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Taking Chances to Create the Future
"Why do we have art if we cannot learn from the artist how to break the rules?" asked Adam Lerner.
Lerner spent six years writing and researching Gutzon Borglum, the artist responsible for creating Mount Rushmore before becoming director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in 2009. But even after six years, he said he failed to apply one critical lesson from Borglum's life to his own: That finding an original voice often entails doing something that no one else has done before.
"It's the academic nature to observe other people who want to break the rules," said Lerner during a presentation on "Ideas for the Future: Art, Media and Race" at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Thursday. "It's actually the role of all academic institutions."
Even museums or concert halls have an implicit message: That the artist has made a sacrifice for art so that the visitor doesn't have to, according to Lerner. But he believes that institutions have to break out of traditional conventions to create original voices and perspectives, becoming co-producers with artists in the creative process. "The artist's sacrifice should be inspiration to us to take chances," he said.
This theme, of taking chances to create the future while breaking down traditional boundaries between institutions and the public, was extrapolated on by Thursday's other panelists including journalist Amanda Michel.
Michel, a former director of "distributed reporting" with ProPublica and current editor with the Guardian, spoke of her efforts to work with citizens to produce good journalism by making them participants and guides in the most important stories of the day. News organizations used to be gatekeepers of information, but today that relationship is dramatically changed. Readers are sometimes informing stories from conception to execution.
"I'm interested in ways that readers and citizens can hold those in power accountable," said Michel. With ProPublica's projects like Stimulus Projects Spot Check, Michel said that, "bringing readers into the process was one of the more efficient and transformative ways of doing journalism."