Today, we feel the need to address the unity of our community and its opposite, the divisions within. We’re doing this because a respondent to our recent post “A Creative Population”, after inquiring about the STArt Project, characterized much of the writing on this blog site (Create Tucker) as self-indulged, without benefit to Tucker County students, and specifically criticized the Purple Fiddle as a cultural intrusion to Tucker County. First, let’s look at two aspects of our community: its economic potential and its diversity, using the Purple Fiddle as a case in point for both. Later we will address the STArt Project goals and how they relate these concerns.
First, regarding economic potential, the Purple Fiddle is a widely acclaimed musical venue that without question is a Tucker County destination for visitors. That means it brings business to our tourist-dependent economy—an obvious gain for the county. But despite that community contribution, the Fiddle has trouble meeting expenses. That’s no surprise, really, as performance venues generally require more than the price of entry to sustain operations, and tourist-dependent operations usually suffer seasonal ups and downs.
So the Purple Fiddle relies on tourists and other outside influences to keep it going, which brings us to the second point, about diversity in our community. Tourists and others who come here to live bring change. And relying on these outsiders for economic growth compounds the challenges of a changing culture. We think that change itself, when seen as a threat, divides our community. What’s interesting to us is that the Purple Fiddle, as a thriving venue for a variety of musical styles, is really the meeting ground where Appalachian traditional music embraces and influences many newer musical styles. It offers a compatible blend and is a wholly successful artistic endeavor. In that sense, the Fiddle honors local traditions, just as it promotes local musicians, adds to the local economy, and wins acclaim far and wide for its efforts. It’s even a popular meeting spot for many different elements of our composite community. Even so, we think some resent the fact that it embodies change.
Art can do that. It absorbs influences and reflects change. As Seth wrote in “empathy”, art allows us to see things as someone else might see them. Art does not force us do that, just as art itself does not create cultural change. Rather, it allows us to see what’s already there, in the world outside ourselves or within. Art is a window—through it one can look out and one can look in. Every generation’s artists—in all the arts—speak with new voices because they grow up in new times. Art, then, reaches across what divides us. By developing Tucker County’s art potential, along with that of its economics, threat falls away and a divided community can be seen as a composite community.
[This is long, we know, but we hope you’ll keep reading.]
Now, how does the STArt Project relate to this discussion and how does it benefit Tucker County students? First, to recap, STArt is a local program, now in its third year, that aims to bring the schools and the community together in support of art(s) instruction and activities. Previously we posted “Let’s STArt” to announce that the Tucker Community Foundation had granted $750 to STArt for the Tucker County Schools to purchase much needed student art supplies in 2011, because to make art, you need materials. We should have noted then that STArt projects in 2009 and 2010 had already given a total of $1,600 to the schools for students’ art supplies. This total of $2,350 given over three years is all money from the community for the community; the goal is to encourage students to participate in art activities and exercise their artistic abilities for their own good and for the good of the community.
In “What’s New With You” we wrote again about student needs at Tucker County High School, relaying a New Year’s wish from art teacher Linda Moser and principal James Hamric to beautify the courtyard space with a public art piece as a visible sign of school pride, and their need for community involvement to realize that dream. Then Seth’s recent post “Support” proposed four specific ideas to gain funding and support for the art programs in the schools. These posts and others stress STArt as a means of channeling community support to Tucker County students, and explore the way the arts can bond and improve the community as its members work together on students’ behalf.
STArt, as well as Create Tucker, is trying to rally our community—all parts of it—to enable our students to find their voices, to exercise their innate artistic and creative abilities as part of their future entry into all walks of life. We owe it to our students to reach across the divide, to give them opportunities to join us in building and maintaining a strong community.
What do you think? What can you contribute to reaching across the divide?