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The Muse Dialogue, Our Tale

Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From, What Are We, Where Are We Going (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From, What Are We, Where Are We Going (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

The Muse Dialogue began with the idea to share discoveries on the arts, take risks in writing, and express a love for what art achieves for us personally and collectively. In the article linked below, Andrew Swensen takes a moment to explain the history behind the creation of The Muse Dialogue and discuss its guiding philosophy. We write this piece with thanks to all who have visited our articles and who celebrate art in the world.

Read “The Muse Dialogue, Our Tale” (click here for full article)

A Day in the Life of El Sistema

IMG_1055The Muse Dialogue heads into our third year by continuing our ongoing series on El Sistema. El Sistema is an arts venture with high ideals and ambitious goals: the transformation of young lives and whole communities through instruction in classical music. Annie Gordon has been composing this series on El Sistema by looking at its worldwide growth and by examining specific organizations in several cities. This past summer she committed herself to getting to know El Sistema in a very personal way. A conservatory-trained flutist, Gordon traveled to Cincinnati to work with MYCincinnati, an El Sistema-inspired program. In this fifth article in the series, Gordon gives us a look into what it takes to run El Sistema on a day-to-day basis and what is the experience of children participating in it.

Take a moment to learn about artists and children committed to music, to learning, and to their community in Annie Gordon’s “A Day in the Life of El Sistema” (click here to read the full article).

Time for Action on Behalf of the Arts

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

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

We are taking a moment to write on behalf of an important issue: proposed cuts to NEA funding.

In January I wrote an essay “On Politics and Art” in which I said: “When we want to enshrine our heroes, our fallen from wars and our leaders of the good and the right; when we want to inspire a people to action, to rise to our higher angels; when we want to commemorate all the best that this or any nation has been or can be, then we turn to that which can capture our emotions, our ideals, our aspirations. We turn to the art of the word, the brush, the chisel, the camera, the song.” It seems especially important to reiterate this sentiment now, because funding is at risk.

At The Muse Dialogue we have celebrated the rich varieties of artistic experience and expression, and in the process I have learned much about how important the arts are to communities and individuals — and ultimately to the nation as a whole. We have discussed classical music programs that serve children in communities of need. We have reflected on the beneficial relationship between the arts and businesses. We have looked at opera, poetry, and contemporary visual art; and through it all, the message of has been the value of art to all.

NEA funding has been so modest over the years. It reached a peak of $176 million in 1992, and now we look at $176 million as a distant memory and an unattainable dream. The 2013 funding level is $146 million. $146 million for a nation of 316 million and rising (US Census Bureau). Less than 50 cents per person, .004% of a total federal budget of $3.8 trillion. Despite the modesty of that amount, the House Appropriations Committee has just recommended cutting the NEA budget almost in half, to $75 million. The Americans for the Arts are supporting an NEA allocation of $155 million. I would like to see it even higher, but let’s start where we can — and act together.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (

The arts add so much to life and the return on investment is so great that proposals to reduce funding utterly mystify me. The NEA has supported many things that have inspired for children, the future citizens of our country. It has supported artists who have given richness to our communities. It has told our stories. It has memorialized our heroes. It has prompted our dreams.

I ask you to write your legislator and support the preservation of NEA funding. The Americans for the Arts have provided a link for you to contact your representative and two senators easily and quickly, and you can click here to visit their advocacy page. Use their proposed language, or compose your own. The important thing is to let your voice be heard.

Thank you for your support of the arts.

-Andrew Swensen

Relevant Links:
Americans for the Arts

Americans for the Arts Fact Sheet on NEA Funding

The Secret Muse: Intuition and the Sacred Process of Creativity

Kim Chestney Harvey, etherial material series, #1

Kim Chestney Harvey, etherial material series, #1

The Muse Dialogue continues our discussion on the intersection of art and the spiritual experience with a reflection by Kim Chestney. Chestney is an artist with a long personal commitment to painting and an arts administrator in her role as the Director of the Arts + Technology Initiative at the Pittsburgh Technology Council. She is also the author of a book that explores how spiritual experience leads to artistic creativity and expression.

