Nothing could have made me happier Wednesday morning when I opened my Chapel Hill News and found the great interview with Art Menius, outgoing director of the ArtsCenter (“Art Menius: Off the Script,” CHN, bit.ly/1nCrjcZ). Your questions were the right ones; his answers echoed in my heart.
I am so appreciative of all Menius has done during his tenure. He is, in my humble opinion, the best director the organization has had since my departure in 1988, because of his realistic take on the financial resources, his passion for radio broadcasting (that includes his wife), and his love for folk music.
I am pretty sure Art is not an easy person to live with, day in day out. His job wasn’t easy, and as long as I've known him he has had strong opinions about pretty much everything. Very few years ago, before his first day at the ArtsCenter we had lunch at a local restaurant (the first director since I left who even cared about the founder’s vision) and he already knew then the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and what he wanted to do with them.
I want to bring forth an idea that I tried to push during the previous director’s tenure and that I brought forward to Art when he first came to me. The ArtsCenter needs to re-focus on education as the main source of income. I believe that a New School for Arts and Trades is a possible solution for the next phase of this nonprofit.
NSAT, as I call it, would offer classes in the arts (at a serious level) and classes in the trades (such as welding, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, technical) and at the same time offer practicums where students in both branches would be placed as helpers/apprentices with both tradespeople and artists.
My concept would allow students to learn trades while making art and artists to obtain skilled help to execute bigger pieces of art that could spill in the public realm, in the tradition of the great Mexican muralists and public art makers of the world.
What parent would not see a future in this vision for their teenage sons or daughters?
There is not one building that would house such a program. There would be many campuses and mechanics and artists workshops. There would be a partnership with the technical colleges and the various art schools. I believe the community would stand behind such a project.
The NSAT could then support the not for profit programs of the ArtsCenter as it did during the first 15 years of its existence.
Thank you to the Chapel Hill News and to Art Menius for all you do to stay in touch with the community.
Editor’s note: The length limit was waved for a fuller response to the article. The writer is the founder and former executive director of the ArtsCenter (1974-88). For more information about NSAT contact him at 919-942-4879 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Better than the rest
It always bothers me when people like Art Menius say that “As long as America ties itself to capitalism, the nation is doomed” (“Art Menius: Off the Script,” CHN, bit.ly/1nCrjcZ).
Throughout the interview, Menius espouses the principles of capitalism. Under capitalism, he has the freedom to pursue his goals and, just like any capitalist, must convince others that giving him or the Art Center money is of benefit to them, either for salary, ticket or donation. This is the same thing a for-profit business does. Only if a business gives people goods or services they believe are of value to them will they part with their money. It would be nice if one could just decide that other people should give them money (or charge any price they want) for whatever it is that they would like to do, but that isn’t the case in our country.
He also talked about the necessity to provide programming that people want, which is also what a business does under capitalism, and how competition requires the Art Center to be the best it can be, just like a business.
If he was not under a capitalist system, he would not have the freedom to pursue his dream and make the Art Center what he would like for it to be. Instead, under a different system someone else would decide what kind of arts we have and how much.
Capitalism is not perfect but, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, capitalism is the worst economic system – except for all the rest.
Don’t give up HOPE
The town of Chapel Hill is in the process of selling the property that hosts the HOPE Gardens. Urge the town to continue to support the good work that the students are doing in our community to tackle the difficult issues of poverty, access to healthy food, and building community.
HOPE (Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication) Gardens is a UNC student run nonprofit that was formed to link fresh produce with those that need it the most in our community. HOPE Gardens creates a community space that fosters relationships, educates the community, and addresses barriers to food access through shared efforts in sustainable agriculture.
With advocacy from the Active Living by Design committee of the Town of Chapel Hill and design assistance from the N.C. State University Department of Horticulture Science, HOPE Gardens partnered with the Chapel Hill Department of Parks and Recreation and settled into the 14-acre green space on Homestead Road in the summer of 2009. The volunteers cleared the land, and built the community garden which also contains garden space for Chapel Hill residents. Each year the student volunteers have expanded the garden and outreach.
The weekly community cooking/nutrition class known as HOPE Cooks brings together students, Mujeres Avanzanda hacia Nuevas Oportunidades (MANO) participants, and Community Empowerment Fund members for a weekly participatory dinner. Participants help prepare the meal (centered around HOPE Gardens’ produce), and learn tips for cooking on a budget in the process.
I think the writer from Chapel Hill must live in a parallel universe (CHN, Aug. 24, bit.ly/1qdqN8M).
She states that the General Assembly has been cutting funds to the universities, raising taxes on the middle class and favoring the wealthy. I don’t know if funds have been cut to the universities, but if they have been that is not a bad thing. All the studies show that as additional funds flow to universities three things happen. Tuition is raised, fancy new buildings are built and more administrators are hired – none of which helps students.
Under Gov. Mc Crory taxes on the middle class have been lowered, not raised. And the writer gives no examples of where the wealthy are favored.
Vincent M. DiSandro Sr.