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From the Director

The headline in the Wall Street Journal read, “Kids Don’t Connect with Collecting.” What are we going to do, I thought?

Sculptors and artists in general need an audience, and they need patrons. Today’s patrons can be private individuals, government agencies, or corporate entities, but tomorrow’s sculptures must go someplace too. If the kids aren’t interested, who will be? The repercussions will be felt not only in terms of a diminishing base of collectors, which I hope is not true, but also in terms of a larger, more general lack of interest in cultural artifacts. If there is such measurable ambivalence among younger people as to what to do with “collectibles,” where do we, the people engaged with making art or supporting art activities, step in? If young people are questioning why they should be interested in art and why they should collect it, then it’s perhaps a matter of education. But if their ambivalence is rooted in simple disinterest, then we are in trouble. Whether the general public or private collectors, the audience for art is fed by the desire to know—to understand, appreciate, and participate in the growth of cultural life. While the Journal article illustrated its point with discussions about a variety of collectibles, not art per se, the art of looking at, cherishing, and gathering artifacts around you is key to the collecting idea.

But all is not lost. I spoke recently with a colleague who belongs to IAPAA, the International Association of Professional Art Advisors. She sees those entering the work force now and younger people as socially engaged, involved with issues of disadvantaged youth, health concerns, and access to public services. I can’t imagine that these beginning leaders do not step into a museum now and then, do not find themselves in a city where they wander into a gallery and suddenly discover they are part of the art audience. Forays like these can lead to more visits to galleries and museums, and eventually the idea of owning art arises and collecting becomes a part of life. This is, of course, a simplistic scenario, but the best way to build an audience and to foster these new collectors is to offer engaging visual arts education. This can be in the form of symposia, conferences, art fairs, and the like. Public access is crucial, as is the need for art writers and educators who can give the public the vocabulary they need in order to access what they see.

“Collecting is about memory,” explained one unidentified expert quoted in the article. Perhaps so, but it is also about the future. And this future is not just in the hands of the makers: it also depends on the individual dealers, critics, curators, and teachers whose efforts support those who make.

Michael Klein
ISC Executive Director

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