Stopping the Binary

I’ve just spent 2 ½ days with students from the Mike Curb Master of Arts in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership visiting innovative cultural organizations in New York City along with my colleagues Daniel Bernard Roumain and Colleen Jennings-Roggensack. One of several themes that surfaced during our visits is that each organization was one way or another living out its values to subvert the binary thinking New York Live Artsthat is so pervasive in our culture. As the work of New York Live Arts extends across the uptown/downtown divide that was prevalent in New York in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, it also implements an “Anybody” bathroom policy. At New INC, arts and tech enterprises develop alongside each other or, often within the same entity, while anchor tenants and part time renters work side-by-side at workstations developing both for-profit and nonprofit businesses. At The Apollo mitchell apolloTheatre, it’s not about Black/White, but about America’s cultural history, or as “Mr. Apollo” Billy Mitchell put it, “his story,” where even the binary between amateur and professional has long been a porous border (how many careers have been launched by “Amateur Night at The Apollo?).

In a country more polarized than ever – in my lifetime at least – we can look to these arts organizations* and others to help the country understand that it’s not a matter of “either/or” but of “and,” “with,” “together.”

Bill T

*Many thanks to the staff of Creative Capital, Opus 3 Artists, Sozo Artists, New York Live Arts, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Co., The New Museum and New INC, The Apollo Theatre, BAM, and Wicked Broadway for meeting with students and faculty of the Mike Curb MA in Creative Enterprises and Cultural Leadership, a program of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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