Libraries and the arts

Like many states, New Hampshire recently faced draconian arts funding cuts. Happily, as Connie Rosemont explained in the Concord Monitor, “The Arts Prevailed.” Last year when arts and literature programs lost funding in Wisconsin, a trio of library school students launched a website: the Library as Incubator Project. I read about this innovative idea in Poets & Writers, where you can view a slideshow of  “art, writing, performances and workshops that have taken place in or been inspired by libraries.”

The Library as Incubator Project connects libraries with the arts community. Finding inspiration and ideas and collaborating at the incubator benefits artists and libraries as well as the public they are both trying to reach. The site also links to resources helpful to artists and writers and offers professional development for librarians who want to “incubate the arts.”

When I mentioned the  Library As Incubator Project on an email list recently, a colleague replied with a link to Art-o-Mat, which re-purposes old cigarette vending machines into art dispensers. The machines are found in a variety of locations, including libraries.

Libraries often schedule performances, films, and readings as well. This week Regina Library here at Rivier College is hosting “An Evening of Favorite Poems.”  My nocturnal colleague Peter and I had fun creating a display of poetry books. I actually found too many books for our allotted display space and had to put the overflow on a table by the entrance.

So if you think libraries are just housing books, take another look. Chances are you’ll find the arts.

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Philosophy is everywhere

Last weekend I attended two cultural events that were both fun and thought provoking. On Friday, The Currier Museum of Art and Rivier College presented a discussion with curator Kurt Sundstrom and painter James Aponovich.  On Saturday, Red River Theatres screened Answer This!with post-film Q&A with director Christopher Farah and a mini-lecture on some themes in Shakespeare’s sonnets by legendary University of Michigan Professor Ralph Williams, who acts in the film as well.

Both events got me thinking about some of the questions philosophy helps us deal with. The conversation about works of art made me wonder: What is beauty? What is the purpose of art? How does it inform our humanity? Can art make our lives more meaningful? Can it change the way we live? What happens at the intersection of art and commerce?

Answer This! provoked more questions, such as: What are more important in life, “small” things, or “big” things? What’s the difference? Is engaging with great books (in this film it’s the Bible) an act of creation? Does what we do define us? How can we know what to do with our lives?  If you think about the most recent film or exhibit you’ve seen, music you’ve listened to, or book you’ve read, you can probably think of similar questions. Philosophy is everywhere.

If you enjoy wrestling with ideas but think philosophy is intimidating or scholarly, try the popular culture philosophy guides from Open Court and Blackwell.  Why do philosophers engage with pop culture? Blackwell editor William Irwin’s “Fancy a Pop?” addresses this question; he points out that popular philosophy, like popular science, introduces the discipline to a wider audience “by showing people how philosophy is relevant.” A great example: Paul Pardi has written an interesting piece on philosophy and the Kevin Spacey film Margin Call, which opened nationwide last weekend.

Want to engage with others who are interested in examining our world through philosophy? Check out the Society for Philosophical Inquiry for information on Socrates Cafe, or tune in via radio or online to NHPR’s Socrates Exchange.