Monday, February 26, 2007

February 26, 2007

February 27th

Welcome to another session of the HESSENIUS GROUP. This discussion will continue today and tomorrow. Please scroll down to the comments line and enter your own comment.

"And the beat goes on...................."

Cora Mirikitani, Paul Minicucci, Jodi Beznoska, Jonathan Katz and I are joined by two very special guests: former Chair of the National Endowment of the Arts, Frank Hodsoll and former Director of the Arts & Humanities program at the Rockefeller Foundation, Alberta Arthurs. Mr. Hodsoll and Dr. Arthurs co-chaired the 92nd American Assembly in 1997 on "The Arts and the Public Purpose", and both are actively involved in a number of arts & culture initiatives and work with national arts organizations. I am delighted and honored they are participting in this brief discussion.

The topic is: Why does America so value the celebrity and so undervalue the artist, and what are the implications for arts & culture in America.

The subtopic is, I suppose, the intersections between the 'for profit' or private sector arts establishment and the nonprofit arts field, and the artificial division between the two that has for so long been the default reality i.e., why do both the nonprofit and for profit arts sectors view the other as something foreign rather than acknowledge that they are closer to two sides of the same coin? Where are the intersections between the two sectors false and contrived, and where are they genuine and natural? How are we helped and harmed by both the real and artificial differences and distances?

Certainly the arts are not the only sector that decries the media attention directed at celebrities at the expense of arguably more important and substantive issues. What can the arts learn from an analysis of why the public so adores celebrity (and were the public not to adore such coverage, doubtless the media would look elsewhere for what the public did demand the media is, after all, concerned with ratings and circulation and its bottom line more than its journalistic mission). What insights might help us to garner more media coverage for arts & culture ISSUES (as opposed to arts & culture performances and exhibitions?) Is a discussion of celebrity in any way instructive for our sector as to the way we go about managing media relations? What lessons can be learned that will get us more coverage, garner more public interest??

Is any of this really new? Were artists of the past (the Rembrandts and Mozarts) the celebrities 500 years ago? And was public fascination really any different back then, than it is today? Has much --other than technology really changed? What are the issues we ought to think about when we broach the subject of why society so values celebrity and so undervalues artistic creativity? Is it fair to say that an artist is an artist no matter whether working in the for or non profit sectors?; that creativity is creativity, whether it originates in one environment or another? And so what? What does that have to do with anything?

Does the best approach for our sector lie in working with the for profit entertainment industry in mutual joint ventures and cross-over partnerships? Is getting into bed with the star making machinery of Hollywood really in our best interest? How? Why? Why not? Do we really want to position artists from our sector to be fodder for the public's desire to set up for worship, then knock down celebrities, in a cycle of idolatry then contempt? Are we perhaps fortunate that artists are not celebrities? The entertainment industry's overarching concern has, for a long time, been the bottom line of profit do we want to be part of that approach to creativity? Can we avoid it? Is that how we wish to measure our success? Is that the inevitable result of trying to forge alliances and ventures with the for profit arts sector?

When we speak about aligning our interests and / or fortunes with those of the for profit arts sector, are we talking about piggybacking on the entertainment industry's initiatives, or are we talking about wholly new enterprises originated at a decision making table to which we come as equals? And where do the two sectors intersect as equals, with clearly apparent mutual interests at stake and gains to be made?

What approach is best to developing relationships that will sustain themselves over time, or is no approach working better than we think?


I can't find a source but I remember some commentary about how a sociologist had posited that people are motivated by three outside drivers, money, power and fame and that the depression era people were motivated by money, the baby boomers by power (we wanted to change things) and the generation x and y by fame. These cycles have been around for centuries. The downside of the topic is that I see no way to stem the tide and convert all the media attention to the arts.

In some ways I think the culture wars were about this subject in that the "bad" arts grants generated popular notice only because they were scandals. I have also read that the celebrity obsession has less to do with making people famous than it has to do with knocking people down. The best way to knock people down is to build up false heroes.

I would point to an article (again I can't find it) about why LaDanian Tomlinson, most probably the best player in the NFL cannot get attention or notice while Terrell Owens hogs the spotlight. The point was L.T. is a quiet guy who is "not interesting" while T.O. is a media hit because he does stuff that the media can take potshots at.

