I am loving Diane Ragsdale’s new blog, Jumper. It’s a wonderful addition to the ArtsJournal suite of blogs — well written, hip and insightful. Her latest post has to do with the Slow Food movement and whether or not this phenomenon has anything do teach the arts.
I admit, I’m intrigued. I also think she has a really good point. While I’ve tended to write about innovation and social media in this blog, when it comes right down to it, what we are all doing is trying to find a way to navigate through the many ways to bring people and arts together and find something that works. But our message too often is “we’re good for you — like spinach” rather than “look at this beautiful dark green spinach grown by a local organic farmer who lovingly tended it and brought it to the market for you — it has just GOT to taste delicious!”
Slow Food, locavore, and other food movements are a reaction against fast food, and their premise is that high quality food is satisfying on so many more levels than a McDonald’s hamburger. As Andrew Weil once said, food prepared with love is doubly good for you; food prepared with greed or profit in mind is doubly bad.
And so it is with art, of course — we know there is much deeper satisfaction to be gained listening to Mozart than Justin Bieber. But I don’t think we’ve communicated that very well to our audiences. We’ve told them that they don’t know enough about art to be able to truly understand it. We’ve told them they need to be educated in order to fully appreciate art, and the education can only come from us. And so they’ve turned to Justin Bieber, and we scorn them because of that.
How can we use the success of the Slow Food movement in support of the arts? I think the first thing we can do is lose the attitude, and admit that people can find the arts by themselves and are capable of deciding what they like and don’t like. We can help them find the arts by introducing them to local artists, encouraging them to DIY, and making information available, but not elitist. We can acknowledge that even though a 7-bean soup that has been in the crockpot all day is soul-satisfying, every once in a while a Quarter Pounder hits the spot too.
We can also look at the fact that encouraging people to make good food themselves has not hurt professional chefs — on the contrary, with more people knowledgeable about good food, professional chefs and high culinary art has never been more popular.
Hey – if I can learn to like spinach, anyone can learn to love Mozart!