Interview with “Art in Public” author Lambert Zuidervaart
On Thursday and Friday, Grand Rapids had the opportunity to be part of the kick-off to a new book tour by author and educator Lambert Zuidevaart.
Zuidervaat, a former Calvin College professor who now teaches in Toronto, came to Grand Rapids to unveil his new book Art in Public: Politics, Economics and a Democratic Culture. The importance of his book tour beginning in Grand Rapids was also because of his relationship to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), where Lambert served as board president during the time the organization was moving into the Sheldon street location.
On Thursday, Zuidervaart gave a lecture at the Grand Rapids Art Museum that basically summarized the main points of his book. He talked about the function of art in the public, particularly its role in promoting a democratic culture.
On Friday, the UICA hosted a symposium in collaboration with Civic Studio and the Art Department of GVSU that included Zuidervaart and several people involved in the arts and culture in West Michigan. The Friday symposium continued the themes that Lambert laid out on Thursday, but involved a larger conversation about these issues, particularly as it relates to Grand Rapids.
Issues of funding for art, civil society, the role of government in art, and democratic culture were discussed along with the commercial pressures that art and artists face in contemporary capitalism. This commercial pressure is what Zuidervaart referred to as hyper-commercialism where art and culture are subordinate to the profit motive.
About 35 people attending the Friday event generated some lively conversation around these themes, but despite the 3-hour forum there was not enough time to deal with all of the complexities and perspectives raised by both the invited speakers and those in attendance.
GRIID was fortunate to have an opportunity to sit down with Lambert Zuidervaart on Friday morning to discuss some of the themes in his book, with some of the discussion centered around Grand Rapids art issues, including ArtPrize.