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Why the Arts Matter in Medford, Oregon and Beyond

art matters logo southern oregon artists resource

You are invited to attend the free Art Salon and Panel Discussion on May 21 from 6:30 – 8pm, Rogue Gallery and art Center, 40 Bartlett Street, Medford, Oregon.

“Art is life, art is beauty, art makes you think, art changes people, art transforms communities, art opens your mind, life imitates art” -BNG

Join an informal alliance of southern Oregon arts leaders from the Ashland Art Center, Grants Pass Museum of Art, Jacksonville’s Art Presence Art Center and Rogue Gallery and Art Center, the Southern Oregon Artists Resource and more for the first in a series of discussions about the many reasons why the arts matter to our communities. Learn why the arts are vital to our quality of life, education, economy and let your own voice be heard by people who influence local arts policy and funding at this informal FREE public gathering!

Future salons will be hosted by

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Art Matters Salon and Panel Discussion at RGAC May 21!

flyer why the arts matter may 21

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Art Matters Salon and Panel Discussion at RGAC May 21!

Join southern Oregon art community leaders for a discussion of the importance of art to individuals, kids, education, local economies, people with disabilities and the broader community! Share why art matters to YOU in an informal setting and hear why others value art too. Let your voice be heard by people who have influence in southern Oregon arts policy! arts-matter-salon-announcement_may-21

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Book Review: A History of How People Cooperate - And Why

We found this review by Frank Bures in the February 2013 issue of The Rotarian magazine. Since it resonates with a previously published interview with anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake and helps to explain how and why the arts are so ingrained in our collective psyche, we thought readers with the same fascination might also be interested.

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Reclaiming Art

In using arts and culture to build community, we often forget that the greatest resource isn’t necessarily the program we design, or the object we create, or the idea we generate. It is the people themselves. We somehow forget that art is theirs; that for a very long time now people have intuitively used it […]

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Getting Started

Welcome to AAD 250 Art and Human Values Online! This course will be taught entirely in the online environment using this course site. As a participant in this course you will create your own site on AAA Blogs. You will use that site to post all of your assignments and you will visit the sites […]

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Art for Life’s Sake: The Necessity of Making and Viewing Art, from the Venetian Red Art Blog

Ellen Dissanayake « Venetian Red Art Blog, By LIZ HAGER. Originally posted March 10, 2010

Yesterday, the formal remarks of Bay Area sculptor Bruce Beasley at an Art in Action event reminded me once again of the absolute necessity to humankind of making and viewing art.

Beasley acknowledged that he was preaching to the choir; the room was filled with artists, educators, and parents sympathetic to the mission of Art in Action, which for 28 years has been bringing an otherwise-absent art curriculum into K-8 grades throughout the country.

A sea of heads bobbed in assent as Beasley talked about the right/left-brain dichotomy. Today there is much empirical evidence pointing to the hemispherical location of various cognitive tasks—sequential processing (left brain) versus parallel processing (right brain); rational versus intuitive thinking; recognition of parts versus recognition of the whole; rational thinking versus spatial recognition; words (labels) versus pictures (images).

Why should

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Creativity—The Irrevocable Wealth

Growing up a child of divorced parents living on either coast, I spent the school year with my mother and the summer with my father. Living in a single-parent household, money was tight. Very tight. How I looked forward to those summers…I’d leave the west coast to spend hot Alabama days visiting with my dad […]

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What is the (Adaptive) Value of Art?

