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Reshaping the Landscape of the Arts | Michael John McIntosh | TEDxCUNY

you know arts a funny thing it’s the
most pervasive craft known to man yet is
still the least visible nonetheless it
is so critical to our existence as a
species then not only does it appear in
the name of our planet Earth it appears
in our everyday lives photography fine
art architecture design television and
film it’s all art we’re literally
surrounded by it and it goes innocently
unnoticed and therefore unappreciated
when I first told my grandparents that I
wanted to go to art school our granite
that was like rock people don’t do no
all right
poorly what the boys on might want do
somehow I got a black kid not now let’s
do a little experiment by show of hands
who can name me eight black basketball
players amazing yeah oh yeah Wheaties
now name me a trappers oh y’all can do
that okay okay
now by show of hands who can name me
eight black visual artists not rappers a
lot less hands went up now why is that
how do we live in a world composed of
and organized by art yet we know not the
names of any black creatives as
immediately as we know the names of
black star athletes and musicians in
current state the societal terrain has
not made a room or investment in the
arts especially for people of color due
to a lack of examples of excellence
someone that transcends the arts so much
so that even someone like my granddad
knows who they are now what exactly
constitutes an example of excellence
number one finance number two influence
and number three
societal impact
now with that criteria in mind who can
people of color call an example of
excellence off the top of my head I got
three people that come to mind right see
one of them’s name is I think his name
is like Shawn Carter some people call
him jay-z
he’s known for like rapping and stuff he
has the hottest chick in the game she’s
usually found wearing his chain that’s
ho ho right okay now this chick named
Oprah she’s been talking on TV for
20-some years has the network now I’m
sure you guys have heard her and this
guy named LeBron James right he dunks
stuff and gets a lot of money for it all
right now with that said who is the
jay-z of the arts we’ll get there now
this is the part of the talk where a lot
of art world citizens go well gee
willikers I don’t understand why that
matters it doesn’t it’s not important
it’s all about the art three reasons
that matters Todd number one examples of
excellence raised the value of
institutions fields philosophies causes
and material goods number two they
provide a blueprint for the masses and
number three they inspire typically to
action there are a lot of times growing
up in Jamaica Queens where I would get
really excited about some new pieces of
art that I found right like there was a
cartoon called the boondocks by Aaron
somebody uh no talking okay or like
fashion right like a supreme duffel bag
and as immediately as I got excited I
would become deflated because in my West
Indian household on my West Indian Block
in my West Indian neighborhood and at my
high school Jamaica high school there
was no one to talk to about this news
because the people I grew up around it
wasn’t considered news wasn’t considered
anything so often the arts are treated
like an artifact they’re put under a
glass case only to be marveled over
patronized by and appreciated by the
wealthy all based on the ignorance of
the masses well what if the arts could
positively impact
underserved communities a meow
as it stands 14 million school-age
children do not have after-school
programming in fact 11% of all K through
12 students have after-school activities
to attend if at all but what if every
basketball court had a community studio
crazy idea him yell no matter where you
go in America be it a good neighborhood
or a bad neighborhood a Public School
private school rec center gym a
basketball court can be found
there’s always access why because
America values sports that it can make
money from like basketball or football
or baseball but what if every basketball
court had a community studio and every
child had access to the arts in that
fashion when you combine the fact that
this country loves sports it can make
money from with the with a bounty of
sports resources readily available for
all of us is it any wonder why little
black boys are consumed with dreams of
playing in the NBA it’s a matter of
exposure and resources to play
basketball you need sneakers shorts a
shirt optional a basketball and a
basketball court now for instance to do
something like oil paint you need a
smock professional oil paints brush set
turpentine canvas roll canvas wood frame
staple gun and lastly studio space now
if you’re a single parent which one is
more accessible basketball or oil
basketballs cost comes to about $45 oil
paintings costs comes to about six
hundred and sixty-nine dollars the
basketball court that exists will always
be more accessible than the studio that
is not
blacks are not naturally more skilled at
basketball than any other group of
people yes I said it
we simply have had more consistent
access to it right access to Baxter ball
courts to practice the game access to
24-hour sports broadcast networks and
social media channels dedicated to
sports and and sports websites all the
study the sport and keep up with the
news and the latest trends the kind of
access that black youth have to
basketball is the exact kind of access
that we need to the arts but then what
what happens when resources and
education and examples of excellence
positively impact communities that never
had it currently juvenile
experimentation is at its height between
the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. the
parents of children without afterschool
programming to attend say that on
average they missed eight days of work
per year due to this whole in
after-school care costing businesses up
to 300 billion dollars per year
investment in the arts in the form of
after-school programming is a practical
way to make productive use of this
after-school time y’all know what I was
but I would do basketball after hanging
out of Popeyes eating three form
biscuits and then I will go poorly at
play basketball and that’s why I’m here
at Ted today because I’m terrible at
sports so for the landscape of the arts
to change we must have investment in and
patronage of the arts museums excuse me
arts institutions when championed also
have a lot of positive effects as well
much like parks regularly attending
museums boost social interactions and
promotes physical activity museums also
provide an effective method of learning
