There’s a Famous Saying II: Arts Education

velazquez.meninasThere’s a famous saying that goes: ‘those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.’  In the art world I’ve recently encountered two different applications of the maxim. In the last post I wrote that through humor we crease the harsh edges of truth, lubricating our cultural forgetting.

The maxim applies also to our understanding of challenges faced by 20th century art forms, including Modern Art, Jazz Music and Modern Dance.

Ever since I began dancing (in the 1990’s)  “modern dance” has been stumbling over what to call itself – part of a larger struggle to figure out how to maintain the soul of a reactionary art form now integrated into the mainstream. (Can something I just created be “modern” if something modern was created a hundred years ago? )

The American composer William Billings once wrote that “every man should be his own carver.” The revolutionary spirit embodied in that statement is incompatible with the maintenance of the arts industry, and we don’t do ourselves any favors pretending that it isn’t. Artists are/need to be trained. Agrippina Vaganova, famous for founding ballet’s Vaganova Technique, was exceptionally attuned to the importance of well-rounded study. Juri Slominsky in his 1945 article “The Soviet Ballet”, described Vaganova’s insistence that,

“Prospective ballerinas and their partners study the history and theory of the theater and particularly the ballet, they become familiar with the history of painting, delve deeply into every style and epoch…. What is demanded of the ballet dancer today is a standard of culture that would permit him not only to independently solve choreographic and scenic problems in the spirit of historic and artistic truth, but also to actually take part together with the authors in the creation of the performance, to assist them in their tasks and to perceive their blunders and fallacies if such there be. To do all this, the dancer’s knowledge must be on a level with that of the choreographer and the author of the libretto. He must be able to understand perfectly the tasks put before him by the choreographer and not only dance well in the traditional style.”

Technique and composition are best taught alongside history. Too many of our teachers lack the training to do this. As we lament falling audience attendance we should consider how arts education, at every level, has failed to adequately encourage the growth of perceptive artists, and audience.

We’re best served working within the system, but if we’re not prepared to challenge today’s failures we encourage a race to the bottom that fails the artists of tomorrow. As with education reform in general, preserving players within the system is less important than ensuring that a system exists to truly serve students.

In the portrait at the top of this post the subjects are seen only distantly, in the mirror at the back of the room. The painter himself, their children, dog, and attendants are more clearly in focus. Finished works of art are indistinguishable on the walls. All this to say that in the art world those who don’t study history are unable to repeat it; the next generation of Velazquez’s can only emerge from a system that values truly rigorous arts education.

Team One America

I read an article last night by Friedman supporting a gas tax. At the same moment that he recognized the need to support our economy and bail out the Big 3 auto-makers, he suggested that we need to act now on altering the basic geometry of our national energy strategy.

I think he’s right in many ways, but wonder how many priorities an administration can have. We do need to prop up the existing economy.  The United States has benefited from its acceptance of free market principles. Im actually uncertain how were getting around some parts of the WTO with giving aid to our auto industry. Isn’t giving aid to industry (be it agriculture, steel) illegal with the WTO?

senate_in_session(Anectdotally, I went to the Senate chamber in 1994 and witnessed the WTO vote. Shout out to Shifter and IAD.)

Would it be smart right now to raise the minimum wage? Or increase business contributions for health care? Friedman is correct that raising the gas tax would be a nifty way to encourage transition, but I’m not certain that it’s the efficient choice right now. I’m so pleased we (are about to) have a smart man in the White House who chooses for us.

Obama/Team One America did a few things lately I really respect.

Getting Clinton out of the Senate was really smart. You’re talking someone who still wants to run for president, and who REALLLLY does not agree with everthing on Obama’s domestic agenda.

She would have taken every opportunity to fight. I had the thought some time ago (about Pelosi) that this will be a real measure for her as a politician – her ability to evolve.

You lead a minority. A minority fights. You manage a majority.

And all of a sudden she has an administration she isn’t fighting with. That means she has to manage her majority. Wonder how she’ll do. Am pretty sure Obama made it easier for her by removing Clinton.

