Publisher's Note: Congratulations to us
By Jeff Rapsis
This week, Hippo was one of four companies recognized by the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts for significant support of the state’s arts scene. The award, presented at the group’s annual meeting in Manchester on Monday, May 10, was also given to Citizens Bank, Merrimack County Savings Bank and One Washington Place, a firm that recently renovated a historic building in Dover.
It’s a great honor for us. We’d like to congratulate the other recipients as well as thank the members of the state’s business community who underwrite this program. Attending the committee’s annual meeting got me thinking about the arts scene here in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire. Some observations:
• I believe the Granite State’s lack of public arts funding, often cited as a hindrance to the state’s cultural climate, actually serves to shape an unusual arts scene based heavily on self-reliance and pure passion. Whether it’s theater or music or photography or oil painting, it usually happens because someone has a vision and they simply HAVE to make it happen.
• This makes for art that can be surprisingly raw and vital. I’m thinking of work by artists such as Monty Whitfield, a Nashua-based painter currently enjoying a retrospective of his work from the last 20 years at the Nashua Public Library. His art is uniquely his own, and I think it’s able to stand out and breathe in part because it’s not lost in an arts scene dominated by big names and trendy self-conscious pieces.
• The price we pay for this lack of resources, of course, is instability in efforts that require lots of dough. I’m thinking of groups such as the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra, which folded in 2007, and more recently Granite State Opera, which closed up shop last month. Let’s hope that the support for such expensive art forms can be marshaled effectively and used to create sustainable excellence. In terms of classical music, the Nashua Symphony seems in a good position to do this, and is currently making plans to reach out to other parts of the state.
• Business and the arts aren’t two separate things, but should be thought of as crucial to each other. Not only does business benefit from creativity, but the arts can benefit from the business world. As an occasional composer who works full-time at a newspaper, I often think of the example of the great American composer Charles Ives, who spent his days running an insurance agency and writing music in his off hours. Ives said that his art helped his business and his business helped his art, and that rings true with me.
• Finally, it was a nice gesture on the part of the program’s organizers to acknowledge that many arts organizations are struggling to stay afloat in the sputtering economy. The recent closing of Granite State Opera was cited as an example of what’s at stake, but I still can’t figure out if a moment of silence was the best way to honor an opera company.