How will the Obama Administration choose to address ideas of cultural equity?  A recent article indicates that the Obamas are taking it into consideration. With the White House merely a few blocks away from the National Museum of  Women in the Arts, one might hope that the Obamas will consider looking for more works by women.  On the whole, the Obamas are in step with the Kennedys ideas when it comes to careful consideration of the arts and culture and how the residents of the White House can use their own art choices to make a public statement.

“Working with curators at the White House and at the local museums that made loans, the First Couple selected some works whose politics are explicit, and mild. They seem to redress past imbalances in the nation’s sense of its own art. There are works by African Americans (seven paintings from three artists, out of a total of 47) and by Native Americans (four artists contributed three modern ceramics and one abstract painting). There are also 12 paintings depicting Native Americans, by the 19th-century ethnographic artist George Catlin.

But there are still only six works by women, vs. 41 by men. And there are no works at all by Latinos. (A work by the deceased Cuban American artist Félix González-Torres would have filled the gap perfectly, and added a nod to the country’s gay culture. The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum has one that could have been borrowed.)”


Alma Thomas, Watusi (Hard Edge), 1963

“The politics in at least one of the new choices is strong and direct as could be. “Black Like Me #2,” on loan from the Hirshhorn, is by Glenn Ligon, one of the best African American artists working today, and also one of the smartest and toughest.” link to full article

What is Cultural Equity and what role does the federal government play in it?

Access and Justice for all…

From a grantmaker: These Cultural Equity grants are offered in the spirit that all people who make up the city ought to have fair access to information, financial resources and opportunities for full cultural expression, as well as opportunities to be represented in the development of arts policy and the distribution of arts resources; that all the cultures and subcultures of the city are represented in thriving, visible arts organizations of all sizes; that new large-budget arts institutions whose programming reflects the experiences of historically underserved communities flourish. The historically underserved communities named in these guidelines—Native Americans, Asian American, African American, the Disabled, Latino, L/G/B/T, Pacific Islander, Women—have been so identified by the legislation which created Cultural Equity Grants for the specific purpose of the Cultural Equity Grants Program and not for any other purpose.

From Marta Vega: Advocates of cultural equity seek to advocate for the equitable distribution of funds and other resources to under-resourced and underserved emerging and midsized organizations grounded in the culture and arts of their communities.

Arts On Foot: representing the Flashpoint Gallery

Arts On Foot: representing the Flashpoint Gallery: Sol y Soul performing - background me helping with hosting a tent in the “Cultural Corridor.”

“The struggle for cultural equity would be a defining issue of the 21st century”

A interesting article I read about cultural equity defines terms up front. I found that helpful due to the confusing nomenclature used in Arts Policy.  Speakers often use very similar terms to describe very different ideas or use the same term to mean very different things.  “Each forum began by clarifying terms. “Culture” was defined as the distinctive spiritual, intellectual, emotional and material traditions and features of a people, and “equitable” defined as meaning fair and just. As a matter of principle, then, all cultures had the inherent right to develop, expecting fair and just treatment in relationship to all other cultures”.  I would have to agree with the statement above, we all have the inherent right to our own culture. I firmly believe that state, local and community governments have a strong role to play, and that federal grants that go to the local level for administration are the way to approach this issue. The federal government is responsible to promote broad, national and international programs with broad objectives such as national security.  At the federal level, the government has a role in civil rights as well. It does not have an administrative role in community based cultural organizations though; those decisions need to be left to each community.

In seeking to make practical use of our understanding of the United States’ cultural policy students quickly come to realize there are no easy answers.  Who should get the federal money? A presence in the United States’ large cultural institutions? What or who represents a community’s culture?  What are the goals and objectives; if these cannot be clearly articulated how can policy be made?

Perhaps the new Obama administration will address the issues:  “At the invitation of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, on May 7, 2009, Voices leaders traveled to the White House to meet with Obama administration officials including Kareem Dale, special advisor to the President and White House arts and culture liaison; Stephanie Valencia, White House Office of Public Engagement; Yosi Sargent, National Endowment for the Arts communications director; and Jodi A. Gillette, deputy associate director of the Office of Intergovermental Affairs. They discussed existing cultural policy as well as promising opportunities for artists and cultural activists to help revitalize communities. The White House staff members were attentive during the discussions and affirmed that this meeting would be the first of more meetings to come. Voices leaders will discuss their take on administration policy at the Grantmakers in the Arts disenfranchisement conference in Brooklyn, N.Y., October 18-21, 2009.

