Monday, October 20, 2008

Stompin' with Artists

You probably know most of these homilies:

"You can't raise money without first raising awareness."
"If you want money, ask for advice; if you want advice, ask for money."
"You can do anything you want in your life as long as your willing not to receive credit for having done it."
"Give, Get, or Get Off."
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

To these quotes (and yes, the last was from Antoine Saint-Exupery) I'd like add the following "Aldrich Original":

If you want to do anything meaningful in life, involve an artist.

What, besides the fact that I direct the Vermont Arts Council and have a vested interest in this happening all over the state all the time, would compel me to say this right now?

Two things. The first is the fact that, despite a dismal economy, and significantly greater challenges facing us as we seek sponsors and ticket-buyers for our second annual "Stompin' with the Stars" benefit extravaganza and dance competition, the participants, half of whom are "Vermont Celebrities" and the other half of whom are professional ballroom dance instructors, are pulling out all the stops to make this an incredibly lively, entertaining and quintessential "Vermont" event.

Some have issued challenges to their competition and email-blasted their friends to get them to start voting now and not wait for the competiton. As of this morning nearly 70 votes have been cast. Others, not content to dance to pre-recorded music are hiring (at their own cost) live musicians to add a certain "je ne sais quoi" to the proceedings. And virtually all the contestants are purchasing additional dance lessons from their instructors to make sure that they have every possible advantage as they each--as contestant Gerianne Smart of Vergennes so delicately phrased it--"dance for money!"

The celebrities, many of whom are artists in a field other than dance, as well as their instructors are, more than any other group involved, making this event a happening. Their efforts MUST NOT go unrewarded. I have already filled a table and I hope, if you are reading this, that you will consider filling a table as well. Your friends, family, clients, etc. will thank you for months!!

The second reason I say you should involve an artist to make an event (even more) meaningful is because it's true. Whether you are a city planner trying to improve traffic flow and "livability," or an eighth grade teacher trying to make Renaissance come alive to a bunch of students, or a civic volunteer trying to find a way to attract more tourists to your community (I could go on and on but I'll stop there), involving an artist in your plans will vastly improve your chances at succeeding.

Look at it this way. We make "artistic" decisions every day, from what to wear, to what color and make of car to buy, to how we want our hair cut or our garden to look, or the color of our house to blend in with the neighborhood, or not. Some people are perfectly capable of designing their own home, their holiday greeting cards, their wedding, their funeral, their landscape and so on. But most of us need help.

Whether you work with a designer, an architect, an artist, a dancer or, for you really brave types, a circus performer,* I guarantee you will have a more meaningful outcome. Your plans will be more vibrant, your choices more daring and true to your personality, your intentions more clearly stated and contextual.

Face it. Artists (performing, visual, theatrical, film/media, and applied) are creative, fun people--even, or perhaps especially, the self-styled curmudgeons. They poke, prod, challenge, and often make us laugh in the process. They communicate with tools that are far more adept at focusing on emotional connection than mere words.

Whatever you are doing, involving an artist will add zing to it; will make it a savory memory, or a fantastic success beyond your wildest imagination. It might even make you get up out of your chair and come Stompin' with us at the Burlington Hilton on November 1st.

We all...our communities, our state, and our country...could use a little of that kind of magic about now.

* a wink to our recent Governor's Award Recipient Rob Mermin, founder of Circus Smirkus.

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