I do think there is a link here however. I just read a blog where a person said: "if I want drama in my life I would read a novel." I think there is a kind of connect the dots here, starting with literature as being a vehicle for people to experience epiphanies, gain knowledge, view drama, etc. in personal but important ways to the more accessible and less taxing form of romance novels, where sex and scandal and glamor rule, to magazines about stars or glamoros people to television and internet celebrity. The study of human beings struggling with human emotions and experiences is the subject matter; the diffferences are in depth of feeling.

The whole issue of "celebrity" is such a minefield. Would most artists be willing to trade off public acceptance, fame, even mass consumption of their work at the expense of creative freedom? To be subject to business handlers, media opinion and other intermediaries telling them what to create, and how to live their lives? For some artists, maybe the answer may be "yes." But I think the more relevant question in the nonprofit sector is whether we (arts policymakers, funders, presenters, etc.) can do a better job in supporting artists in the real, global marketplace, including making a better case for artists and artistic expression with the general public and developing new systems of connecting artists to larger audiences, including both consumers and investors.

Some of that "system reform" is already underway, due to the enormous access and publishing power provided to individuals using web 2.0 technology. But in the nonprofit arts sector, we've been really slow to get on board, I'm afraid. I think we need to focus much more time and money on building radically new tools and systems for artists that will allow them to be more sustainable and self-sufficient. But this will require a shift in the current power equation - and in financial allocations - which is going to make it tough.

Has anyone read the book "Don't Think of an Elephant?" It's a great book about political strategy and "framing" - and one of it's basic premises is that the right has spent 40 years researching and carefully framing its messages to appeal to a wide base - so they often vote for conservative ideals, even when it goes against their best interests. In a nutshell - even if you aren't rich now, you think you will be some day, and you'd better vote to protect that eventuality.

It's the same with celebrity. Even though most of us will never be famous, there is a corner of all our hearts that thinks "I could do that, if I got the break those famous people got." But instead of language and political framing, we have the engine of television and mass media working for us. We learn celebrity backstories. We hear about their triumphs, tragedies, and childhoods. We see the pictures from their elementary school years when they looked just like we did. We ARE these people, just without the fame. Plus, we can talk to our friends about them via email and the web - even when one friend lives in Arkansas and one in Minnesota. It's a a common language - "did you hear the story about so-and-so?" It's easy, it's free, and it's sensational.

The arts, by contrast, are most often not free, and the arts field is notorious for making it hard to learn about it's artists. How are you supposed to get to know a performer when they breeze through town and provide 2 sentences of a bio in a program printed in size 10 type? Or when you read one story in a newspaper two days before the show? So, what are we to do? First thing - use the tools we have available. The web is a great equalizer, and we have not yet begun to tap into it's potential to address this problem. Can we personalize our artists? Can we generate the underground hype that will lead to the mass coverage of celebrity? Do we even want this kind of attention applied to our artists?

Or maybe it's simply that, as one of my colleagues said as we were discussing the Anna Nicole Smith phenomena, "celebrities' lives are so pathetic that it makes us feel better about ours."

I'd like to hear from our guests. Frank what is your initial response?

You pose a very important issue which applies not only to the arts, but to almost every form of human endeavor. As you note, it is not a new issue. I believe it has always been thus. Having said that, in my view, the intersection between the for-profit and not-for-profit is a separate, not a sub-, topic. The issue of celebrity is inherent in both sectors. The great classical composers, soloists, and conductors in the orchestral world are often chosen for their name recognition; French impressionism and Picasso have celebrity value, but also are great art; talented movie stars can enhance the productions of not-for-profit theaters, for their art as well as their celebrity; Baryshnikov was both a celebrity and a great dancer; since I am just back from India, Salman Rushdie is both a celebrity and great writer. I could go on, but the point is made.

On the subject of celebrity, I might note that there are both good and bad celebrities. In the arts, the test of time, the only sure fire test, thankfully eliminates the bad ones after their 15 or so minutes of fame. The good celebrities that last are, on the other hand, the great artists of their days. There are very few Village Hamptons in the arts.

The power of celebrity has, at least in the 20th century, been enhanced by broadcast television and the marketing of products linked to individuals with star status. As you point out, this catches the eyeballs of both mass and niche audiences and buyers. An interesting question today is whether the endless niches of the Internet (You Tube, will dilute celebrity into a cacophony of Babel.