Another smart move by Team One America: inviting the schmuck Warren to speak at the inauguration. It guaratees a full, nationwide hearing on certain issues in a non-threatening way. (If you click here you’ll got warren’s site… check out number 8.)

No legislation is proposed at the inauguration. Nothing is really at stake. But the people who work the platform with the new president are gonna get a lot of profiles, and attention. Why would Obama give a major platform to someone who I’m sure he doesn’t agree much with? I think he trusts the judgment of the population. The more that U.S. citizens hear that the strongest critics of gay marriage are the people who think humans were kicking it with dinosaurs in the land of Cain and Abel a few years back, the more likely a coalition can be formed to create real change.

I’m pretty sure Clinton didn’t want don’t ask, don’t tell, but it was the best he could do. Politicans don’t get the luxury of having only one fight. Obama can’t lead where the country can’t follow. Part of the job is helping us – as a nation – follow. And I’m very encouraged with the management of issues that we’re seeing. Hope it continues once the live fire starts…

The Governors of States that Border Foreign Countries

The issue with Sarah Palin is that she is not the calibre of human we need behind a 78 year old President. That said: some of her handlers have asserted her readiness based on the proximity of her home state to a foreign nation.

Here is an incomplete list of governors whose states border foreign countries. The bios given here are actual excerpts from each politician’s official website. I was surprised at the range of competency, experience, and inspiration reflected in the group I surveyed.



Democratic Governor John Baldacci. At 23 became a member of Bangor City Council. 1982 – joined Maine State Senate, where he served for 12 years. Elected to US House of Representatives in 1994. Elected Governor in 2002.


New Hampshire

As the President and CEO of Knoll, Inc., a national furniture manufacturer, Governor John Lynch transformed a company losing $50 million a year into one making a profit of nearly $240 million. Gov. Lynch has also served as chair of the University System Board of Trustees, where he worked to keep tuition increases to a minimum; as director of Admissions at the Harvard Business School, where he made ethics one of the criteria for admissions; and as president of the Lynch Group, a business-consulting firm in Manchester. Working his way through college, Gov. Lynch earned his undergraduate degree from the University of New Hampshire in 1974. He also holds an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.



Governor Jim Douglas was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1972 – the same year he graduated from Middlebury College. His influence as a legislator increased quickly, becoming assistant majority leader in his second term and majority leader in his third term at the age of twenty-five. The Governor is past president of the Council of State Governments, chairman of the New England Governor’s Conference, a member of the Secretary of Homeland Security’s Local Advisory Council, and vice chairman, and lead governor for energy policy, for the Coalition of Northeastern Governors.


New York

At the age of 31 in 1985, Governor Paterson was elected to represent Harlem in the New York State Senate, becoming the youngest Senator in Albany. In 2003, he became the minority leader of the New York State Senate, the first non-white legislative leader in New Yorks history. He made history again in 2004 when he became the first visually impaired person to address the Democratic National Convention. He became New York’s first African American Lieutenant Governor in 2007 and is now New York’s first African American Governor.



Governor Doyle attended Stanford University for three years, then finished his senior year at UW-Madison. He is a 1972 graduate of Harvard Law School. 
Inspired by John F. Kennedys call to public service, after college the Governor and First Lady worked for two years as teachers in Tunisia, Africa in the Peace Corps. After he graduated from law school, the Governor and First Lady moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation in Chinle, Arizona to work as an attorney and teacher, respectively. Governor Doyle was elected Attorney General in 1990, and reelected as Attorney General in 1994 and 1998. He was elected as Wisconsins Governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006 with more votes than any candidate for Governor in Wisconsin history.



