As part of my professional education and ongoing research, I’m fortunate to be permitted to audit George Sampson and Lindsey Hepler’s class on the Arts and Public Policy in the Architecture School at the University of Virginia.
The class examines the dynamics between art—that which challenges the unknown—and the exercise of power (in a variety of domains), public life and Democracy. The discussion is founded on a variety of texts but most primarily on Arts, Inc. by Bill Ivey and the Gardens of Democracy by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer.
I’ve already read both books and will have more to say about them soon, but it’s clear that these ideas are foundational questions for the Monticello Road Project. George says that art tells a story and is designed to make change, whether perceptual or social (as opposed to entertainment, which reinforces the comfortable). Monticello Road engages both fronts (perception and connectedness). It does so from the most granular level but with a purpose of doing its small part to revitalize democracy. I firmly believe the notion that small, individual actions are society and small things such as respect, courtesy and mutual curiosity can yield big change.
Today’s opening session ended with a discussion of the ancient Greek notion of Agonism: an emphasis on the struggle itself far more than the end result, mutual respect for the contestants and the idea that defeat to a worth foe is superior to an easy victory. The project is a process not a product. That’s why it is art.