal to them. They weren’t necessarily aloof; in fact, most were extremely social. They cared deeply about other people and enjoyed gathering together and sharing ideas. But finding a receptive audience with which to share their ideas was something they felt as a challenge. Sure, the Utah Arts Council would listen; it’s our job and we share their vision, but what about everyone else? Especially in a world where patience and abstract thinking has been devalued as short attention spans are spoon-fed simple and easy answers.

I adopted this challenge of developing audiences for the arts as my own. I wanted to do whatever I could to increase awareness and encourage dialog between the artist and the “non” artist. Everyone has different perceptions about what surrounds them. Everyone has a different channel through which they communicate ideas. Some platforms from which these ideas are expressed are more accessible than others, but each is valid and deserves fair attention and recognition. I know there are people out there who shy away from the arts. They fear their lack of understanding makes them inadequate and unwelcome in the artist’s intellectual sphere. I want to dispel this notion and persuade everyone to receive art as an essential component of his or her lifestyle. Art isn’t for a select circle of intellectuals, philanthropists or vintage clothed individuals with disheveled hair. Art is for everyone.

The arts have always been a part of my life. I was blessed with parents who value art and its ability to stretch my imagination and my understanding of the world around me. As long as I can remember, I accompanied the “adults” to the symphony, the ballet, the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and the great museums of the world. Growing up, I had very few friends who valued these activities as much as I did. To many of them classical music was a bore, museums were impenetrable and poetry was perplexing. As I got older, I found more friends who shared my interests, or, at least, were willing to try new things. To me, that is what the arts are about: trying new things, and discovering how our environment isn’t always as we perceive it. If the arts are part of your life, you are constantly learning. And as long as you continue to learn, you will continue to grow. I consider it a privilege to work in an environment that encourages growth of the human mind and spirit. And being surrounded by those who feel the same is a tremendous source of comfort and motivation for me.

Since my contemporary art class, my intimidation when it comes to artists has matured into a genuine admiration. I respect their talent and their position in our community. As I sat in the Utah Arts Council’s “Creativity and the Artist” workshop at Sundance last spring, I listened to artists discuss their work as they presented slides to the group. I admired their ability to feel and explore ideas and emotions so deeply. I thought, “what a luxury it must be to have an outlet for these feelings when they become so big that your mind and heart cannot hold them anymore.” I began to examine my role in the lives of these artists. I have come to learn how my place is just as important to artists as theirs is to me. If nothing else, it means a great deal to have advocates speaking on their behalf; providing ways for them to do what they love, and creating opportunities to share their work with an audience. I learned that artists don’t want to be segregated from the rest of us. They don’t want to sit on the sides while we sit in the middle, assuming that we don’t understand each other.

Artists have the capacity to be the philosophers, teachers, poets and comedians of our time. And I, as part of the Utah Arts Council, have the capacity to help make decisions as to how we, as a community, can encourage these talents, cultivate these ideas and recognize these accomplishments. Artists prompt progression, encourage questions and broaden boundaries. The world would stop if it were run by the people who say “it can’t be done.” As I collaborate with other staff members, carry out ideas and witness our successes, I am proud of the achievements that come. As a result, I notice people welcome art into their lives. They begin to greet new ideas with an open mind. They take pleasure in their expanded understanding as they introduce others to their newfound knowledge. I see this progression and smile, recognizing that in my own little way, I can make a difference just like artists can.

1 comment:

Ilene said...

Hey, I read your blog!

Anyway, Intel has a similar set up and when Dan was there, he spent most of his time playing foose ball (sp?) in the break room which was equipped with every kind of beverage imaginable. However, according to Dan, the people who work there are true geeks and so they basically live at work and consequently Intel would accomodate them as much as possible. People would be there all hours of the night and weekends(mainly because a lot of the geeks were without family or outside-of-work friends). So, I guess while the perks are great, they are there to draw and keep their workers at work. I saw Oprah highlight the Google thing and I would not like my co-worker bringing their dog to work next to me. Yech. I would like the food and gym though. . .