Last night, here in New York, I attended an impressive public panel about the arts and censorship (to be discussed in another post), and one of the many tendrils of the conversation, especially among the younger panelists, related to accessibility. One panelist, obviously feeling expansive, asserted that with social media serving as a rocket booster to the second decade of the information age, everyone now is a participant in culture, at least in some way. It may not necessarily be in a museum- or gallery- and performance-quality way, but, using a cliched example, the proud suburban Dad fooling with his cam and posting YouTube video of his 3-year-old’s fun, innocent living room antics is, the panelist argued, valid and personal artistic expression. On the other side of the debate was a fellow panelist who argued — I’m being reductive — that if everyone is artistic, if everyone is an artist, if everyone is a participant in arts and culture, what is arts and culture? Ah, 2010.
Then there are people who aren’t so much snorkeling through philosophical dialectics about who is an artist and what defines arts and culture and are instead celebrating the access to arts and culture that no one disputes. Enter Ovation TV, which has launched CulturePop.com, a site “aimed at bringing art and culture into readers’ everyday lives.”
“CulturePOP is a place where art and mainstream culture intersect,” says Chad Gutstein, executive vice president of Ovation, in the organization’s press release. “Readers can learn more about art and lifestyle trends and how to bring artful things into their own lives. With the launch of this new digital product, Ovation is able to serve the substantial part of our audience that is looking for practical, consumer-based information while staying true to our mission of making art accessible to all.”
Judging from the launch iteration of the URL, Ovation is taking a conservative approach to content with just four tabs: deals (all the better to promote consumerism), style, art and design, and food. “CulturePop’s editorial focus will include inspired recommendations and ideas from today’s leading cultural thinkers…,” the release adds, explaining that “stories will often be paired with a related special offer, giveaway or sweepstakes.”
You can mull over the cash-register-ring tie-in idea any way you wish. In my view, this is probably essential if the site is ever to become a profit center for Ovation and there’s nothing wrong with profit. What excites more, however, is the quote from Sabrina Weill, whom Ovation has hired to oversee the content: “CulturePOP finds the art in everything,” she says. The site will boast “exclusive interviews with the artists — filmmakers, stylists, chefs, musicians, designers — who are creating today’s pop culture conversations.”
That’s very encouraging. But just one question, Ms. Weill: Where is theater (that is, Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, regional and seriously cutting-edge like Seattle- or Atlanta-style garage theater) in your content calculus? Where is dance (that is, not just ballet but all forms)? Where is music (that is, not just pop or hip-hop but classical and country and alternative and electronic and all other forms)? What about spoken word? What about books? What about street art?
It’s a smart move, one long overdue, to find “the art in everything.” Now, Ovation needs to find everything in art.