C.L. “Butch” Otter was elected Governor of Idaho on November 7, 2006. He previously served three terms in Congress representing Idahos 1st District (2000-2006). Governor Otter is a father of four and grandfather of five. He is married to the former Lori Easley. They live on their ranch near Star. Governor Otter was born in Caldwell on May 3, 1942. He graduated from St. Teresas Academy (now Bishop Kelly High School) in Boise, attended Boise Junior College (now Boise State University), and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the College of Idaho (now Albertson College of Idaho) in 1967. Governor Otters 30-year career in business included membership on the Board of Directors of the J.R. Simplot Company. He also served as Director of the Food Products Division, President of Simplot Livestock, and President of Simplot International. He retired in 1993.



Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a world-famous athlete and actor. He was born in Austria in 1947, and at 20 became the youngest person ever to win the Mr. Universe title. He came to America shortly after, winning an unprecedented 12 more world bodybuilding titles. Challenging both his body and mind, he earned a college degree from the University of Wisconsin and became a U.S. citizen in 1983. Three years later he married broadcast journalist Maria Shriver.



Rick Perrys political career started in 1985 as a representative for a rural West Texas district in the state House of Representatives. He was first elected to statewide office in 1990, and served as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture for two terms. Governor Perry hails from Paint Creek, a small farming community north of Abilene. His father, Ray Perry, served as a Haskell County Commissioner, school board member and a World War II tail gunner. Between 1972 and 1977, Governor Perry served in the United States Air Force flying C-130 tactical airlift aircraft in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. He is a 1972 graduate of Texas A&M University where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets, a junior and senior yell leader and an animal science major. The younger of Ray and Amelia Perry’s two children, Governor Perry is an Eagle Scout and lifetime member of American Legion Post #75.


(maritime border – cuba)

In May and November, Governor Crist lead trade missions to Israel and Brazil. In Israel, Governor Crist worked toward completing a Memorandum of Understanding between the State of Florida and the government of the State of Israel on bilateral cooperation in private sector industrial research and development. In Brazil, Team Florida learned from its number-one international merchandise trade partner more about ethanol production from top experts in the field. Approximately $300 million was anticipated to come into Floridas economy as a result of the trade mission. Governor Charlie Crist was born in 1956 in Altoona, Pennsylvania, but his family soon settled in St. Petersburg.

Governor Crist began his government service as state director for former U.S. Senator Connie Mack before later returning to the private practice of law with the Tampa firm of Wood and Crist. In 1992, Governor Crist won a seat in the Florida Senate. For six years in the Senate, Governor Crist served as Chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and as Chairman of the Appropriations Criminal Justice Subcommittee.



Prior to her election as governor, Governor Palin served two terms on the Wasilla City Council and two terms as the mayor/manager of Wasilla. During her tenure, she reduced property tax levels while increasing services and made Wasilla a business friendly environment, drawing in new industry. She has served as chair of the Alaska Conservation Commission, which regulates Alaska’s most valuable non-renewable resources: oil and gas. She was elected by her peers to serve as president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. In this role, she worked with local, state and federal officials to promote solutions to the needs of Alaska’s communities.


Just for good measure:

HistoryVice President Dan Quayle

Vice President Dan Quayle was born on February 4, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana. After spending much of his youth in Arizona, he graduated from Huntington High School in Huntington, Indiana, in 1965. Dan Quayle graduated from DePauw University in 1969 and received his J.D. from Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis in 1974. Dan Quayle’s political career began when he was elected to the United States Congress in 1976 at age 29. He was elected to the United States Senate at age 33. On January 20, 1989 he took the oath of office as the 44th Vice President of the United States at age 41. On February 9, 1989, President Bush named Dan Quayle head of the Council of Competitiveness, which worked to ensure US international competitiveness in the 21st century. He made official visits to 47 countries, was chairman of the National Space Council, and served as President Bush’s point man on Capitol Hill. As a leader in causes from legal system reform to deregulation to the renewal of basic American values, Dan Quayle developed a large national following and became one of the most admired Americans of his time.

Very simply — Vice Presidents can have a major impact. Consider our most recent Vice President. We know that there is little authority, but there can be tremendous influence. There are several other governors I’d rather have as our country’s co-pilot.

Who else is looking forward to the debate tomorrow night???