The objective of Cultural Equity policy is justice for decades of exculsion.  Justice for all is a pillar of democracy; how can there not be a role for the government here?  How do we get there and how much of the country’s ‘cultural dollars’ go toward this goal?  Clearly cultural equity is a lofty goal to pursue; the hard part will be in defining where it fits into the current administrative structure or in creating new structures for addressing the issue, defining procedures for it, and selling, to the general public, the use of federal dollars for cultural groups who have been traditionally denied access and resources.  They are not main stream, we can’t be sure if what they are doing is Art, we can’t agree on the benefits of such an expenditure…

Perhaps it begins with grassroot support, within communities, and it grows.  However, the government could choose to assist. Just as Cultural Diplomacy set out to break barriers and misconceptions through cultural exchange outside of our national borders, Cultural Equity can work toward a very similar goal bringing people together through art within our own borders.  Peace and unity just might begin at home and spread through out the world.  If the ‘tossed salad’ or ‘smorgasbord’ that is the United States can use art and cultural exchange to create harmony within communities that no longer fit into the ‘melting pot’ framework perhaps we will be true world leaders.

Until then, lets get the dialogue moving and test the waters. There have been some great successes- with and without the aid of the government funding.  It’s up to each of us to turn off the tv for one night a week, get down to the nearest arts organization, and make our voices heard; actions speak louder than words. Just Do It! If you want a culturally vibrant community, do something. Often government policy follows community action.

Just as early US cultural funders had to be creative or covert with funding, it is possible that funding for these cultural centers and projects can come from unconventional budgeting methods.

Why is culture critical to the health of communities and how can we 1) make that case, and 2) infuse culture into the community functions to promote community-wide health? What are the potential benefits and pitfalls in this work? Who is doing this work successfully?

If culture is woven, for example into community initiatives how do we envision culture playing a role in the community’s desired educational outcomes, and human services outcomes, economic development outcomes, housing, social justice outcomes, etc.?

What is the instrumental value of the arts in other sectors? If we can answer these questions we are well on the way to finding funding! (questions from ).

Further Readings : What’s really going on in this arena?!

DSCN2320 DSCN2309 DSCN2319

Han Yajuan

Before the Big Night, 2008

Oil on canvas

Like many people born in the 1980s, she is constantly in pursuit of new sensations and fresh experiences and her paintings reveal that overarching quest of her generation. The cartoon-like language in Han Yajuan’s works not only effectively represents the romance and simplicity of this group, but also shows the difference between their visual understanding and visual representation. These young artists share similar life experiences and most of them have subconsciously acquiesced to consumerism through their art.

click here for a link to the exhibition

“Because art is universally human and one of the highest forms of individual and political expression, the exchange of art and culture is a powerful tool in finding common ground and building more stable relationships, mutual affection for the things that unite us, and genuine respect — even where we differ”.  click here

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to the Meridian Center last night to view Metropolis Now!  Tomorrow is your last opportunity to get to DC to view exhibition; you should try.  It is the first time such an exhibit has been on view in DC. 31 artists are represented by 52 artworks; painting, mixed media, sculpture, and  video; all address changes taking place in Chinese cities. While the giant ants certainly attract a lot of attention, I was drawn to Before the Big Night, returning to look at it several times.  I am glad I didn’t miss this show or the venue; every time I get out in DC I make a wonderful discovery!

Further Reading on the developing arts ecosystem in China today

final finals…

April 21st, 2009

selfnarrative #4:contemplating optimism

broken halos ? not sure yet!

oil and gold leaf on wood panel

As I near the completion of my final art problem at UMW I can’t help but realize how very much I will miss them.  It has been a frustrating semester and I have had a difficult time getting my work finished lately. Senioritis! I thought that was myth.  I have been pulled in so many directions this semester I have not taken much time out to contemplate.  So this last project is fitting in so many ways. It is time to sit back and look at what I have accomplished and at how far I have come. It is also time to look ahead at how far I have yet to go!  So many great things ahead….But I will miss the wonderful people who have been such an important part of these past few years.

Buddhism and the Feminine

April 6th, 2009

Barhut yakshi

A woman set free! How free I am,

how wonderfully free, from the kitchen drudgery.

Free from the harsh grip of hunger,

And free from the empty cooking pots,

Free too from that unscrupulous man,

The weaver of sunshades.
Calm now, and serene I am,

All lust and hatred purged.

To the shade of spreading trees I go

And contemplate my happiness.

Buddhism, from its inception, acknowledged and even welcomed strong, positive images of women.  Buddhism appealed to women for this very reason; women were not only welcome, but played a vital role in the religious community. This is evidenced by the powerful, affirmative depictions of the female figure which proliferate in pre-Buddhist and Buddhist artwork of the East.  As early as the first period of Buddhism in India, issues relating to women were recorded.  Women were “spiritual daughters” and tales of the liberation of women, through Buddhism, were written down in the Therigatha ; “…one can not fail to be impressed by the dignity, strength and size of the women’s order as portrayed in the Therigatha”, written in the 6th century B.C.E.  The poems of theTherigatha are perhaps the earliest recorded stories of women. Although they were not put into written word until much later, these are important records of the spiritual journeys of early, itinerant nuns who were contemporaries of Buddha. Read the rest of this entry »

tiny dancer

February 23rd, 2009

Here I was back in 1975.  I sit here now,  not quite ready to prepare for my Buddhist ArtH mid terms…Instead I am reliving my very distant youth. Isn’t that what grandmas do?  (while drinking sweet Raspberry wine and thinking about spring).  Where did the years go and what makes us drift back to the past when the present is wonderful?  India left an indelible mark on me.  An accidental click on a google search took me back 33 years this weekend.

