All of the talk lately about new models for arts institutions has me thinking about a Mae West quote that has always made me giggle: “Marriage is a fine institution… but I’m not ready for an institution.”
What I wish we would all remember is that artists don’t need institutions to create art. All we really need are a few simple tools — a blank cave wall, a campfire to sit around, two rocks to bang together — and our own bodies. In fact, arts institutions need us far more than we need them. Without us, without the things we create, they’re merely buildings and bureaucracies.
We need to stop letting arts institutions function as gatekeepers. If they won’t let us in, we should just do without them.
After all, to paraphrase Ms. West, who wants to live in an institution anyway?