(This post originally appeared on WinklerGallery.org in 2018, written by Craig Inzana, Previous President of the Board of Directors and Artist Member of the Winkler Gallery & Art Education Center.)
The State of The Arts in DuBois was a radio show with Joe Taylor of Connect FM, Deb Grieve of the Reitz Theater, Jessica Weible of The Watershed Journal, and Craig Inzana of the Winkler Gallery & Art Education Center recorded in July 2018. They discuss what the arts are like in our small town, rural region.
TAYLOR: If I were to ask the average person around here what activities this area is known for they probably would mention sports. Baseball, football, hunting, and fishing. There'd hardly be a mention of the arts, yet over the past several years the DuBois area has begun to offer more venues and activities involving the arts.
This morning on Contact we're going to discuss the state of the arts in the DuBois region with Deb Grieve of the Reitz Theatre. Craig Inzana from the Winkler Gallery and Jessica Weible with the brand-new Watershed Journal.
I'm Joe Taylor. The program Contact. The sponsor Beaver Meadows Creamery.
Deb and Jessica and Craig, thanks for coming in this morning. I want to get into a discussion about the state of the arts and DuBois with all three of you involved but let’s begin with— for those who aren't familiar with your particular venue or project— with some insight into its history, how it got started, and let's do it chronologically.
Deb let's begin with you. The Reitz Theater has been around for the longest. Tell us how it got started. I think you were part of it. How it's grown and what it's up to these days.
GRIEVE: So a group of area businessmen and other representatives of the arts as well as people from the theater group came together and decided that we needed a facility in which to perform. We looked at various old buildings that were up for sale and finally landed on the Cornerstone Church which was built in the 1880s, survived the fire, kind of a historic building. One of the oldest buildings in Dubois. That was purchased and we incorporated in 1990. The building was purchased as a shared space with the church. We took out the pews, put in theater seating— it seats about a hundred and sixty— and we've been performing there ever since.
We— the in-house theater group— does productions there but also the Dubois Vocal Arts Ensemble does a couple concerts a year and we do try to bring in some other arts throughout the year to give to the community. It’s nice. It's fun. Enjoy it.
It can be frustrating because there are still people who say there's a theater in town and other people just haven't formed the habit of going to the Reitz Theater. Some of our shows are good, solid community theater and some of them are extraordinary events that really are as good performances as you will see anywhere.
You never know what you’re gonna get exactly but it's a whole
different experience than going to New York to sit a half a mile from the stage
and watch a big spectacle. So it's fun and I really encourage people to get involved and to go there.
TAYLOR: The gallery, correct me if I'm wrong, maybe 10-15 years— maybe more— tell us about how it came into being. Its founder Perry Winkler and again for people who haven't climbed the stairs and it's kind of confusing where exactly it at--
INZANA: The chairlift now.
TAYLOR: Right. Yeah. You know because there's the Mexican restaurant but where is the gallery? Tell us about how it got started and what people can expect to see when when they visit it.
INZANA: Yeah so originally it started with Perry Winkler. He was from DuBois— he's from Penfield actually. He moved to Asheville, North Carolina and became a pretty successful watercolor painter there. He wanted to move back to the area and give back to the community that he came from and inspire young artists that they could do this as a career
At the same time, Dr. Rice had this space open— which is a beautiful space up in this historic building— and he asked Perry if he would be willing to put a some kind of gallery or museum up there. Perry decided that instead of just making it a gallery of his own work, he got together some of the other really successful local artists that he knew and they turned it into a co-op.
So for— I think— 12 years, 14 years something like that, the space was a co-op between about 16 artists. Two years ago— two and a half years— we reorganized as a non-profit to focus on arts education in the region we opened up an art education center across the street which we're just still getting off the ground.
We also refocused a lot of what we do in the gallery towards education. Towards not just education as in “let's teach people how to paint” but also education in what kind of arts are available to people to appreciate in the area and also that it's possible to become a career artist.
That's something that is really hard for a young person from rural school to really picture themselves as even though there are a lot of talented young people. So the big part of our mission is inspiring those kids to know that they can come see and talk to these artists that work their volunteer shifts and know that— “ok. This is a career that I could actually pursue. It’s not easy, but it's a career I could actually pursue."
