Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yokelism at the 2009 New England Art Awards

Below is my Yokelist speech from Monday night's 2009 New England Art Awards:
Over the past year, some of you may have heard of this movement which I’ve kinda sorta started. It’s called Yokelism. Here in New England, so close to the light and gravity of New York, we often slip into envy and low self-esteem. It’s a kind of second city syndrome, and really the worst kind of provincialism, the type in which we often seem to operate under the belief that if art was made here it can’t be much good, by definition.

Yokelism is about being proudly provincial. Please don’t get confused and think it means being blind cheerleaders. That’s not Yokelism. Yokelism is about tough love, because we Yokelists have ambitions for our creative community. But Yokelism is also about recognizing when we produce amazing stuff and championing it like we’re doing here tonight.

And I’d like to invite you to join me in this movement. Say it: Yokelism! Doesn’t that make you feel good? Let’s do it one more time: Yokelism!

The New England Art Awards are a Yokelist project. At this point, we’re getting to the final categories – the sort of grand prize winners – and in particular a category dear to my Yokelist heart: “Local curator of locally-made art,” the category in which our local artists and local curators meet in that perfect Yokelist Venn diagram. The New England Art Awards are focused on exhibits organized here – and especially on art made here in New England. They are an argument about what we value here. They look back to where we’ve been, but also point to where we’d like to go. They identify the sort of ideas, the spirit, the sort of crazy amazing stuff we’d like to see more of around here.

Do all of you know AS220? It’s a great community art center in Providence. And in 2004, their StinkTank – even that name is a sign of their brilliance – put out a paper titled “Compost and the Arts.” It's probably the most concise and astute thinking on how to foster creative communities that I've ever read. Its key idea is to create creative crossroads — meaning places where people cross paths to show art, perform, hang out, display announcements, make art. The idea is that places where people share work, ideas, and techniques — places, not coincidentally, like AS220 — inspire people to keep making art, encourage artists to learn from each other, challenge them to make better art, and to keep making it here.

And I hope tonight’s event, the New England Art Awards Ball serves as one of those crossroads places too. A place, a moment where we meet and share ideas and inspiration.

The New England Art Awards are meant to be the beginning of a discussion. A discussion I hope all of you will join me in on The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research and in various forums over the coming months. A discussion about why art made here matters. And how can we better support the cool stuff that we do. And incubate more amazing stuff. And so produce more terrific stuff to make our art scene more exciting. And in turn make our New England community more thrilling and more nourishing for everyone who lives here.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 1: Boston lacks alternative spaces?
Yokelism at the 2008 Boston Art Awards.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 2: Montreal case study.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 3: Hire locally.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 4: We need coverage of our living artists.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 5: We need local retrospectives.
Yokelism update: Coverage of our living artists: Sebastian Smee responds.
Yokelism update: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelism update: Re: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 6: Could the CIA help?


Anonymous Anonymous said...


February 16, 2010 at 6:34 PM  

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