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A New Breed of Art Gallery

15 Jan

When you hear “art gallery” you often picture someone dressed in black, talking with an indistinct accent and showing off the latest abstract art in an austere environment.  Put the thought out of your head and visit Gallery on the Square in Danville, Indiana.  It won’t just change how you feel about galleries, it can give you an entirely new perspective on art.

Gallery on the Square works on two levels.  First of all, it highlights local art.  The best artworks aren’t necessarily the ones that hang in a museum or receive glowing praise from critics; if a work of art means something to the viewer, it is important.  For me seeing artworks inspired by the people and places that I grew up around was more touching than much of the art I’ve seen in the museums of Europe.  One of my favorite pieces, for example, was a watercolor depicting a stack of quilts.  Far from thinking about composition or style, I immediately started recalling the summer I spent working with a local museum’s quilt collection.  Did I need a degree in art history to appreciate it?  Absolutely not.  I could enjoy it solely based on how it made me feel and what it reminded me of.  That’s the benefit of local art.

Secondly, Gallery on the Square showcases a variety of mediums, some that you might not even think of as “art”.  You expect to see paintings and photography but will also find works in clay, wood, fiber, and metal.  The best part is that many of the works for sale are items you can use.  Being able to incorporate handmade artworks into our daily lives is special, especially when most of our possessions are mass-produced wares from large chain stores.  If you’re looking for a gift or a way to add some character to your own home there is no better place to start than Gallery on the Square.  From jewelry and handbags to woodwork and pottery there are plenty of unique pieces to be found that you will treasure using.

Even if you have no plans to visit the Indianapolis area anytime soon you can still experience the benefits of Gallery on the Square.  Similar galleries, often run in conjunction with local art associations, are opening up all over.  You can talk with the artists, view their works, and even take classes from them in many cases.  It’s a great way to get in touch with art whether you’ve been an art lover your whole life or have never been too excited by it.  Either way I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.





Vocabulary Lesson – Intangible Heritage

9 Mar

Yes, this is a blog about art, some architecture as well, but I think it’s time to break away from that for a bit.  You see, I was given a dirty look by someone this evening for using the words “cultural preservation” and attempting to define what counts as “Intangible Heritage.”  It’s not that I agreed with the right-wing politician he was discussing, the one who had recently given a radio address on why foreigners should try harder to fit in with German “Leitkultur” (which can be roughly translated as “cultural identity”), but the gentleman I was talking to seem convinced that the idea was outdated and had no business in modern society.

Now to be sure, cultural heritage and identity is something that can easily be used by politicians for their own xenophobic gains, but dismissing it entirely is a dangerous path for socity.  These very things – traditional music, theatre, cuisine, festivals, and other signs of local culture – are some of the greatest and most unique accomplishments of humanity.  A short glance at UNESCO’s list of endangered traditions includes the knowledge of buiding watertight Chinese Junks and many local musical styles that have existed for centuries.  These are things that give every new country or city its own atmosphere.  They are also some of the best ways to observe a culture’s ideals and values.

The problem is that many are abandoning their own cultural heritage for a more globalized, modern society.  The truly interesting thing is that in my experience the people who have done the most traveling and/or have lived abroad are often the most attached to their own cultural identity.  It’s a natural reaction.  You realize that try as you might there will always be differences between cultures, and these should be celebrated. Unfortunately in many developing areas of the world attachment to tradition is seen as anti-progress and is ineed often a block to economic gain.

That’s why it’s become popular to talk about “Intangible Heritage.”  We’ve been preserving art, buildings, even nature for years, but only recently have we realized that our traditions need safeguarding as well.  Humans have always been tribal, but the new ways of showing one’s identity are eclipsing the old.  Systematically honoring and protecting our traditions is one of the best ways to relate to our own history and culture.

I suppose this is the time when I should be encouraging everyone to make the effort to participate in their own traditions, and I do believe that effort should be made to integrate them into one’s life, but it goes beyond that.  We all need to make an effort to support local artisans, craftsmen, and artists whenever possible.  Without them and the practice of cultural traditions in our own lives we really would be living in one giant McWorld, and anyone who’s been to an American fast food chain in Paris can tell you that’s genuinely depressing.  But don’t just think of it as something that should be saved for traveling.  The most important thing we can do is to look in the mirror and in our own backyards to see how we can fit traditions into our lives.  I for one made a pancake breakfast for my friends for Shrove Tuesday yesterday.  It’s a small (and delicious) way of keeping in touch with my upbringing in the Episcopal (Anglican) church and beyond that the British heritage that came before that.  I don’t think it makes me anti-American or even an anti-German foreigner living in this country.  It makes me me.  That’s what our traditions do for us, after all.

UNESCO’s video on what Intangible Heritage is and why it’s important to preserve it.