August 16, 2011 By Ellen Dissanayake Ellen Dissanayake holding a carved Nokwe figure from the Kwoma people of Papua New Guinea’s Sepik River area. Photo by Ingrid Barrentine. NEA Research Note #102 presents encouraging findings about the cultural and financial value of the performing arts in the U.S. in 2007. Considering the economic disasters that have ensued after that date, one cannot be optimistic that the financial amounts would be the same today, although the personal value of the arts to individuals might well persist or even increase in times of anxiety. My work, in contrast to the reports on which the Research Note was based, is concerned with the arts of people of all times and places, from the deepest prehistory of the genus Homo to the present day and in cultures across the globe. This broad view lends itself to an evolutionary (Darwinian) perspective in order to address the question of why we find evidence of the arts in every society everywhere. Accordingly, I am concerned with the arts’ adaptive value. Paleo-archaeologists and ethnographers tell us that from as early as a hundred thousand years ago (some say much earlier) until very recently, in many parts of the world, members of our species have spent enormous resources of time, metabolic energy, and costly materials (such as feathers and ivory from rare and powerful creatures or shells and minerals from far distances) to mount complex ceremonies in which the elaboration of bodies, surroundings, and paraphernalia is joined with vigorous and intricate dancing, dramatic performances, and complex songs, chants, and drumming. In other words, although they lacked money, they nevertheless invested their human capital in the arts. Research Note #102 had to rely on studies whose design, for statistical reasons, grouped the arts and crafts with toys and (non-video) games, thereby indicating that arts and crafts are leisure activities. Such a role has emphatically not been the case in most of the world’s societies or cultural groups. Interestingly, subsistence societies, like those that have characterized humans for 99 percent of their life on earth, consider arts and crafts essential and primary, while individuals in modern societies with material abundance devote most of their efforts to their work and leave the arts to their spare time. To an evolutionist, devoting time, effort, and resources to apparently non-utilitarian pursuits should have made people less rather than more likely to survive. Yet the fact that they occur so extravagantly, universally, requires an opposite conclusion: the arts must have enabled their practitioners to better survive than humans who did not go to such extensive and expensive extremes. Their “value” had to be not only cultural but biological. I hypothesize that engaging with the arts of ritual performances contributed to our remote ancestors’ survival in two ways. First, having “something to do” when facing misfortune or existential uncertainty helps to reduce the damaging physical and psychological effects of the stress response—the release of hormones like cortisol that over time compromise such critical bodily functions as growth, tissue repair, energy release, immune system activity, mental activity, digestive function, and even reproductive physiology and behavior. The shaping or formalizing of a ceremony, its rhythmic repetitions, and its coordination of individual behavior with that of others, all serve to reduce fear or anxiety and thereby contribute to the well-being of participants. A second survival advantage of ceremonial arts behavior is that it instills collective emotions of trust and belongingness. Not only are brain chemicals like cortisol suppressed by participating with others in formalized and rhythmically repeated activities, oxytocin and other endorphinic substances are secreted, creating transfiguring feelings of unity with others and strengthening their commitment to each other. Sharing experiences and strong emotions binds humans as much as if not more than sharing strong beliefs. In premodern ceremonies, people are active participants, not passive consumers of others’ performances. Ceremonial behavior is art behavior: remove the arts and there is no ceremony left. Our ancestors discovered that giving form to and embellishing their sounds, movements, and bodies added emotional effect and conviction to their efforts and thereby reinforced the beliefs and precepts of the ceremony. Emotion is nature’s way of making sure that we care about and thus pay attention to vital subjects. In modern societies, where music, drama, dance, painting, sculpture, and architecture are not automatically tied to religious belief, do they still have survival value? I have been told by more than one artist that art “saved my life.” Less dramatically and with wider scope, as arts educators and arts therapists well know, the arts have positive effects on those who practice them. Research Note #102 tells us that millions of ordinary Americans are involved with the arts and I think that if the data set were conceived differently, we might find that it is not only as a pastime. Apart from the well-known satisfaction of using hands and minds to make something exist that did not exist before, the arts bring other vital goods to individuals and their societies. For individuals, the arts display and even help to create a sense of identity and belonging. Additionally, they articulate and affirm personal and collective meaning, build community and reciprocity, appeal to and exercise nonverbal parts of our minds, enhance the natural and man-made environment, and help deal with anxiety, in addition to bringing refreshment, pleasure, and enjoyment. The arts put us in touch with important life concerns: the giving, finding, and keeping of love, the inescapability of moral choice, sacrifice, suffering, longing and loss, life and death. The arts not only acknowledge the things we care about but allow us to mark or celebrate that caring. Subsistence lives made our ancestors unavoidably aware of the enduring human verities just listed. In the relentlessly busy, fractionated, sometimes materially deprived and psychologically desperate lives that many people lead in the 21st century, there is often little time or opportunity to think seriously about the abiding questions that comprise the human condition and express our humanness. As they embrace immemorial themes of work, cooperation, friendship, exchange, heroism, memory of a lost past, life change, myth and cosmology, and the abidingness of the natural world, the arts speak to our better nature and affirm our deeper and higher selves. Ellen Dissanayake is a scholar, author, and lecturer. She has written extensively about the connections between art and anthropology. This article was reposted from Art Works, the blog of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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