It is a big challenge getting people to come up there because it is kind of tucked away. It's a beautiful, beautiful space. People come up and they're just in awe. We have a lot of travelers that come from New York or Toronto or Buffalo that are coming through town and they come through and they’re just blown away that the space is here.
You can hear me say that over and over again but you won't understand what I mean until you actually go up and look at it. It is kind of— you go in and you look you feel like you're gonna go to the Latinos— which is a wonderful Mexican restaurant— but you go upstairs (now we have a chairlift to make it more handicap accessible) and then it just sprawls out with all this amazing fine art up there.
TAYLOR: Jessica you're the new kid so to speak on the block. The Watershed Journal, brand-new, first edition just out. What exactly is it? How did it come to be published? What are your hopes for it?
WEIBLE: So I'm a freelance writer and reporter. When I came to the area through doing interviews and meeting people I started meeting a lot of people who are interested in writing or had— you know— different things that they had been trying to publish or self publish. I wanted to start a writers group.
So we started the Writer's Block Party which meets at Fusion Atelier on Main Street in Brookville. Through that as we were all kind of bemoaning the difficulties of publishing— especially online— I thought, “well let’s have something local.” A literary magazine where local authors and writers and photographers and storytellers can come together and publish their work. Distribute it to the public and have it be something that really reflects the local scenery, geography, landscape, folk traditions all of that in the work. So I got a group together, Sarah Rossey, Amanda Carrier, Kirk Wise and Joann Scheier joined us as well.
We started putting together The Watershed Journal— we chose the name because of the geographical meaning of it in Brookville being surrounded by those creeks but also it means a turning point— and that's kind of what we wanted to do is create a turning point for the literary world in the area.
So we published our first edition on June 1st and we've been distributing in the Brookville, DuBois, Clarion, Punxsutawney, and Cook Forest areas. It’s been amazing because it's been so enthusiastically received by different organizations in town, individuals, businesses. We have some really great sponsors who have supported the endeavor and the feedback that we've been getting is really great.
People are impressed by the visual element of the magazine. We try to incorporate a lot of local photography .
They’re also impressed by the diversity of what the content offers. The poetry. the personal essay. It's all sort of different voices and different perspectives and that's what it's all about for us.
TAYLOR: Ok now. What I want to do is —as Joan Rivers used to say— can we talk? Okay. Can we talk? I'm gonna just throw some questions and propositions and statements on it and let's just throw this around.
I guess a good place to begin is how important are the arts to a community-- not necessarily this community— but to a community. Okay. You have an art gallery. You have a concert hall. Whatever. So what? What's that mean to a community?
INZANA: Well I think there’s a big piece that gets left out of the conversation and people see it as a separate issue.
The arts are one of the United States’ biggest economic drivers and if a small town is not part of that then you're basically excluding a very large industry. It is a creative industry, it's one of the few industries that don't take a lot of cost to make the goods. To actually produce the the product that people want to consume.
Whether that's theater, film, fine art, writing these are consumable products. Obviously we want to talk about it in a kind of higher affluential kind of way when we talk about art because there is a lot of intelligence and intellect that goes into it. But at the end of the day, it’s a product and I think that gets overlooked a lot.
We see at the gallery— and I'm sure that the theater can see— that these things bring people to the area. They keep people here. We have doctors in Treasure Lake that come in and decide to stay here and live in this area because of the theater. Because of the gallery. Because there's arts to consume here.
WEIBLE: Yeah. I would add it really gives kind of color to the area in the community. As somebody who moved here from a different area, part of the reason that drew me to this area was the fact that there were things going on for me and for my kids.
It was really important to me to be able to raise my children in places where there was these conversations happening. These ideas. These organizations. This mobilization of effort to really emphasize creativity and innovation.
Which again Craig said so well, economically as we move more deeply into the technological age, What can't computers do? They can't innovate. They can’t create. They can't create like humans can do.
So when we're talking about problem-solving. When we're talking about building. We're talking about manufacturing even. There's such a creative need for that. I think we need to foster it in ourselves and in the next generation.
GRIEVE: So part of our vision statement is that we believe the arts are a vehicle for the revitalization of a community.
Sometimes you lose sight of that, but I know in the early days almost everybody who was involved in the theater was someone who had moved here. It’s gotten to be more and more local and native people. Which i think is indicates that it's becoming more ingrained.
