2015 MPLS: Advocating for the Alternative

Gavin Kroeber (Session Host)
Abigail Satinsky (Session Host)
Jamie Bennett
Richard Birkett
Paul Bonin-Rodriguez
Sheila Smith

Artist-led and artist-centric organizations are both affected and ignored by mainstream arts advocacy, which does not so much champion art or artists as much as celebrate “the arts” as an industry. Focusing predominantly on the economic impact of large cultural institutions and their proverbial general publics, or on the measurable social impact (read: economic impact) of community-based and placemaking approaches, the standard narratives make no argument for an enduring and vital alternative art sector that is non-entrepreneurial, dedicated to working artists, and allows for experimentation and failure. With the historical model of governmental support severely challenged, with the scars of the so-called Culture Wars still shaping the field, where and to whom should this under-resourced sector turn for support? Can common cause be made between advocacy specific to artist workers and non-arts advocacy engaging issues that impact both artists and wider constituencies – such as anti-gentrification or social equity? Can we articulate new ways of valuing art and artists? From there can we forge new policy?