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Waste Not, Art Not

A Washington, D.C. group of Howard University alumni gathered to discuss a draft report of the Future of the Arts and Society project. They ranged in age from 30 to 60 years old.  There was a judge, an investment manager, nurse, consultant, and travel agency owner among the participants. The setting was a private upstairs area in Chez Billy, a new French restaurant in Washington, DC that has a history of being a place where elite African Americans would gather in the 1950’s and discuss policy issues.

With regards to remixing art, the influence of technology on art was intriguing. The participants suggested that tools such as holograms, videos, and books on tape might cause an upgrade to the usefulness of libraries.  We talked about libraries as being important to the poor and a new gathering place that, if expanded, could support the growth of interest in the arts.  Now members of the community gather to use computers for homework, job searches, and even producing artistic products.  The participants said that they do not agree with hardcopy books being obsolete, saying that the physical turning of pages offers a degree of mental programming that is useful to cognition.  And further, that reading a book to children fosters closeness that cuddling up with an automated reading device misses.

Public censure of art is most visible these days in attempts to confront the lyrics in rap music and the content of music videos.  At some point in the past blues and jazz were censored.  The argument is that some youth seem to imitate what they see and hear literally.  On the matter of intellectual property, all agreed that there is no way to police the ownership and use of it.  They cited the recent cases of a claim against Beyoncé for use of a dance routine and against a comedian who found that her joke was repeated by actress Betty White.  Who is to say that two people cannot think of the same thing at the same time?  And then there is the case of Facebook where users have discovered that their images can be and are sold around the world.  The major take away is that we are wasting artistic talent in all forms and development levels by not supporting it and that art is a free and open unifying expression of humanity.

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