We have kids who were involved who have become professional actors. A lot of parents tell me through doing theater their kids have gained confidence.
Even if they’re in a business field. To stand up and present is huge. Those are huge skills. So I think that ability to get up on stage enables him or her later on to get in front of a conference, getting in front of a meeting and know how to present themselves.
TAYLOR: You kind of alluded to this in your response. Everything these days is— whether we like it or not— measured in dollars and cents. How do the arts economically benefit a community and specifically the question then from that would be is DuBois too small a community to really have the arts benefit financially, economically in any meaningful way.
INZANA: Oh definitely not. I mean it's not too small. I think people maybe overlook it but the arts in this community as we've just kind of stated are already contributing to the economic success of this area.
It was a reason that this town has still stuck around and some other towns haven't. It's the same with some of the surrounding areas like Brockway and Brookville. The reason those towns are still doing pretty well is because they have the culture that keeps them a unique place.
That's the big thing that— and I lived in Pittsburgh and in Austin Texas too, and you see this there— there's this push back against the cookie cutter or chain store type of environment because people realize pretty quick: quickly you lose your sense of place when you don't have the arts and you don't have culture to make your place unique.
That’s kind of what’s an amazing part of being human is being able to express what makes you and your community, and your region unique.
The PA Wilds does a lot of work with that in our region. And so the culture here— especially artists that are from here— can tell a story or express an idea that is different than someone that grew up in New York or Los Angeles can express. That's extremely valuable. That's not only valuable to us to tell our stories but also valuable to people from other areas to help understand us more.
GRIEVE: When I first came to the Dubois area 25 years ago now, I was on a community-wide committee. We were reviewing a study of families and young people in the region and sadly one of the conclusions was that there was a an anti-cultural bias in the area.
TAYLOR: Twenty-five years later you still believe that to be true? If so why?
GRIEVE: I wouldn't say there's a bias but it's not necessarily a culturally savvy area. I noticed Clearfield’s theater. The community just supports the heck out of it and we tend to be a little more sports oriented. So it's kind it's a little bit of a battle.
I read many years ago that if you live in a city you can be a cultural consumer, but if you live in a small rural area you need to be the person making it happen. I have to think back on it. It was stated better— that was paraphrased but I have to think back on that because there are frustrations.
I mean you feel like you're well-received and people are are really happy and you’re selling out shows and then maybe it falls off. Then you have to go back and really work again toward getting it back up to where it was.
TAYLOR: But by your previous answer I would think that there is some hope because you mentioned initially that it was people from out of town who were active in the theater and now it's people from the area that are active in the theater. So maybe we're making some progress.
GRIEVE: I think that we are absolutely. And I think that involving kids at an early age is a big help. The high school has a really good program. We have a really good kids program and they grow up with that. I kind of think that’s what you have to do. Adults are busy and they are set in their ways and they don't necessarily change easily.
So you start when they're young and get them loving the Arts.
WEIBLE: That’s something I've been noticing about the journal which I absolutely did not anticipate but I'm enjoying so much. Every time I share the magazine and the content, someone else— someone I never would have expected— will reply with, “oh I write something” or “I just wrote something the other day” or “you know I take pictures too.”
I think an important element in battling cultural bias or any kind of impediment to reaching people and engaging with the public with the arts is making sure that it's accessible. Making sure that it is something that is not an ivory tower kind of thing where we’re just going to create fine art and then share it with you all.
It can be something that is interactive and engaging and accessible for people who might not identify as an artist but still have creative outlets and still have creative interests. Those can be presented in a platform that elevates their work.
INZANA: We’ve seen that a lot at the gallery. People that have kind of a… I would call it like a “cultural resistance”— not really a bias against it, but a resistance towards considering themselves someone that consumes culture.
They're more, “I want to go see the new superhero movie” type people. A big part of it is that they feel like the arts are kind of this stuffy area of people that think that they're better than them.
Once we get them to come through the door— which is why we hold so manyevents at the Winkler Gallery and it’s open to the public… literally anybody can come. We have people that come in that are farmers and hunters. They come in and they see these wonderful paintings of wildlife that they can relate to. They meet the artists and the artists are just really laid-back people. So, they start to realize, “okay, this isn't a group of people that think that they're better than us.”
