I often have the opportunity to joke that my childhood hometown is "not exactly the cultural capital of Sweden". But any joke with specific references has a tendency to turn out dated, and it seems this one has gotten the inevitable honour. After Art square 2018, must sadly conclude that when it comes to visual arts the cultural life in town is perhaps not necessarily dead - but in human terms, it is well past twenty seconds of cardiac arrest.
To make a long story short, Art square used to be a fairly large one-day art show hosted in the city square. At its peak, about ten years ago, it used to attract around 150 artists, but a dwindling number of local artists and increasingly poor management has left it a shadow of its former self. Currently the show is hosted as a small part in a larger family event, and the last few years Art square has drawn less than ten artists. The last two years, three including myself.
This year, one. Including myself.
Nobody else signed up.
Sadly, I have a fairly good idea why.
First, there is the generational factor. The visual artists - and by that I mean all
traditional visual arts, from drawing and painting to sculpture, textile and photography - of the older generation are either dying off, lack the physical or mental health for showing, or have never been interested in public display. Locally, there is no younger generation to replace them. And I am not one to talk, currently living 100 miles away.
Second, the management has been less than stellar. In the words of my curator - a far more straight and honest person than myself - it has been "catastrophic". With the facts at hand, I feel obliged to concur: The event was poorly announced, the website has not been updated in the whole past year, and the announced schedule has been incorrect almost hour by hour. Not just for Art square, but for the event as a whole. There in turn there are a number of apparent reasons: Understaffing, the whole event is managed by one person; incompetence, some of the scheduling errors have been reported months ago and not remedied; and perhaps wilful negligence - in past years the municipal leadership has very much intentionally marginalised the visual arts.
If Art square is going to remain a part of local culture, it will need a whole lot of work. I love my old hometown, and it hurts to see how some things have turned out.
There is at least one well-intending person in the current management: Considering breaking her out to see if we can restart Art square under own management. But considering my past leadership experience, perhaps it would only make things worse.
Nevertheless, I did attend today. And for what it was, it was good.
The marten painter was quite well received.
The fighting Temeraire made quite a successful second year as well.
Perhaps most important, I learned something that may prove valuable. In my little corner of the square not a lot of people passed through to begin with, but most who stopped for a look had much in common. First, many asked about the quantitative aspects of painting - most were awed by the answer that I spend anywhere from 10 to 100 hours on a piece, refusing to listen to reason about skill and efficiency. Second, only one person asked about the subjects.
It is apparently easier to be impressed than to be interested. And perhaps there is no shame in this. There are a number of artists whose achievements awe me, but whose work utterly fails to keep my interest when it comes to the subject; this troubles me as a failing on my part, but perhaps it should not to the degree it does.
It is soon eight in the evening. It has been quite a long day - nevertheless, if Art square is still around in the year to come, I will attend again.
Love does strange things to you.