Stephanie Cash of BurnAway.org poses the question of whether regionalism is a help or a hindrance to the development of art in our region. Here are a few thoughts.
For many years now the thinking among marketing professionals is that the best way to market places of tourism and the arts in a state like Georgia, is to market them as unique to their place and time. Heritage tourism, history tourism, eco-tourism, agri-tourism, literary trails, and food tours, are the result.
The trend will probably continue. Artists can expect to see arts marketers positioning the arts within their particular time and place.
And yet we can expect young artists, who are taught that the highest art transcends its time and place, and who are encouraged to aspire higher, to resist the regionalist thinkers and marketers. Can we blame them if they seek to move to, and grow in, the world’s centers of art? We can certainly forgive them if they feel a chill as they perceive the narrow markets for their work outside major cities.
We can also forgive them if they feel no reassurance when it is proposed in academia that there is no such thing as transcendence of context, but only our own contemporary interpretations and evaluations of the art that we consume and discuss.
In current conversation and writing about contemporary art, we may or may not discuss the artist’s particular time and place. One suspects that the more distant in time the artist is, the more that context is allowed to matter.
In many art galleries along the southern coast, where the walls are covered with pelicans, driftwood, and sunsets, it’s hard to see how any of the artists look outside their communities for intellectual challenge. But they are older artists, and perhaps lack the obsessive vision of greatness, relying instead on the joy of continuing to work and notice what is set before them.
From the world of pop music, an interesting and perhaps instructive example of a small place achieving greatness is Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The finest pop artists from London, New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles sought out that little place to make great records. You might find the documentary film Muscle Shoals, by Greg Camalier, to be stimulating on questions of regionalism.