I do think there's a tendency to act like that in some art communities, but it's really important not to put off that aura because that is what kind of pushes the people away. People in these areas are very sensitive about people that think that they’re better than them. That's kind of a trend in rural society that we've seen play out pretty intensely over the last couple decades.
TAYLOR: I was in about a dozen plays at the Reitz and on the board for a number of years and I have to admit that we used kids— I mean we really did. In the sense of, let’s put on a play that has a lot of kids in it, you know. I'm thinking The King and I, The Wizard of Oz, because it'll it'll draw people. Whereas maybe our more serious stuff didn’t.
So let's talk. Let’s go back to that and talk about the use of kids and things that attract kids and getting more participation in the arts.
GRIEVE: Well I I hope it wasn’t purely commercial.
TAYLOR: We were talking because we had to combine, you know filling the theater and balance that with serious art. One way and if we don't fill the theater and sell tickets we can't do the more serious art. So one way of filling the seats was to do something that would attract kids’ families here.
GRIEVE: Yes it is. Then you hope that those grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins like what they see in maybe come back for other shows. So we do that and we still talk about, “oh this show only has four people in the cast. We're gonna have a really hard time selling it.” or “Oh this show has 50. We better schedule extra performances”— which is exactly what happened with Bye Bye Birdie. They ended up with fifty people in the cast. So we expanded to eight performances.
I guess we're still doing that but it’s also sometimes hard to get… the thing with doing theater that the schedule it can be pretty overwhelming. You have six weeks of rehearsal and show week is pretty busy and kids have that time to give. Adults don't always.
That’s another reason we like to do shows with kids. Kids come to see kids. So I don't know. I have trouble denying your claim there.
TAYLOR: I think it is the reality of all three of you in order to keep on doing what you're doing you have to get some money in. You have to sell product or get people in the seats. People have people committed and take part.
Speaking of kids and arts. Schools have had to— because of the fiscal necessity— scale back or eliminate arts related classes. When I was in school we had mandatory music classes. You went to music class and then there were also electives that you had to take something— art or drama.
I don't know what the situation is now but I don't believe it is what it used to be. When when I was going to school. Maybe Deb, when you were going to school and the others too,
What effect is this having on American societies overall participation in and appreciation of the arts?
I remember you know being in third grade listening to classical music and I don't
think that's happening.
WEIBLE: Well one of the nice things that— I understand that it is unfortunate to see that happen and to see those cutbacks. The increased standardized testing and all that happened.
I spent 10 years as a teacher the public school but one of the things that's been really great about the community here. Particularly in Brookville is that C.R.E.A.T.E. Brookville started based on that necessity. Where the schools were talking about cutting back the arts and a group of individuals from the communities— some artists, an accountant, a lawyer, all different types of people— banded together and said “you know if the schools aren't going to provide what we think our children need, then we're going to step up and do it.”
Since then C.R.E.A.T.E has sponsored a bunch of different artistic endeavors including The Watershed Journal. We were able to be published under their umbrella and have benefited a lot from the infrastructure that they have created there.
So I think that you'll see that— in the best scenario— people will step up and provide and do what needs to happen in order to make those opportunities accessible for kids.
INZANA: That’s exactly what happened with the Winkler Gallery as well. I was going to say a similar thing. We incorporated the education side of things because we saw that need in the community.
It’s interesting because it's not necessarily all bad that the schools have done that. It's now allowed outside organizations that have a lot more flexibility than a school does to teach these programs and to make these different avenues for art accessible to young people that wouldn't otherwise be possible if the schools we're taking care of that need.
The schools have tendency to do things very rigidly which, with art, is not something that you can do very… it's not necessarily the best way to do it. I mean, it’s there is a very clear message that it sends to young people when the schools are not encouraging those kind of things and they continue to spend a ton of money and encourage sports. A message that sports is the thing that we want you to be involved in and not art. That's an important discussion to have but I lean towards that it's not really the school's place necessarily to be financially supporting either one of those.
It's more the community's place to be providing that for people. Obviously there's something to be said for introducing kids to art in school but then allowing them— and making sure they know that there are places that they can go outside of school to participate. It also gets them to go outside of school and participate in the community. Which is really important for their social skills.