In this article, she reflects on the role of intuition in the creative life, and on the source of intuition. In the process she makes an argument on behalf of the “muse inside us all.” Read on in Chestney’s “The Secret Muse: Intuition and the Sacred Process of Creativity” (click here to read full article).

Art Creators: The Anxiety of Millennials

IMG_0697Annabelle Clippinger is an arts professional, both as a creative writer and an arts administrator as the Director of PITT ARTS. Yet she is also the parent of a talented young violinist, a senior in high school who now contemplates entering a conservatory. What are parent and child to do as they face this step? As Clippinger reports from one cellist, “the math” is clear about the odds for finding a position in an orchestra. Yet one has to wonder if that is the only reason one attends conservatory, and the only possible future career path. Conversely, Clippinger has her reservations about fine arts programs that require training in entrepreneurship and arts management — all in response to the anxiety in the age of Millenials. She writes, “The packaging and reselling of conservatory programs matches the anxiety of this generation.”

Join TMD for a continuation of our look at young classical musicians and the challenges facing emerging artists of our time with Annabelle Clippinger’s “Arts Creators: The Anxiety of Millenials” (click to read full article).

On Politics and Art, an update

We are glad to share the news that The Muse Dialogue article “On Politics and Art” will soon appear in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We are grateful to The Post-Gazette for sharing this piece and for helping to promote discussion on the intersection of politics and art.

On Politics and Art

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (Photo: National Park Service)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (Photo: National Park Service)

by Andrew Swensen

The occasion of recent political events and the celebration of past political achievements are on our minds this week, and The Muse Dialogue takes a moment to reflect on the role of arts and artistry in both realizing those moments and memorializing them. Andrew Swensen writes, “I cannot help but come to the conclusion that we need the arts specifically because of these and all the issues of realizing the good in our world.” Join the conversation by reading more, and taking your own stand on the place where politics and art meet.

Click here to read the full text of “On Politics and Art.”

The Allure of Liquid Fire: A Look at the Art and Craft of Glassblowing

"The Transportation of Water" by Zach Layhew (Photo: Nathan J. Shauils)

“The Transportation of Water” by Zach Layhew (Photo: Nathan J. Shauils)

The Muse Dialogue opens 2013 with a continuation of our consideration of art and craft, and the places where the two meet…and the places where they diverge. Today we consider the art and craft specifically of glass blowing. The medium of glass offers an opportunity to create things of great beauty and things of commonplace utility. Kelly Englert investigates where the art lies and where the craft, with the help of glass artist Zach Mayhew.

Read on for a look at beautiful craft and well-crafted art in “The Allure of Liquid Fire” (click to read full article).


Tanztheater As Art Form

Marie Zimmerman takes on a journey into Tanztheater. Tanztheater is a form with literally no artistic boundaries. Productions usually have no plot or resolution, but tell of an experience meant to provoke sensations, feelings, and memories. All at once, it can be baffling, transporting, and touching.

Dance a bit with us as we launch a new issue of The Muse Dialogue, and venture into the aesthetic realm of body movement and personal expression.

Click here to read the full article of “Tanztheater As Art Form.”

Film Festivals Revisited

The Harris Theater, owned by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and programmed primarily by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, is home to numerous local film festival screenings. (Photo: The Muse Dialogue)

Our third issue of the year examined the phenomenon of the film festival. The film festival has changed the dynamic of the art of film. It has opened up new paths for releasing films and brought attention to what has become a major force in the art world: the independent filmmaker. In case you started following The Muse Dialogue a bit later in the year, we invite you to visit this collection of articles.

Click here for the table of contents to Vol. 1, No. 3: Film Festivals


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