There is a problem of celebrity that you didn't touch on, and that concerns what motivates young people who would be artists. Alberta Arthurs and I were involved in North Carolina a while back (and Alberta more recently in an American Assembly) with the issue of artist education and training. A number of those present lamented the number of promising musicians, actors, etc. whose motivation appeared to be more stardom than art. There was a television piece not so long ago on the same phenomenon among athletes. One could extend this issue into investment banking (master of the universe), politics (President, the nation's number one celebrity, or nothing), news commentary, history, and even science. The bottom line, as I see it, is balance. Hopefully, as a result of family, education, and general environment, young people will start with substance and only then think about the spin and public attention needed to get something useful done. Artists, like everyone else, need to do both!

Finally, on the subject of the not-for-profit part of the arts sector. To me, there is an arts sector with both for-profit and not-for-profit parts. This is something Alberta, I, and others came up with at an American Assembly some years back. Going beyond that American Assembly, in my view, the only absolute defining characteristic of the not-for-profit world is 501(c)(3) status, a function of the Tax Code. The artistic and business managers of both for-profit and not-for-profit arts organizations know they need to survive. And so, they mix popular and less popular work with this in mind. This motivation also applies to commercial movie producers. Compare the Indie tilt of this and last year's Oscars with the box office hits (for the most part Oscarless). Each of the major studios has an art house production company. Television is less forgiving. Virtually all ballet companies use Nutcracker to make ends meet, symphonies the three “s.

The not-for-profit world, it seems to me, needs to place mission higher than revenues, whereas the for-profit world does the opposite. But, as noted, there are mixtures of motivation in both worlds. Both the for-profit and not-for-profit arts need to be more strategic longer term. How do the next creation, the next production, affect audience loyalty, which audiences over time? How does one build market share? This, in the not-for-profit world, affects contributions as well as ticket or membership sales. Celebrities are a part of this. It needs to be noted, however, that Bill Ivey might say that not-for-profits have dumbed down to lure increased financial contributions from their patrons.

There is an infinite variety of collaborations that one might envisage between the for-profit and not-for-profit parts of the arts sector. This already occurs in theater where LORT scale is a cheaper way for try-out, perhaps en route to Broadway. There are a number of New York and other theaters that participate in this. The Internet also provides avenues for try-out, particularly in music. Film and television schools provide non-scale venues for the production and distribution of even feature length fare.

Finally, let me make a note from the Symposium on Film, Television, Digital Media, and Popular Culture that I produced last May in LA for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. We had several panels, one of which involved four members of the LA creative community and was moderated by CalArts President Steve Lavine. The panel was split (2:2) on what resulted in artistic quality. Two (Emmy Award winning producer directors Lionel Chetwynd, Hanoi Hilton, Ike: Countdown to D Day; and Joel Surnow, 24, Miami Vice) urged the value of the market in separating the wheat from the chaff. Surnow, in particular, noted his satisfaction in having 20-30 million people tune in to 24 every Monday. Two (Emmy and Peabody Award winner and former Motown CEO Suzanne de Passe, Lonesome Dove, Lady Sings the Blues; and filmographer/director Penelope Spheeris, E: Truth about Enron, Decline of Western Civilization Parts One and Two) lamented the inability of Hollywood executives to see and understand good work. De Passe and Spheeris were joined in their lament by Andy Garcia who noted that it had taken him 16 years to finance The Lost City.

All five of these artists have made substantial money and were recognized artistically. There is value in art that reaches and grabs large audiences. No one would deny the artistry of Shakespeare and Dickens. Such art can also reflect a personal vision. There is value in art that reflects a personal vision. Such art can also reach substantial audiences. No one would deny the reach of French Impressionism or Johnny Cash. The best artists work at balance here. Similarly, the best arts organizations work at balance between mission and market. They need to do so to survive. They also need to do so to produce excellent art that will withstand the test of time.

Enough! I look forward to reading the views of others.

Coincidentally, there was a feature piece on the TODAY SHOW this morning on America's obsession with "celebrity". In a survey they did of high school kids, when given the choice of being famous or intelligent, both boys and girls picked being famous by a wide margin. As Frank observed, kids are increasingly today looking at fame as the ultimate goal - and being an athlete, or a movie star or something else is just the means to get to the goal of fame and public adulation. It's like the line in the Beatles song Come Together: "Got to be good looking, cause he's so hard to see" If kids can't be excited, challenged, satisfied and fulfilled by being great athletes, or scientists, or musicians, or teachers or thinkers -- if the pursuit of excellence and the joy of discovery are reallyi unimportant, and merely roads to the all consuming importance of fame, what will that do to the ecosystem that supports and nurtures true creativity. In our sector, if we continue to "dumb down" artistic excellence to make it both palpable and accessible to the widest audience, we become, do we not, complicit with the for profit sector in making celebrity the dominant value?