GRIEVE: Yeah I agree. We don't hit as broad a group of kids, but you know we do the children's workshops— which we feel are important— and there have been times when we have brought things in that we take into the schools.
Although a lot of that grant funding has dried up. So that's a problem, but we have a puppet arts and education person coming in the fall. I wish I knew those dates but that is open to students to sign up to come and take puppet making workshops. Then those puppets hopefully will be used in a production next year.
We also try to help remedy that situation, but I don't know. I like when there's a elementary introductory level. You do have to have Arts in school because otherwise only the kids who take the effort to get there…
INZANA: Well and only the parents. That's kind of the issue with not having these programs in school or at least the intro introductory level programs in school.
Parents rely on the school system to basically raise their kids for them now— in a lot of cases, not every parent obviously— but a lot of parents do. So those kids aren't being exposed to options that they have for things that they could be interested in. Their parents maybe aren't as actively involved in their life. Which is a whole another issue in our society but that is something that’s very real and that is where that need in the schools comes in: To introduce kids to those things.
Perry does a lot of classes— Perry Winkler— does a lot of classes in schools. They'll bring him in and he'll do a semester with usually middle school students. A lot of those students end up coming and taking classes with us or with him for a long time.
So basically he goes in and introduces that this is a thing that you can do and kind of inspires them. Shows them, look maybe you didn't think you were this talented, but this is how you can get past that first step of not being good. To the point where it's like “oh wow I can make something that I imagine!”
Then it's just a snowball from there. Those kids then have to go outside of the school to other programs to pursue that further. Which I think that is a good thing but they need that initial introduction to it for it to reach the right kids.
WEIBLE: Yeah. I was gonna add I think that’s right on. We can't be too hard on the schools in the fact that if we go way way back, what were schools responsible for? I mean they wouldn't even feed you, right?
So now, these days schools are responsible for the whole child. In that case, that takes a lot of funding and that the federal funding does not compensate for all of the needs and demands that have been placed on our public schools.
So I think what Craig said is exactly right. What we need is not only for community organizations and individuals to step up and provide when it comes to the arts, but in a way that's integrated with the schools. In a way that supports them and forms partnerships so that every student has opportunities.
TAYLOR: One of the things that concerns me going up a level from the the local school district is it seems that more and more government policy— especially at the federal level— has been to totally emphasize math and science. Almost to the exclusion of anything else.
The idea being that only math and science will lead you to a good job and the arts seems— at the federal level— these days is thought as being superfluous. Let's talk about why arts are important to not only a child’s, a person’s development but also potentially a career. Even if they don't choose to be in the arts.
INZANA: We already kind of covered some of those skills that you learn doing theater. I mean that's how I came out of my shell. I was an incredibly antisocial kid and then I started doing theater. I was like forced into theater originally.
TAYLOR: Okay, keep working.
INZANA: But now I've come out of my shell quite a bit. I've been able to contribute to my community and I've been able to contribute to my workplace in ways that I never would have been able to do if I hadn't gained that confidence from theater.
You multiply that by a whole generation of kids, and multiple generations, and the economic, and the cultural, and the societal impact that has is is pretty significant.
The one thing I do want to say is that at the federal and state level we do get—there is a pretty fair amount of funding for the Arts. We get quite a bit of grant money for special programs from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. They do really great work. They are fighting to keep their funding, which is important.
A lot of that is in response, though, to my generation all going to school for arts program and barely going to school for science at all. In any society that the federal government is involved with everyday life as much as ours is, there's a lot of balancing that goes on. A lot of these politicians or people that are making the laws and funding see that as an issue. They maybe are overcompensating for it and it's a pendulum that goes back and forth.
I think there's a tendency in the arts to get really pessimistic about the arts being put down. The arts not being respected enough. I would like to not buy into that as much, because I do see it as a pretty optimistic thing. I think a lot of young people are very interested in the arts.
Because of the internet, they can access it whether or not their schools are showing them. They can access the specific types of art that they're interested in. They can learn skills that they would never be taught or have access to be taught
So I'm very optimistic about the future of arts and its place in society. I mean STEM fields are important too. Let’s not pretend that’s not also important.
TAYLOR: You kind of entered into an area that I want to expand on. That is social media. When you look at the three disciplines involved and the people we have here in the studio:
Theater, you know it's kind of slow moving, it takes a lot of time. Writing takes a lot of time. Painting, photography takes takes time.