it’s all neato stuff right right now
another question which would you rather
go to right now an art museum or
the Cavs versus the Warriors
championship game
I knew that KD think about it KD LeBron
James Steph Curry or beau de chelly
Rembrandt Kahlo
the game right me too
but why wasn’t that question difficult
and if you think it was remember remind
yourself you’re in attendance at a TED
something tells me y’all get it but for
everyone on the other side of that front
door that question wasn’t difficult at
due to a lack of examples of excellence
because without a LeBron James of the
arts it’s much easier for the principal
of a middle school to buy the school
uniforms for the basketball team and the
football team using art department money
piano and cello and violin money
woodshop money without a Beyonce of the
Arts my grandmother doesn’t understand
why I’m trying to take her to an art
it simply rendered unimportant because
as far as she knows the Arts doesn’t
make any money and there’s no glitz and
glam akin to what you could find at a
Grammy red-carpet my mother is an
incredible otherworldly astonishing
seamstress she’s here somewhere she’s
great at it the promise she grew up with
out support for the artform that she
loves simply because her parents assumed
there was no future in fashion equated
to a lack of encouragement examples of
excellence especially for people of
color are reminders that I too sing
America Langston Hughes by the early
1900s world war one had galvanized the
entire nation uniting men women and
children young and old and upon
returning blacks assumed that the
consensus of unity and patriotism would
continue this did not happen blacks
would no longer accept racial slurs or
unequal wages and gave up on the dream
of racial equality in the south to move
to cities in the north
like Chicago Detroit Cleveland Los
Angeles and Harlem New York City this
mass migration of six million
african-americans from the south is the
direct cause of the Harlem Renaissance
now by the 1920s a bounty of fresh
creative voices had been produced
including Langston Hughes Gwendolyn
Bennett Claude McKay Zora Neale Hurston
Alain Locke selma burke the list goes on
and on so why have we not learned about
these creatives and these examples of
excellence as often and as frequently
and as consistently as we’ve learned
about periods of art like the Italian
Renaissance da Vinci Michelangelo van
Gogh by this part of the talk the answer
should be really obvious it’s the lack
of investment in arts education so to
change the landscape of the Arts there
must be investment in and patronage of
the Arts and examples of excellence all
young people are similarly competent and
capable but such competence will never
be expressed without first being shown a
legacy of such competence nyam Akbar
from the book know thyself examples of
excellence are important because they
validate abilities make ideas tangible
and facilitate exposure and while there
is still a lack of general interest in
institutions like museums they do still
because in most instances guys we as the
people are intimidated my grandparents
are just not museum people according to
them because they are intimidated and
they are intimidated because they’ve
never seen anyone that looks like them
that’s from where they are from
successfully produce art it’s much
harder to bring yourself to visit a
place where you feel unwelcomed and
today’s exhibitions and museums meant to
serve the masses often intimidate as
there is a gap in arts education that
would otherwise provide context for
potential patrons but what if there was
an example
a successful creative of the same height
and stature and status of a Barack Obama
or an Oprah or Serena Williams starving
artist is not a term that inspires
anyone I’m gonna say it one more time
because I’m sure that other creatives in
here just if there’s anything you
remember from my talk please put this in
your pocket save it starving artist is
not a term that inspires anyone
especially of people who have already
been historically and systematically
disenfranchised terms like star athlete
or musician or rapper or Sangha are
inspiring to people of color because we
see them we see them in real time being
successful enjoying the fruits of their
labor we see them performing on stage we
see them performing on the field we see
them on social media hanging out with
other successful people we see them not
starving like yours expected to do as an
artist we don’t see them start when we
see them thriving and that’s why we want
to be like them when my grandfather told
me black people don’t do art little did
he know that an internal timer had
started he assigned me a project brief
contribute to reshaping the landscape of
the Arts now some people may instead say
contribute to changing your
grandfather’s perception of the Arts but
those people don’t know my granddad and
mr. Jones is the kind of person who will
only have a perception that changes when
society’s does when he sees a magnetic
charming handsome
charismatic artists host the show like
what does everyone watch for years now
maybe No
Saturday Night Live these are the
instances that will change his idea of
what art is and what art is capable of
instances like that partnered with
transparent and balanced arts education
and resources in the form of patronage
oh it’s necessary to change the
landscape of the arts investment in arts
education resources in the form of
patient age and examples of excellence
will create new roads leading to the
arts for people from underserved
communities nationwide and then what
what happens when as a result of a
newfound appreciation for the Arts
creators begin to be involved in solving
large-scale global problems like plastic
on our oceans global warming pollution
food it’s a big burger clean energy what
happens when a newfound awareness of the
power and importance of art in turn non
destructively progresses culture if my
granddad had grown up seeing examples of
excellence and the arts that look like
him he may not have found me pursuing
the arts to be so inauspicious years
after going to SVA the School of Visual
Arts graduating in 2011 after studying
graphic design and motion graphics after
working at companies like Beatty and
working with clients like Pepsi and
Mountain Dew and complex magazine and
Diageo Royal Caribbean Verisign Verizon
Pizza Hut I’m still trying to take my
I’m still trying to take my grandparents
through art museum well with the help
with people in this audience and people
that think just like us all around the
world I just might get them to do it
thank you for your time [Applause]
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