ArtsWatch is a non-profit arts and culture journalism project that explores the arts and their intersection with the wider culture in Oregon and the Northwest.
We believe that the arts play a central role both in individual lives and in a democratic society, and Oregon ArtsWatch provides ever more useful descriptions of this dynamic interplay—the arts, the individual, the culture. We will discover, report and comment on art that we think is most important to the public, and encourage discussion by the public of that art and the issues it raises. We are committed to being a trusted public source for stories about the arts, written in a manner that is independent, transparent, fair, accurate and responsive.
We report on Oregon and Northwest culture here, mostly the arts end of that culture, though we may digress from time to time, because the arts are permanently entangled within life itself, life in all its degrees and stations. The arts offer special benefits to the culture—a model for the finest execution of our daily tasks and momentary respite from those tasks, a space to consider the deepest problems and greatest joys we face as individual humans and societies, a place to wonder and laugh and celebrate together.
Deep down, we think that the arts are central to the sustenance, renovation, celebration and re-creation of our life together in the Northwest. They aren’t a decoration or a sideshow. They give us an ongoing reflection of ourselves. They suggest solutions. They grieve and roar in pain and anger. They know when things aren’t fair, and they speak out. At least at their best, they do. And then they encourage us to think and feel along with them. This sense of social cohesion, a sense of the whole, this common sense, is often missing from our national lives, and it has made democracy itself difficult to conduct. We believe that Oregon has a chance to generate a common sense that is complicated and practical and adaptive. And if we are going to succeed, it will be because the arts have helped us create a shared language, shared experiences and ultimately, shared values—even if one of those is respect for deeply held values that we don’t share.
Most arguments for support of the arts seem either tangential or tepid. We believe that we won’t have a functioning democracy without arts to feed and nourish us. We won’t have a vigorous economy without arts to inspire and model our creative response to the world. We won’t have healthy individuals without the insight and space for insight that the arts provide. Sure, there are direct economic benefits to art activity. And sure, we benefit inherently from living in an environment that is more “aesthetic” than less. But what’s at stake in this is more crucial than these byproducts of a healthy shared culture.
The arts remind us that we are in this together. That we aren’t alone in our particular thoughts and feelings. That things can be made right and whole, if just for a moment. They remind us that the individual can do great things, and so can individuals acting together. And somehow, they resolve the great tension of American life, that between the rightful autonomy of the individual and the responsibilities that come with belonging to a group. We can’t imagine a good outcome to our dire problems—as a community, a nation, a planet—without the complex lessons the arts teach us.
We believe that the processes of discovery, explanation and discussion of journalism have an important role to play in all of this. An “informed citizenry” extends to cultural matters, and that is the mission of Oregon ArtsWatch—to help those of us in this particular cultureshed support and create arts and culture that respond to our needs.