Social media is zip zap zap. It's click, click, click. It's fast and kids these days are attuned to fast.
I mean I have sat with a kid and say “this is a great movie” and we're watching some movie from the 1960s. They say “oh it's so slow. It's boring” because you know there aren't 30 frames per second.
How do we get kids who are attuned to click, click, click and fast, fast, fast instant gratification to become interested in the arts. On the flip side how do you use social media to get kids interested and involved in the arts.
WEIBLE: I've actually had these conversations with my room of 8th graders when I taught English.
I think what would surprise everybody to hear that what I heard was that kids are also suspicious of how addicted they are to technology. There there's a level of awareness that we might not give them credit for.
I think that when they are so inundated with media that it is troubling. We do worry about their ability— just even neurologically— to go through these processes of contemplative calm thinking and being in the present and mindfulness.
You hear those words a lot these days being pushed again. Demands for the schools to push those types of things for our kids.
But that's another reason why the arts are so important. They promote that kind of contemplative thinking.
So I think, how can we use social media as a tool to promote the arts? It is a way to kind of grab people's attention. It is a great way to connect and reach and engage with people.
I found that through our Facebook group we've been able to connect with a lot of different people and organizations that way. So it just has to be used in a way that will not overshadow carving out those moments where you can have that calm contemplative mode of thinking.
INZANA: There’s a there's a big movement on social media— I see it a lot in the Centennials generation— they're the ones that have completely grown up to the Facebook generation, right? Like I was thrust into that pretty young but I know life without it.
TAYLOR: I was dragged kicking and screaming.
INZANA: Yeah, definitely but there's something too it. I mean my attention span is incredibly short. I have to fight really hard to meditate and and I've learned those skills as I've gotten older.
I think there is a certain point where you can't expect a 17 year old kid to necessarily be interested in that. Unless they do find that themselves.
I'm optimistic about that as well. That there is a very big unplug movement in these younger kids because I think it's pretty obvious the the impacts that social media has on them and their attention spans and their happiness overall.
There is a certain aspect too, as as creators of art. Myself as a filmmaker, I think about this a lot. You do kind of have to meet people where they're at. I think that's an important part that art some artists forget.
They think well I’m gonna make the art that I find interesting and important and that my pace and that's okay. But you can’t expect everyone to like it then.
There’s also a piece of art that is how do I reach people and entertain them and provide them with an experience that they will enjoy regardless of where their attention spans are at.
TAYLOR: I was talking to someone last Sunday at the kickoff event for the Watershed Journal. We were talking about the fact that the arts basically seem to always play to— especially around our area— a niche audience. If that's the case how can we widen that niche?
That's probably the crux of the problem right there.
GRIEVE: That's the question of the moment really.
Quickly I wanted to go back to the last thing because I think theatre is… I mean you paint or draw or create visual art alone. And you write alone. But theater is very communal. So we draw kids a little bit more.
INZANA: Especially being in theatre— it might be hard to get a kid to sit through a show but to actually be actively engaged in it it’s almost more engaging.
GRIEVE: It’s fun.
INZANA: More than any other piece of passive art.
GRIEVE: Yeah, yeah.
So how do we get out of our niche audience.
INZANA: That’s the question everyone is trying to answer. It’s not an easy thing.
GRIEVE: We look at our audience and we have a lot of senior citizens. A lot of people rapidly approaching senior citizen age. Like you said, kids come and want to do theater, but unless they have done theater they're not nearly as likely to come and see theater.
I don’t know, you work with the schools… I don’t have an answer.
INZANA: It’s difficult because people are a lot more busy now than they have ever been before. To get someone to sit down— I've experienced this as a filmmaker— to get people to sit down and come to a theater and carve out two hours/three hours of their time on a Friday evening a Saturday evening… even a Thursday evening is a lot to ask of people. Anybody, even if they are interested in theater.
I know I’m interested in theater. I really enjoy it when I make it, but I don't go nearly as often as I'd like to.
GRIEVE: Then start coming.
INZANA: I know well… and I don't know what the answer to that is besides people making it a priority in their lives. Maybe that's a thing that we needed--
TAYLOR:— maybe also looking at it as fun. We’re making this sound like such torture.
