“Serious” Art

The below is an email that I sent to the writer Kate Bernheimer. I just got a copy of her anthology “My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me” (forty new fairy tales), and was settling in, on this very snowy day, to read the book.

I’ll let the email tell the rest:

Dear Ms. Bernheimer:

I JUST got my copy of “My Mother She Killed Me….”, was reading your intro (yes, I have not gotten any further then reading the blurb, contents, and your intro), and already felt I wanted to share something with you.

You wrote about the response at a writers conference when you mentioned Fairy Tales and “serious literature”. It made me shake my head.

I had a similar response, years ago. to the work I do. I am a Storyteller, and at the time I was the founder and Artistic Director of The Brothers Grinn (two Ns so you smile twice as much), an interactive improvisational storytelling troupe . I was at an Arts Council of (name withheld here for a number of reasons) meeting, which was about how the arts council will help in funding and support of new artists (which we were, at the time).

At the end of a very long two hours, the president of the arts council stated: “Only serious artists will be considered” for the above mentioned funding and support.  Another children’s/family performer and I looked at each other. We were dismissed because we weren’t “serious” artists. It didn’t matter how strongly we felt about what we did, the audiences we strove to entertain and, hopefully, sometimes enlighten.

I turned away from the Arts Council as much as they turned away from me. Since then, I find that too often I find such border confining mindsets in others in the arts field…a field I truly believe should be the most accepting. If WE can’t embrace the breadth of what can be written, painted, sculpted, danced, told…how can we get upset when others don’t “get us”?

Thanks for this book. On this snowed in Thursday in NY, I am so going to devour this book.

…Grandma…what big teeth you have…

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Eleanor
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 15:49:28

    Great letter Stu!
    These kinds of exclusive attitudes are SO antithetical to what art is all about…you would think that people on arts councils would have some kind of awareness of this.
    AND what could be more ‘serious’ (stupid word) for an arts council than making sure that children are exposed to art and performance?


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