I loved Bharata Natyam; I thought I would never forget the dance or meaning of each gesture; I have forgotten them all long ago. I do remember dancing and loving it. So I searched my closet and found this page I kept from a scrapbook I discarded years ago.   The American Embassy School Music and Dance Students, under the direction of Miss Lucia Maloney, invite you to their dance recital.

After coming across this website I found the email address of the ‘boy next door’ from B-58 Greater Kailash and he sent me this photo of our old house.  He was more the ‘boy upstairs’ actually!  My family lived on the ground floor of this house; his family was upstairs.  We had some great times as kids, and found our fair share of trouble as well!

The website has our old year books posted, too.  That’s me on the left with two friends Arlette and Sophia.  So even though I am likely to forget a few dates later this week, what was the significance of the Bala Buddha?, I can remember these old friends and the stain I got on the jeans I borrowed from Arlette in 7th grade!  Oil paint actually…some things just don’t change!



January 24th, 2009

Grandma explaining her art work to Grace

Last night, diffusion, a show featuring works by Katherine, Molly, Robert and Eric, opened.  It was my granddaughter’s first gallery opening!  Molly’s work, especially the large, organic, abstracted shapes, really fascinated her. She’s showing signs of art appreciation already! Rayden, my two year old grandson, is more of a food critic; the edible arrangement was his favorite work of art. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro

I took this photo because I wanted to show it in situ as the viewer approaches it, not as it is normally photographed, frontally and with out its architectural frame or setting. It is dark in the church; which has an electric light now, but would not have at the time this was placed in the Frari. This photograph gives you a better idea of the experience of the painting than a text book photograph does. I believe the columns and oblique Madonna make perfect sense when first viewed and approached from this position.


Titian was a master of painting and color; his influence on Western art is enormous and far reaching. Through careful examination of Titian’s altarpiece paintings, Assumption and Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro, it is possible to glimpse not only the unusual, yet inherently Venetian, way Titian approached painting, but also the decisions that led to the final artworks and to his unique contributions to Renaissance painting. Titian began his career as a painter in Renaissance Venice at a time when painting was in flux, oil and glaze were new, and altarpieces were a unique vehicle for artistic expression. He synthesized all that was happening around him and created expressively life-like paintings that took perspective, color, subject and composition all to a new level. “Throughout his long career, Titian respected tradition. Never can we think of him as an avant-garde artist…yet while his work always depended on the past, he subtly transformed what he took into something new.” [1] Although Titian did honor painting’s past, it is difficult not to believe that he was ahead of his time. His work influenced the history of Western art for centuries to come; his influence continues today.

This paper will briefly outline the history of altarpieces in Venice, the progression of naturalism in those paintings, some of the people and events influencing Titian, and finally it will examine the innovative ways in which Titian approached his masterpieces and made his mark on painting. With the Assumption, created for the high altar in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Titian is credited, by Marino Sanuto, a Venetian historian and diarist and contemporary of Titian, with establishing the High Renaissance in Venice. [2] Likewise the Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro exceeded the expectations of his time. Many of the elements destined to become hallmarks of this master of Renaissance painting are exemplified in this unprecedented altarpiece. Read the rest of this entry »

Ca’ Pesaro Madonna

December 1st, 2008

Read the rest of this entry »

Why would a master paint an imperfect Saint Sebastian?! Perhaps the ladies needed to spend more time focusing on the service and altar than on the altarpiece!

Here is a response to my request for a translation of Italian in a previous post… by someone who speaks Italian fluently. Perhaps this is an interesting topic for a future paper! I’ve cut Saint Sebastian out of my current research paper because I’ve been too long winded about the Assunta and Pesaro altarpieces and my research took a turn…

The Italian is not vernacular so it’s a bit difficult to translate without a bit more context. We’re talking art and Fra Bartolommeo so I’m guessing we’re talking about the nude St. Sebastian that he did in Florence that is very lifelike and of great personal beauty. So apparently the friars learned through confession that women had sinned [were corrupted?] by looking at/regarding the painting given of the graceful and lusty realism of the painting due to Fra Bartolomeo’s skill as a painter. Apparently it was so realistic and graceful that it verged on the erotic…

“As the friars learned through confession, women, in looking at/gazing at/regarding [the painting] sinned because of the beautiful/graceful and lascivious/lusty imitation of life [lifelike image] given by the skills/capabilities [virtue in the larger sense of attributes] of Friar Bartolomeo”  Dave Storey (translator)