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Cases for Culture- A Concept Coined

Cases for Culture

By Doris Sommer

The arts ignite social change. During the Cases for Culture conference hosted by Cultural Agents at Harvard University, participants put a recurring experience into simple words.

The unapologetic concept of art as a social resource had gestated throughout the Covid-19 lockdown during conversations among heterogenous academics and practitioners who gathered on zoom and decided to launch Renaissance Now. The plague gave us time to think, and we thought about the urgent challenges of social inequity and environmental degradation. Remembering Europe’s medieval plague and Italy’s response as the pandemic waned, when artists and intellectuals left the cloisters to engage with bankers and princes, we worried that today disciplinary silos often keep us from risking necessary collaborations. Renaissance businessmen and politicians risked money and prestige to work with creative artists and thinkers to reshape devastated societies. Later and elsewhere in Europe, the Renaissance would be associated with conquest and slavery. But not in the admirable early period which thrived on private spending for the public good by leading citizens who flouted their prosperity and taste to beautify cities and build institutions. This collaboration between creativity and power is a legacy and a practical lesson for human survival. The future depends on crossing barriers between institutional and artistic structures. Inside the silos change is literally unthinkable. Without curing an aversion to risk, and short of recognizing the arts as agents of change, disciplines will continue to be cautious and to cramp  developments in the theory of change. Read the full article

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