Friday, July 20, 2007

Utah's Big Powwow

I think that there should be some taxpayer financed public support of the art. The problem is that when the public financing of the arts gets too large, that financing starts to dominate the arts. This is what I was trying to hint at with my last snide post. When public financing of the arts dominates the arts, the arts will tend to move from artistic statements to political statements.

I was extremely supportive of the first years of the Twilight Music series and other public concerts. These concerts were accomplishing the goal of extending the spirit of the 2002 Olympics by pulling people into an otherwise vacant downtown. Five years down the line, I find myself looking at a very slick tax subsidized business with an unfair competitive advantage. All of the other arts related businesses have to pay higher taxes so that they can be dominated by a state run business.

What gives?

I intentionally juxtaposed the concert series with the "Mormon Day" celebrations. Readers of this blog have probably noticed that I have a distinct distaste for Brigham Young. The first Pioneer Day in 1847 was clearly a staged event. I have more reason to dislike Pioneer Days than the Twilight Concert series. So, I find it it strange when I find myself feeling that Pioneer Days is more of an authentic cultural event than the concert series.

Even though I don't like Brigham Young, Pioneer Days has evolved into Utah's State. This makes the day transcend its original message. The celebration encapsulates both the original message and the reaction to the message as the people who rejected Brigham Young were also pioneers.

Mankind has a long history of staging community events to deliver a propaganda message. Because we are human, we can't simply squirm out of a history filled with humans. As we will never be able to liberate ourselves from history, we might as well celebrate it.

Pioneer Day is the recognized state holiday for Utah. And I love the fact that the state is filled with community events. Even though something starts as a staged event does prevent it from gaining authenticity with time. I think that a gathering of communities throughout Utah on a recognized state Holiday is a great thing, especially since there have been a concerted effort to make the events inclusive. Pioneer Day includes a marathon, a rodeo and a ton of other events.

One of the most interesting Pioneer Days events is a thing called The Native American Celebration in Liberty Park. This celebration starts with a Powwow at 10:00AM. It includes storytelling, drum competitions and other cool things.

The Mountain Rendezvous, powwows and other community gatherings have always been an important part of our pioneer heritage. Part of The Spirit of Powwow is that people put aside their differences to communicate with eachother and simply celebrate community.

From my perspective, the state funded free concerts seem to be loosing its authencity as it grows, while Pioneer Days has gained in authenticity.


Scott Hinrichs said...

I have attended many powwows during my lifetime. They are very interesting cultural events. Despite the fact that I obviously don't hail from the Native American culture (and I can't dance), I have almost always been welcomed and treated pleasantly at powwows. Perhaps that is because I try my best to respect the culture. It cuts both ways.

y-intercept said...

There is some great arts, crafts and music coming out of the Native American community. I am quite impressed with hoop dancing. There's also some great efforts to fuse native American music with jazz (here are some free downloads from Danuwa Analihi Adonvdo).

You have a great point that non-Native Americans who go to gawk at powwows need to watch their demeanor. The Liberty Park Powwow is being held on a parade route in the busiest day of the summer. I kind-a-figure that this is an event begging attention. I could be wrong.

People have a tendency to project their own fantasies on others. I imagine that white people pretending to be indians is as annoying as open jawed gawking.

I think the right demeanor is authentic interest in what people are doing.

y-intercept said...

Here is the correct link to Danuwa Analihi Adonvdo. I like "Rise with the morning sun."