WEIBLE: Well it is a commitment in your time and your attention. There's so many things competing for our attention. However, what I think has been missing— and what we’re trying to do with the Watershed Journal— is people want to see themselves.
I think when they go to a theater that's why the kids is such a genius thing to involve a lot of kids. People want to go and see their kids. They want to see themselves. They want to look at a picture and see a familiar landscape. They want to read a poem and connect with it. Feel some kind of experience that they can relate to. They want to be able to personalize it. They want to have an experience that reflects them. They want their art to reflect them.
I think that's where we lose people in terms of engaging them.
We have these lofty ideas art is. We have this intensity of the process and this elevation of our art forms. That is great. Great that people can you know evolve into that kind of art form, but we have to represent the people.
INZANA: The interested thing about that is when you're creating art— whether you’re putting on a play, deciding what subject to paint, or what to write a poem about— there's a lot of tendency for people that are in the arts to be interested in the existing art. Then inspired by that existing art.
So there's a lot of using shows at the theater that were originally on Broadway. Writing a poem that is reflective of a previous poet. Painting something that is in a style of an artist that it was from Spain or fromNew York or from the south or something.
Where the pieces at the gallery that sell the best are the ones that evoke some kind of— not necessarily a deer in the woods (those do sell really well)— but also just evoke some kind of feeling of a sense of place.
A sense of here and a sense of “okay this is something that I can connect to.”
I think you're seeing that in the poetry. I think it's difficult with theater because you're not necessarily writing the shows so you have to find shows that people can relate to or maybe put twists on shows that people can relate to in a local way.
TAYLOR: I want to expand that and I have an exercise for each of you what I would like you to do. It's exactly going off of what we’ve been talking about.
If each of you could do one thing immediately that would broaden your audience within your field, what would it be?
Deb what play would you stage at the Reitz Theater that you'd say, “yeah this is going to really bring people in and going to broaden our audience and introduce people to the theater”… and don't make it something with kids.
GRIEVE: Well alright several years ago we did a play called The Great American Trailer Park Musical. I thought, “oh my gosh. Is this going to offend people.”
But it was the biggest one of the biggest hits we ever had. It was hilarious and kind. It wasn't a cruel show.
There is a show that one of my friends gave me to read. It is a tribute to the 9/11 experience. It’s touching and lovely and it only has two people in the cast.
I think that would and then a baseball show.
TAYLOR: Jessica what piece by which author would you publish.
WEIBLE: Other than you?
What I love about this is there are so many wonderful local authors that are so unknown locally here.
I’m thinking in particular— and she might blush to hear it— but I'm thinking of Judy Schwab who is just known. She goes out every day with her camera and takes pictures of local scenes and wildlife and writes beautiful poems about them. She’s self published two books with her poetry and her personal reflections and photography.
She’s grown her own little following but to give her a platform where she can be
more widely read and appreciated is what it's all about.
What I would love to do is just get more copies in more hands of more readers.
Then in turn have more people say, “yeah I I write poetry or I write essays or I have something to say, I take pictures” and send them to us.
TAYLOR: So in other words it's kind of the “yeah I can do that.”
WEIBLE: Exactly, yeah.
TAYLOR: Craig what about you in terms of an art exhibit that you'd bring to the Winkler. I mean it could be some you know established art exhibit or new. Whatever.
INZANA: I think that because we're a co-op, the artists have a lot of free reign obviously. I mean they make whatever they want to make. You see which sell and which ones don’t.
A lot of the ones that don't kind of complain but there is a certain aspect of “look at the ones that are selling and why are they selling. Perry's work is not necessarily all pictures of deer or wildlife. He has some of those that sell but he also has pictures of abandoned buildings and those types of things. It's not necessarily just the subject matter but the inspiration behind things.
I just would encourage more of the local artists to really play in that world. Art, especially fine art, is such a weird thing to pin down but I think that's where it has to go to sell and be interesting.
TAYLOR: Well I think among other things, we’ve introduced people to some of the artistic endeavors and venues that we have here in our greater Dubois area.
Maybe people weren’t aware of and maybe they realized that, yeah it's accessible and I can relate to what I'm going to see or hear or read.
There so thank you so much.
Deb Grieve at the Reitz Theater, Jessica Weible with the Watershed Journal, and Craig Inzana with the Winkler Gallery.