The home as art♦
An interest in the Barnes Foundation led me to your website, and once there, I nosed around a little. To my delight, I discovered Caroline Millett’s article on "The home as art." I’ve admired Ms. Millett’s work for years, and was particularly gratified to find one of her "tutorials" in the Broad Street Review. Her exceptional knowledge of art and architecture, coupled with an unpretentious approach to design, make her a unique and valuable voice in a field saturated with know-nothing "experts." And her unremitting good taste makes her a terrific designer, to boot!
I’ve put the Review on my list of favorites, and plan to come back often!
Susan Marya Baronoff
March 16, 2008
I live near the town of Wayne and have spent much time there over the last 20 some years, but I confess that I have always been puzzled as to just who might qualify as one of David Brooks’s "bobos." I have honestly never come upon one. There are cafés, restaurants and a wonderful independent bookstore, but they are filled with families, moms resting up while the kids are at lessons, teenagers, some college students, and an occasional journal scribbler. Is the U Bead It store and the "paint it yourself" pottery store where all of the artists are congregating? (Actually, they are at the Wayne Art Center.) I have overheard few conversations here that would qualify as deeply intellectual. It is a pleasant place, to be sure, but one could never call it truly Bohemian.
What we really have here are the same rational and prosperous upper-middle-class people, happy to be assisted with the decoration of their homes, who have co-opted the perceived cachet of the artist’s life. Wearing retro ‘70s hippie clothes and driving a greener SUV does not necessarily make one an artist, nor does participating in a book club make one an intellectual. I have truly never met an artist who would dream of allowing another to arrange his or her personal space.
March 18, 2008
I would like to add to Victoria Skelly’s reply. I have to ask how the author of this article mistakes David Brooks’s "Bobos" as improvement. In his opening chapter, Brooks refers to his work as "comic sociology." Brooks argues that Bobos feel guilty consuming in the way typical of the so-called "greed era" of the 1980s, so they prefer to spend extravagantly on kitchens, showers, and other common facilities of everyday life.
Did Caroline Millett actually read Bobos in Paradise? Or did she just accept her own opinion of the topic and write according to that?
Bryn Mawr, Pa.
March 21, 2008
Caroline Dunlop Millett expresses in simple detail her passion for design and seems to have discovered not only the problem with "minds that think alike" but the solution for expressing oneself through design: "Don’t just think outside the box, design it!"
March 24, 2008
Caroline Millett replies: To Victoria Skelly: You seem to assume that David Brooks’s educated elite is restricted to artists and intellectuals. Actually, Brooks includes all manner of affluent educated persons amongst his “Bobos,” including successful lawyers, creative entrepreneurs, TV producers, and journalists galore. (Our esteemed editor Dan Rottenberg is most certainly a Bobo, by Brooks’s definition.) See Brooks’s Chapter 3, “Business Life.”
I’m frankly surprised by your comment about never meeting “an artist who would dream of allowing another to arrange his or her personal space.” I have designed the homes of numerous artists, certainly not as a design dictator but as a partner. I plan to elaborate in a forthcoming column.
To Stanley Marks: Concerning your questions regarding my “Home as Art” article, I did not form my own opinion of David Brooks’ Bobos In Paradise and then “write according to that.” Of course David Brooks wrote Bobos In Paradise as “comic sociology,” but his book is also very serious cultural history. That’s why it’s such a good book— both enlightening and entertaining at the same time. As the author explains on page 11, he himself is a member of the educated elite (Brooks’s definition of Bobos). Brooks proceeds to explain that this ruling class is a “lot more enlightened than the older elites… Wherever we educated elites settle, we make life more interesting, diverse, and edifying.” His last chapter applauds “Bobo Achievements” (page 268): “Thanks in large part to the influence of the Bobo establishment, we are living in an era of relative social peace … crime rates have come down, and so have divorce rates, abortion rates, cocaine use, teenage drinking, teenage promiscuity.”
“Philadelphia as ‘Premiere City’," by Armen Pandola, could only have been thought up by a playwright, and is anything but "modest," as the title suggests. If by some miracle all the hotels in Philadelphia agreed to fund this scheme by increasing their prices (whether or not a visitor cares about the theater here at all), the money should go not just to new plays, but to theater in general, or even to all artistic disciplines. The overnight visitor who comes to see an art gallery or a chamber music concert would rightly take offense at the conceit that new works of theater are more deserving of a hotel tax than any other facet of Philadelphia’s vibrant arts and culture scene.
The process of choosing plays proposed by Pandola would be rather more time-consuming than the model we have now. Philadelphia theaters that currently accept new scripts, samples, and queries have their own submission requirements that fit their budget, size, aesthetic and artistic mission. They also each have their own backlog of submissions to deal with. Why would they want to also deal with the thousands of entries from a massive catch-all contest, which obviously has even less of a chance of being a good fit for the participating theater?
No theater is likely to tolerate the loss of artistic control involved in a citywide contest at the expense of its own independent search for new plays and season planning. The logistics also boggle the mind. For example, if more than one theater wants to produce the same play from the contest, who decides?
Our city already has a reputation for high-quality theater, including new plays and regional premieres as well as the classics. Rather than fantasize about some dubious "Manhattan Project" for new plays, let’s enjoy the great work we’re doing (old and new), and mark our calendars for the next Philadelphia New Play Festival in early 2009 (which is already unique in its scope and decentralization).
P.S. As a frequent usher and former employee, I question Mr. Pandola’s mention of the Arden as a theater that "tends to shy away from new works." The Arden runs rings around the Walnut’s black-box spaces in terms of world premieres (despite the fact that the Walnut has produced Mr. Pandola’s work). Bruce Graham, Michael Hollinger, David Davalos, Michael Ogborn, the Reale brothers, and other writers supported by the Arden’s Independence New Play Showcase would probably agree.
March 12, 2008
We at the Theatre Alliance would like to commend Armen Pandola for his big-picture thinking with regard to reframing the way that Philadelphia’s theatre community is viewed. We very much agree that part of the challenge in marketing Philadelphia as a true Destination Theater town is in choosing and communicating a frame for why we are a destination, and why theater specifically is of value to anyone inside or outside Philadelphia.
Many of the suggestions that Armen makes with regard to encouraging new works are things that we have been hearing from our members, both organizations and playwrights, for some time. We are taking into consideration a variety of ideas and suggestions for the 2009 Philadelphia New Play Festival, as well as our continuing yearly programming.
In addition to promoting theaters that feature new plays, we are continuously developing a number of other ways to highlight and promote the Philadelphia theater region. For instance, we are currently conducting a study of theater, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, based on information in the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project. We hope this report will be the first of many exploring the impact of theater as a specific form within the greater richness of arts and culture here in our region. Additionally, we are making a number of changes to the Barrymore Awards Ceremony to expand its impact and influence. However, as you said yourself, these projects require significant time, thought
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