Nature of the Beat

by Joseph Futral

Artist, post-modern wannabe, conversationalist, provocateur, introverted extravert… or is that extraverted introvert? A personal blog to share thoughts on faith and art.

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Think of the exposure!

As a working artist I am, just as many of you are, often contemplating how much I should make, why should people pay me, why society should value and pay for art… or not. I understand the frustration when my fellow artists lash out at the people who ask us to do something for free or for the promise of “exposure!”. Do people really not value me or my work when this is asked of me?

As most things in life, it is never as simple as that. There are other things going on, some I’ve written about or discussed before. Some I have been thinking about after reading other people’s thoughts. Things like how difficult it is to quantify art (Is Art History a “soft” subject?) or since art is more emotion centric it isn’t as valuable as more “intellectual” pursuits (Art isn’t free. Can we stop pretending it is?“. You know, that whole rational/irrational, reason/emotion dichotomy so much of our modern

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Art’s worst enemy

 Artists are often the arts’ worst enemy and the true Internet of Things.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

The Internet Age has brought about one aspect of humanity that we may have never realized we all share—the ability to be outraged at the drop of a hat. This is the real problem at work here. What the Internet helps is not only being collectively outraged at essentially nothing significant, we can also express this outrage instantly, without even giving it a second thought.

That is a real problem, too, not giving these things a second thought, much less not much of a first thought.

Christians love to cry “foul”. No matter how many churches (as in the buildings), both active and inactive, litter a landscape[*], we somehow find comfort in behaving like we are a repressed minority, battling for our very endangered existence.

We find slight in the slightest things—such as

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The irresistible gravity of the mean

From here to there in one easy step.

Mean: “In statistics, the mean is the mathematical average of a set of numbers. The average is calculated by adding up two or more scores and dividing the total by the number of scores.”

“The mean is just one type of measure of central tendency.”

I’ve long had this theory—I’m sure I’m not the first—that culture and creativity has these moments where equilibrium sets in and our art, music, choreography, all our creative endeavors, including less obvious things like interior design, architecture, and even fashion design, settles in to this groove. There is a gravitational force of average that becomes nigh on impossible from which to break free. Sometimes it is at a local level, or it might be a genre or discipline specific level. Sometimes it is because we may be honing a particular voice, we aren’t yet finished what we want to say in our chosen

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I was listening to Theatrical Outfit’s artistic director and actor Tom Key speak at a Q&A after a performance (a one man play on C. S. Lewis) he gave for RZIM’s Summer Institute gathering, Believing Again and Again: Story telling and the Gospel, this year in Atlanta. (That was a mouth full!)

Mr. Key points out that it never seemed to bother Jesus when his chosen art form was misunderstood and no one “got it”. He didn’t think “Wow. I should find another way to speak so people understand me better, just get to the point”. He continued, even chastising the disciples for not understanding.

Does that ring true with any of you artists out there? I thought so.

Does that point a finger to those who seem to dislike any art they “don’t get”? It better.

Hopefully just some encouraging words to my artist friends out there who seem to have difficulty being understood. What would Jesus do

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How to change the world

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.

So I said, call me Trim Tab.
— Buckminster Fuller

A very thoughtful person I once met could convincingly and rationally argue that everything we do, think, and decide is predetermined by either nature or nurture, that free-will is at best an illusion, at

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What not to write about

I won’t lie. Sometimes writing about art and creativity, and especially faith and art, can be frustrating. One is never sure of making a difference or that anyone cares. Indifference is the artist’s worst enemy. You would think it would be detractors. It isn’t.

Although, when people activley, even aggressively, DON’T care, that (for me) creates a different set of problems. It’s frustrating enough when people seem to miss the point, but some aggressively miss the point. I don’t mind that, but it puts me in a spiral of getting stuck with how well I may or may not be communicating. All the same I do love hearing from people, whether or not they agree with me or like what I have to say.

I also hate repeating myself. I hate writing about the same topic without at least some new perspective or information (or using the buzzword du jour, “data”). A lot of people make a pretty good living

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Dance, art, artists, beauty, and faith

 although, not necessarily all together, but in order of importance to me… or not

(TL;DR, Everything and everyone needs a context. Remove the context and you simply have a bunch of things without meaning. This is likely several posts. But read what you want, come back to read more. The title is also the table of contents.)

I thoroughly love my career in the performing arts and being mostly involved with dance, dancers, choreographers, and artists working with dance—the musicians, composers, designers, visual artists, et. al. For me dance is this perfect triangulation of visual art, sculpture, and music that is also its own thing. As a lighting designer dance always makes me rethink what I mean by lighting design. As a production manager I love to help choreographers realize their vision, even finding echoes of my own voice in their creations as we collaborate.

All art is an act of

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What is lost

I am blessed to know a lot of artists, many I call friends, and travel among many artist circles across many genres and disciplines. As someone who works in the arts industry and is an artist as well, I participate in and am part of many discussions about art, arts advocacy, the market in general, and the market for specific genres and disciplines.

What is most heart wrenching for me is when I know talented, gifted, and committed artists struggle with making a living and their efforts to understand why they struggle. The winds just aren’t blowing their direction for the voice they have refined and honed to express their thoughts, emotions, ideas, and questions.

If you don’t struggle with this in some way yourself, you cannot comprehend the frustration, anxiety, and self-doubt this can create. Why is “my” voice less valued than “their’s”? It’s a tough question. Even if one answers the

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Outside the outsiders

It’s tough. There is a lot of talk about artists being on the margins. There is a lot of talk about artists being the prophets of today. Artists struggle for support. Artists are seen as the outcasts, the misfits, the iconoclasts. And those names are usually the kinder ones thrown in the direction of artists.

There is progress being made. Community based art and art initiatives are more common than ever. Churches and seminaries are incorporating serious and contemporary consideration for the arts, from hiring artists as directors to new arts and culture focused curricula. The best endeavors, in my not-so-humble-opinion, are the efforts that seek to make art simply a part of everyday life without aggrandizing the art or the artists.

This was not an easy path to find to reconciling our creative natures with our intellects. But it is happening slowly but surely.

Through it all, though

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Being a better consumer of art


The question asked of me still rattles around in my brain. How do we become better consumers of art? I guess this was a good question to ask me because I can’t stop thinking about it and I don’t feel I have done a great job answering it.

Something has always bothered me about this question, even though it was asked in the sincerest way possible, about looking for solutions to interacting with art.

Then I read this article, Disturbing, not pleasing, should be art’s role, about the closing keynote address Frie Layson gave at the 2015 Australian Theatre Forum. She was addressing theatre, but I firmly believe this is an art issue in general.

‘How can we make the audience a partner in adventure instead of a consumer?

‘How can we communicate with audiences that theatre is a living art form, every night created again and again. And fragile. That even the biggest artists also make work

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