If artistic endeavor ends up primarily just a means to 'fame' - that threatens all creativity, doesn't it? Bad for our sector because it reinforces the undervaluation of art and the creative impulse, bad for the 'for profit' sector because it ultimately allows ever inferior work geared towards a one dimensional audience? The problem with celebrity is that it makes it harder to exhalt public appreciation and valuation of all art and of the creative process itself; it shifts the focus to the trivial and mundance.

I saw the TODAY Show segment on celebrity culture too, and the results were even more stunning than you indicated. The Syracuse University research team that sampled 700 teenages asked: Which would you rather be: Stronger? Smarter? Famous? Or more beautiful? And as you reported, the the majority chose "Famous" over the other three options. This is troubling on so many levels because it suggests that there is a much more pervasive force in our society (which includes artists, of course), that values personal fame and notoriety over intelligence, leadership, creativity or any selfless charitable act, for that matter. This really puts artists who are driven by an independent vision and voice, and whose work lives on the "truth and beauty" side of the equation, in a difficult place. So what can we in the nonprofit sector do to direct more financial resources and rewards ("riches") and public recognition and validation ("fame") to help level the playing field for these people?

It's an interesting week to be thinking about celebrity, with presidential hopefuls cashing in on their fame, movie stars on parade, and a billion dollar baby all over the air waves. I'm going to try another angle on the subject, though. Maybe "celebrity" has a worse name, at least in the arts, than it deserves.
None of us would deny that artists need attention, audiences, media, bookings and shows - in short - recognition. In fact, artists need celebrity, a public life. Without it, their work is lost or secreted. We understand when they hire agents, managers, when they apply for grants or enter competitions; it is to gain a public ground. Celebrity at some level is not antithetical to art; in fact, it is essential to it, in both non-profit and commercial art forms. A problem many of our artists have is that they are not trained to find their public ground.

I would also argue that many artists who acheive celebrity make good use of it. When celebrity artists create foundations, perform for peace, promote education, help other artists, they are trading on their celebrity for society's advantage. Art benefits from celebrity in other ways, too, of course. Fame and fortune in business and law, sports, politics, scholarship, often yields culture. Celebrities build (and name) buildings, create endowments and foundations, pay for performances and schools. We would miss our celebrities if they weren't there, and we spend a lot of time wishing that more of them suppported the arts and working on making that happen.

The narrative of celebrity is very old and runs very deep. Celebrities are our heros; they provide a pantheon, a text of trials and triumphs. We love their stories. We are also fascinated by the "notorious," those famous individuals whose lives are frightening, or intimidating, or out-of-control, and we are especially curious about the fates they face. In a way, celebrity is the source, the wellspring, from which art comes, the basic plot. In that sense too, celebrity has its place in art.
Of course I am playing with the word "celebrity." I would like to think of it as "celebration," I would like to think of people who are "celebrated" because they invite us to look up and hope. I realize that the "notorious" or the merely glamourous or the simple-minded fame-driven types are amongst us as well. But the artists, I think, deserve to be celebrated, even when - as sometimes happens - they get to be celebrities.

Thanks, Alberta, for framing the discussion in a different way - allowing us to recognize the celebration in celebrity. I think it's fascinating that we tend to assume that celebrity is all bad. Isn't the local young dancer a celebrity for a few moments when she appears on stage for the first time (or, for that matter, every time)? Or what about the local actor who draws an audience whenever he performs? We just had a major Broadway musical come through town and watching the audience seek out the members of the dance ensemble illustrates a type of celebrity. It's not the hype that someone like Anna Nicole Smith generated. But it's a level of fascination and awe that I think we all would agree serves our sector extremely well.

What, then, are we lamenting? I think it's that this celebrity fascination often doesn't endure beyond that fleeting moment in time when we see an artist on stage. It doesn't inspire a person to spend hours online researching their favorite stage actor. But even if it were to inspire such passion, where would one look for that information? Do we have the channels set up to faciliate "celebrity obsession," and help people share it? I would say not yet. Many artists are using the new tools out there to cultivate this ongoing connection. Organizations need to help them make those connections.

