Allyson Arendsee

Allyson Arendsee grew up in San Diego and is now based in New York City. A recent graduate of Westmont College, Allyson is continuing her education at the New York Center for Art and Media Studies. She spends several hours a week assisting International Arts Movement as a graphic designer and editorial assistant. In her spare time, Allyson enjoys observing some of New York's more obscure artifacts, including rooftop water towers, and engaging in lively discussions over good, strong coffee.

The Need for a Better Case

From the article, “The Economics of Arts, Artists, and Culture- Making a Better Case” (Grantmakers in the Arts: Reader Vol 20, No. 3 Fall 2009)

In a time of economic trial, artists, who stereotypically are often the ones to be jobless, or at least struggling if not famous or “discovered” yet, are facing serious unemployment and lack of funds from the government.  She argues that the arts are just as important as other government funded systems, yet the arts community lacks a strong enough defense for it’s desire for more funds to produce both public and personal work.

The following excerpt is a reason Markusen believes why arts groups are, in fact, a more valid use of government funds…

“Compared to most other groups of workers, artists are more apt to spend what they make rapidly and on other goods and services in the local economy: ongoing training, space to work, perform, and exhibit other artists’ work.  Artists enhance product design, employee relations and marketing in many industries.  As human capital investment targets, artists are also worthy, because their creativity drives cultural industries- media, publishing, advertising, music, and tourism – that are among the most important US exporters.  If we had better evidence on these relationships, and more mezzo-economists researching them, arts proponents could make their case more easily.”

The Complexity of “Beauty”

A historical and contemplative article on the modern understanding of “beauty” in our society…

“The problematic role of beauty in art is a peculiarly modern one — or, more accurately, a modernist one, since it was created by the writers and artists who came of age around the time of the war and who refused to cede intellectual rigor to aesthetic clarity. Whereas once a certain recognizable combination of style and technical skill was generally accepted (fashion permitting) to constitute successful poems, paintings, and musical compositions — something new had been added to the mix: mainly, the complex interplay between the artistic self-awareness and the difficulties involved in, and the re-invention of, the various artistic genres. This is to suggest not that art before the First World War was more simple but that the nature of the complexity had changed. The appreciation of modernist works required a whole new set of critical tools.”

Another excerpt from the same article discussing aesthetic sophistication and appreciation…

“To state the obvious, there are variations of beauty in art. The lovely metrical touches of Herrick cannot be confused with the lyrical ceremoniousness of Yeats; and the tone poems of Debussy will not remind anyone of the St. Matthew Passion. But any attempt to measure and compare such respective beauties is absurd. Not, for that matter, can we restrict the recognition of beauty to those best qualified to judge art. Not that I wish to appear democratic or open-minded, but the people swaying to the pedestrian lyrics and repetitive harmonics at a John Tesh concert are, by their lights, experiencing beauty. One look at their adoring faces is all the proof we need. For that matter, a man eating a hot dog on the street may be enjoying himself as much as a gourmand savoring a slice of duck breast at Taillevent. That said, one can also say that aesthetic sophistication increases one’s chances of encountering beauty; it creates the possibility or more, if not more intense, experiences of the beautiful. To be aware of the intricacies of dance, the degree of difficulty in writing poetry, the notes and tempo involved in music, is to appreciate what may not be immediately apparent — in which case, bad taste is not the inevitable result; pleasure is.”


Tolerating Mystery

An excerpt from the article “Mystery and Evidence,” by Tim Crane.

“Religious belief tolerates a high degree of mystery and ignorance in its understanding of the world. When the devout pray, and their prayers are not answered, they do not take this as evidence which has to be weighed alongside all the other evidence that prayer is effective. They feel no obligation whatsoever to weigh the evidence. If God does not answer their prayers, well, there must be some explanation of this, even though we may never know it. Why do people suffer if an omnipotent God loves them? Many complex answers have been offered, but in the end they come down to this: it’s a mystery.

Science too has its share of mysteries (or rather: things that must simply be accepted without further explanation). But one aim of science is to minimize such things, to reduce the number of primitive concepts or primitive explanations. The religious attitude is very different. It does not seek to minimize mystery. Mysteries are accepted as a consequence of what, for the religious, makes the world meaningful.

This point gets to the heart of the difference between science and religion. Religion is an attempt to make sense of the world, but it does not try and do this in the way science does. Science makes sense of the world by showing how things conform to its hypotheses. The characteristic mode of scientific explanation is showing how events fit into a general pattern.”