Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Commission of Cultural Affairs and a member of the Public Art Committee. An MFA graduate of SMU, she is offering an Artist Critique class at the Meadows Museum on Dec. 5.
Meadows School of the Arts Dean Jose Bowen has been energizing SMU faculty and students for the past three years. Last week, he jazzed up his message for the first of the “Meadows Alumni Discovery Series,” planned as a reconnection with alumni and the community. ‘”The big idea,” he said, as he played “Autumn Leaves” on a piano in a variety of styles and moods to emphasize different approaches, varying personalities and new twists, “is to encourage artists to twist things around and turn tradition upside down. Artists should bring something new to the table.” He boasted that S.M.U., “creates a climate that does that. Meadows School of the Arts students are encouraged to push the edge and feel comfortable to fail. You’re going to have to fail sometimes to do something really important.”
He also suggested a thought not generally uttered aloud when I was an MFA student in the late 70s. “Artists are entrepreneurs,” he said. “They should be trained to be entrepreneurs. Global entrepreneurs.” When an artist creates something new, he/she should tell the world how important and relevant that change is. “Artists are not doing a good enough job of selling themselves or their accomplishments. You have to go out and convince others that you’re relevant and it matters.”
Why does an artistic breakthrough matter? How does a musical composition act as an agent for change and recognize the artist as an entrepreneur? Bowen suggested we look at Beethoven’s demands on the piano. Research explains that the intensity and major sound variations in Beethoven’s sonatas resulted in many broken keys and strings to the existing piano. Thus, consulting with the pianist, piano manufacturers created a new, popular Beethoven-approved piano, which became wildly sought after and branded, changing the history of piano design and influencing manufacturing and commerce.
Today, artists in all fields should be taking advantage of new technology. Artists should be encouraged to be risk-takers and imagine what was once unthinkable. Bowen would tell them to get out of their studios, to travel and to tempt fate. (SMU/Meadows encourages overseas travel).
He also emphatically said that artists/entrepreneurs are engines of change. They will make discoveries and inspire innovations. The subsequent community applause and the building of a “fan base” will dictate change to the manufacturers. I suggest that is true – be they makers of pianos, electric guitars, lighting, paints or fashion. Art has the power to transform for the better – what we think is forever.