What I lament is the trend, as Cora noted, that people desire fame and recognition above everything else, and increasingly it isn't related to any contribution, accomplishment or talent. It's the "Paris Hilton" syndrome - famous just for being famous. People play the lottery so they might gain "instant" wealth - forget working for it. (Most of the people I know personally who are very wealthy, got that way for two reasons: 1) they've worked very, very hard, and 2) they were not only very good at what they did, they loved their work.) I suppose we haven't valued intelligence for a long time and perhaps that is part of the reason we don't value teachers very much. But the other side of that coin is that we did value creativity and entrepreneurship (not art or culture necessarily) - and that valuation was America's best economic strength. But now it would appear we are tossing even that value to the wind.
What I resent is the inordinate media coverage of this trend that glorifies this new celebrity mentality -- at the expense of coverage of the wide range of issues that confront the world today - from global warming and debate about war, to coverage of the arts & culture. Our field somehow has to mold public opinion to value the contribution of arts & culture to society and daily life -- because without that public valuation and support, it will be axiomatically more difficult, if not impossible, to advance arts education in the schools, get our fair share of public money in support, and attract and retain the next generation of arts administrators, supporters, boosters, advocates and audiences.

So the question becomes what can we do to increase public appreciation and valuation of the arts? Can we employ the 'celebrity' reality of today in any way that would garner us more media coverage while avoiding the pitfalls attendant to such a strategy? Why is math and science so valued within the education matrix while arts & culture are not? What good are technical skills without the creative spark to apply those skills to challenges facing us?

I wish I had days to season a complex response to the many branching issues raised by Barry's fertile question. Here are a few initial comments:

We have to examine closely what we actually mean when we posit artists and celebrity as opposites. Are we really asking Why don't masses of people assign great value to the artists I think are the best? Many celebrities are excellent artists in the sense that they have developed to an extraordinary extent the tools of their craft. Their celebrity demonstrates their ability to touch a common chord and evoke a valued response in the culture. That a country-western or rap or folk artist reaches a mass audience does not automatically mean their artifacts are not of the highest quality by any standard. We have seen moments, even in American experience, where an artist or artifact of the highest quality (by which we generally mean fully exploiting both the emotional and thoughtful potential of the art form's conventions) achieves mass recognition separate from its selling price Robert Frost at President Kennedy's inauguration, Auden's September 1, 1939 after 9/11, Munch's "The Scream", Klimt's "The Kiss", Van Gogh's "The Starry Night". The ingredient they all share (with such Academy Award winners as Casablanca and Godfather I & II, which are fine artifacts and also had celebrity appeal) is that they made it into mass media or at least the mass medium of their art form (anthology, classroom text, etc.). This, I would argue, has always been true. Gawain and the Green Knight, written about the same time as The Canterbury Tales, is, in my opinion, as great a work as anything Chaucer wrote. It was, however, written in a monastery in the NW of England in a dialect not spoken in the French-influenced court society of London that Chaucer inhabited, so many more people know about the wife of Bath's lasciviousness than Gawain's painfully gained insight into his own flawed character. Almost all of us, however, would recognize many aspects of Gawain's world and vocabulary, because the editor of that works definitive edition, J.R.R.Tolkien, also wrote Lord of the Rings. Much of what we're talking about in our artist and celebrity conversation has to do with distribution systems. Which is why the artistic heroes of the dance, independent film and video, independent literary, chamber music and crafts worlds seldom achieve celebrity (rather than cult) status. Undoubtedly, Twyla Tharp is known to more people for choreographing Billy Joel songs via the medium of Broadway in Movin' Out than for her The Fugue, The One Hundreds, or Sue's Leg, which expanded the vocabulary of human movement. As Billy Joel is a better known celebrity for his lyrics that can be played in hit format media, than for a song as ambitious and reflectively artistic as Leningrad.

I spent so much time on talking about distribution because the capital aggregation necessary for an artist or company to be effective at it is at the heart of the not-for-profit/for-profit discussion. The incorporation status begs the question; the question is how the additional entity could raise more capital and fund more effective marketing and distribution. This is an area of minimal initiative and minimal success for the public and private sector grant making community. There is much talk about demand and supply strategies and little about distribution with rare exceptions such as Wallace's literary marketing initiative and the NEA's Dance Touring experiment.

