In this 3-part series on the dynamic qualities of murals, street art, and graffiti—as both symbols of cultural consciousness and cultural commodities in their own right—we highlight these genres as viable assets within the regional and global creative economies of today. In the FIRST SEGMENT, the author shares a townie perspective on the arts scene as a citizen of Troy, NY. In the SECOND SEGMENT, we consider the financial side of art initiatives and opportunities around the Capital Region. In this third and final segment, the author discusses the connectivity between the local and the global with respect to artistic expression and community.
How does art connect the local with the global? It does so through a consistent re-definition and re-contextualization of material realities and diverse conceptual, social, and philosophical frameworks. I think most of us can agree that art serves as a fantastical creative vehicle for illuminating both the personal and the political, the pressing issues of our time, and the urgency of the universal human condition—we turn to art to experience her charms as the “saving sorceress” that she is (as suggested by Nietzsche). Our increasingly interconnected society embraces manifold forms of artistic expression both real and imagined, and among the greatest pleasures of contemporary cultural life is encountering the multiplicity of art in every corner of the world. In this regard, the scope of artistic agency on the global scale points back to the local level, where artists engage with community as their place of being and belonging.
Over the last several months I have been exploring distinct dimensions of the art scene in the Capital Region. This series for ACE! has been an opportunity to share my firsthand insights. In the first installment, I praised Troy as a locality with a lively arts culture, including strong examples of public murals, street art, and renegade graffiti. One can also see this in the neighboring areas of Albany, Glens Falls, and the wider Hudson Valley region. In that segment I considered these acts of artistic expression as a kind of gravity within society, where art demonstrates its value as a manner of cultural consciousness and a mode of civic engagement. Local arts organizations play an invaluable role by promoting the arts and artists as vital aspects of a rich community life. Encountering colorful forms of public art around Troy and in nearby towns, we can appreciate these artistic expressions as welcomed declarations of creative presence within society. Artists enliven community space while contributing their positive visionary energy to public places.
In the second segment of this series, I interfaced with several esteemed arts professionals in our area to understand aspects of New York State’s support for economic development vis-à-vis the arts sector, including increased public arts projects and collaborations between businesses and artists; community revitalization initiatives and efforts to develop existing infrastructures for the arts; and expansion of local arts programming and opportunities for artists. All of those conversations yielded a similar theme: support for the arts in our area is growing on all fronts!
In this final write-up, I suggest the conversation comes full circle with respect to the impact of local arts activities and modes of creative engagement within an international context. In my experience, the global is the local (and vice-versa). Here in the Capital Region, arts initiatives are, in fact, defining what the macro art-world looks like on the micro level. Regional arts organizations, arts professionals, and local artists have a singular opportunity and responsibility to promote the arts in our area, thus enriching the cultural atmosphere in New York State and beyond.
In our beloved Troy, the local indeed connects with the global in unexpectedly enchanting ways. Recently I came upon graffiti on a defunct building in Prospect Park that references the art of American artist Keith Haring (1958 – 1990), whose signature imagery and bold graphic style continues to influence a generation worldwide. An outspoken AIDS activist and beloved figure of downtown 80s culture in New York City, Haring is one of the most celebrated artists in the history of global contemporary art. I was truly moved to see Haring’s iconography represented in our neighborhood, a reminder that the sprawling global art world comes down to just that: an artist makes his or her own creative mark in their place and time. And in late September I was totally blown-away by a pop-up event on 2nd Street that entirely referenced the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960 – 1988). This impressive exhibition presented a range of Basquiat inspired works by local artists and was an outrageously wonderful homage to one of most admired artists of all time. Basquiat and Haring are enduring cultural heroes, revered far and wide and still defining our global cultural zeitgeist in so many extraordinary ways. Nevertheless, our local hub offers numerous opportunities for community members to engage with art on every level. In that regard, distinct arts opportunities and connections among artists here in the Capital District promotes a sense of unity while placing us within a thriving arts culture that is global in scope. Thus, the magic and inspiration of the dynamic art-world at large is born right here in our lovely local digs.
Taliesin Thomas, Ph.D. is an artist-philosopher, writer, lecturer, and collector based in Troy, NY. Since 2007, she is the founding director of AW Asia, NY and the collection manager of Art Issue Editions, NY—two private art collections that are the foundation for collaborations and projects with artists and museums worldwide. Thomas has lectured and published widely on contemporary art. She is the director of the Artist Training Initiative and a critic for the Critical Forum program at the Arts Center for the Capital Region, NY and she is a faculty member at School of Visual Arts, NY. Thomas studied studio art, aesthetics, theory, and philosophy at Bennington College, Columbia University, and The Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts.