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Archive for April, 2013

Artists, Athletes, and the Passion to Excel

Erin Yanacek (Photo: Jon Pratt)

Erin Yanacek (Photo: Jon Pratt)

Erin Yanacek, trumpet player and cyclist, explores the connection between her experiences as an artist and as an athlete. She finds a number of similarities, and in particular the mental space of each activity requires a level of focus that brings an individual an uncommon clarity. She writes, “The idea of a masterful musician’s mindset is not unlike the mindset of an athlete in a competition. Levels of focus and awareness are raised to a seemingly electric state.”

If you have not already read this article — we released it last week but are only posting it to the homepage now — it is a fascinating look into the psychology of artistic creation. Join The Muse Dialogue for Yanacek’s “Artists, Athletes, and the Passion to Excel” (click here to read full article).

Nonprofit or Not Profiting? A Critical Examination of Nonprofit Finance

art-and-money-2The subject of nonprofit finance is a sensitive one. On the one hand, so many artists and administrators labor diligently and conscientiously on behalf of something that has value but not always commercial viability. Everything from museum conservation to arts education programs exist for a public good, and cannot necessarily conform to a business model built on pricing of supply and demand. However, there is another side to the coin. Does nonprofit status — the absence of profit motive – have a potential downside? Some have argued that not profiting has removed some of the engines that keep the for-profit sector vibrant. Alexandra Holness steps into this territory to ask some questions that are not necessarily easy or comfortable. Yet they point to the need for perpetual self-examination, and to the potential that profit motive might have a lesson for those in the nonprofit community.

Join TMD as we consider these questions in “Nonprofit or Not Profiting? A Critical Examination of Nonprofit Finance” (click here for full article).

National Poetry Month

by Andrew Swensen

It is National Poetry Month, and we at The Muse Dialogue want you to celebrate. I will start with a few suggestions from our own archives…

Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing a Letter (Photo: National Gallery of Art)

Last year, I wrote an article titled “Bring Back the Poets,” which holds a special place in my heart. Not necessarily because I think it to be especially good — I will leave you to be the judge of whether it is or not — but rather because it comes from the heart. I have written about many things here, and they all matter in their own way. Yet I have a special place in my heart for poetry. I will not be shy to say that the likes of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Mary Oliver have all changed my life with single works. Among the arts, poetry has so many wonderful qualities — it is portable, so compact that you could copy one and carry it in your wallet; and yet it has the capacity for such impact. Unfortunately, our era seems to have lost its regard for poets, except those who set their lines to music. While I also have great regard for some lyricists out there — John Lennon has penned some powerful lines — we do not spend enough time with the magnificence of the small, the beautiful poem.

You may be interested in hearing from a poet during this month, and we can offer you a couple of those as well. The poet Richard St. John, from our beloved Pittsburgh, offered up a two-part series “The Power of Personal Experience” (the link goes to the first installment, and a link to the second appears at the bottom). St. John has a wonderful sense for how poetry speaks to our individual selves, and to the power of truth. For a different sort of poetic offering, you may also be interested in an interview conducted last year with slam poet and education advocate Taylor Mali. The article also includes links to his work and a video to his performance of “Labeling Keys.”

Beyond those celebrations from our own pages, consider a couple of other wonderful resources. Both the Poetry Foundation and The Writer’s Almanac offer email subscriptions for you to receive a poem every day, and the Poetry Foundation has a host of other wonderful resources as well, all related to poetry, and The Writer’s Almanac includes the literary birthdays of any given date. I subscribe to both, and I encourage you to do so as well. The few minutes that it takes to read a poem can open doors of aesthetic experience that one cannot anticipate. It is a daily discovery, and the practice of checking in with a poem reminds us to always take time for a little art in the everyday moments of our lives.

One last suggestion: write a poem. It does not have to be good. It does not have to be long or complicated. It does not have to be shown to anyone. Yet the very act of artistic creation has its own benefits for the inner self. Cultivate that place in yourself, that place that can issue forth in artistic words. Make it your own private celebration of National Poetry Month.

All Dressed Down, Nowhere to Go. Do Orchestras and Young Musicians Have a Future?

Colin.gifColin Pinto-Martin, a percussionist currently in conservatory, wonders about his own future and the future of his art form. Conservatories across the country are producing highly skilled musicians, but if the art form has only declining audiences and declining interest, what does that mean for all those currently in training for the orchestras of tomorrow? Pinto-Martin considers the changes in audience, their waning familiarity with classical music and the growing informality of culture in general, and he sees tremendous uncertainty. The question then becomes what are the musicians themselves willing to do in order to change that future. He writes, “If we as musicians and artists don’t begin to adapt to a rapidly changing culture soon our craft will be as valuable as making buggies for horses.”

The Muse Dialogue offers some provocative thoughts and challenging questions from a young musician who argues that musicians themselves are partly responsible for the situation, and must take up responsibility for its future. Read on in “All Dressed Down, Nowhere to Go” (click here for full article).


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