I believe there are major cultural factors to be considered in the artist/celebrity inquiry as well. Private sector capital aggregation for cultural activities is necessary in the U.S. because, unlike many other nations, our diverse population has never looked to a common artistic heritage for its identity. Also, while most of the rest of the world is fighting to sustain indigenous traditions and industries related to language, music, crafts and film, U.S. popular opinion takes all those for granted. That's why our market place for many cultural products fails and we have to talk about sponsor benefits and public benefits. And challenging poets and artists who speak to the identify of a culture become political leaders in other countries, not just popular, mass media artists.

There is a seeming contradiction that needs clarification: we have industrial dominance in mass markets and yet many cultural products that survive and thrive in poorer economies fail here. One reason I have suggested is that national, regional and tribal identities sustain products in other societies. Another is that we do not provide children learning in the arts as a basic part of their education as other nations do, so we create by omission a huge barrier to participation in unfamiliar artistic experiences. The unfamiliar can be incomprehensible to someone unprepared; for instance, much imagery in Australian aboriginal art is symbolic but not figurative; a geometric form indicates a yam or a woman. Lack of formal and historical understanding on the part of an audience can make it impossible to determine what's going on in a sonata, a sonnet, a puppet show or gamelan performance.

As we become more diverse and our awareness is raised of the enormous diversity of artistic expression, we increasingly understand that all art is culturally specific and all art has both social and formal conventions that must be understood to be appreciated. When we take universality for granted out of ignorance or market dominance, we prevent people from entering the more layered structures of meaning in the experiences artists create. So we condemn our society to respond to the simplest artifacts and those least requiring preparation, and we recognize successful communicators in this environment as celebrities.

I'm sure there are points above I could make more clearly if I didn't have to make presentations in three different states in the next five days. Thanks, Barry, for this opportunity to learn from the thoughts of other colleagues.

In the past two weeks I have repeatedly heard people from friends and colleagues to strangers in the supermarket comment on how bizarre they believe the over-the-top news coverage of the Anna Nicole Smith tragedy has been. Not one of those people from as wide a swath of backgrounds as one could conceive has posited that the coverage was too minimal, that there should be more time devoted to the story.. Personally, I feel sorry for Anna Nicole Smith, but I just don't give a damn about her, or any of it really, and frankly I don't want to see it on TV anymore. It now grossly offends me. The same goes for Britney Spears and her meltdown, for Paris Hilton's antics and all the rest I DON'T CARE. I like Brad Pitt and admire Angelina Jolie, but I'm not obsessed with what they say and do every moment of their lives. I don't care who is too skinny in Tinsel Town, who is breaking up with whom, or who is cheating on their partner. I'm delighted Martin Scorsese finally won a Best Director Oscar, but you don't see him on TV news every day. I think Leonardo D'Caprio is a fine, fine actor, and Jennifer Hudson is extraordinarily talented. Tom Cruise is, at this point, just annoying.

I have nothing against celebrity whether in the arts, sports, politics, entertainment or otherwise. I just wish that some tiny little fraction of the hundreds perhaps thousands of hours of time television and radio has devoted to all of these people (and especially those whose fame has nothing to do with accomplishment) in just the last six months, was, instead, focused on what Alonzo King is doing in ballet, what Michael Tilson Thomas is doing with the San Francisco Symphony, what new exhibitions Plaza de la Raza has mounted, what cutting edge painters and sculptors are working in urban areas across the country, and how the arts have enriched millions of lives on the planet.

And while this discussion has been informative and even illuminating to me, I still, for the life of me, can neither fathom, nor accept, the fact that America focuses on such nonsense, such crap, pure BS crap, at the total expense of some of the finest artistic expression and creative enterprises ever conceived by man -- going on right now in front of our faces. What a horrendous insult and slight to all those artists of such enormous talent and imagination. We ought to be bowing our heads daily in grateful thanks for the bounty of creativity that is being served up to us, but instead, as a culture, at least our media embraces the trivial, the boring, the inconsequential. And they justify their lack of leadership, their pandering to the lowest possible instincts as simply giving the people what they want. Absolute nonsense. There may, I repeat MAY, be a germ of truth in their sad claim but only a germ. For the most part I don't think people want a steady diet of the cesspool of our existence. I think this is one of the saddest commentaries on our country and our world that one could possibly imagine. One might hope that art can, and someday will, somehow change that reality, otherwise it is but another nail in our coffin.

I thank all of the group participants for sharing their thoughts, ideas and insights with us..

Have a good week everyone.

And remember, Don't Quit.