Jim Mathis

Friday, July 30, 2010

Art & Sports

It may appear that art and sports don’t have much in common, but in fact, there are so many areas where they overlap that a good definition of the difference is needed. My suggestion is if there is scoring, either by judges or by the participants, and if there are clear winners and losers, then it is a sport. Art is not competition.

When I was in high school, we had a lot of music competitions. There wasn’t much difference between the music department and the athletic department. We all practiced, scored points at events and came home either as winners or losers. Like athletics, there were events for teams (football & bands) and individuals (track & soloist.) Music was really just a sport at that point. At my school, the music department brought home more trophies than the athletic department.

There are many other areas where the activities are fuzzy. Figuring skating is a good example. Figure skating is most legitimately an art form, but it is now a recognized international sport, with judges scoring on predetermined criteria and clear winners and losers. The same is true for ballroom dancing. It is both an art form and a sport.

By my definition, tournament fishing is a sport, recreational fishing is something else. The only way hunting would be considered a sport is if the deer had guns and could shoot back.

At the professional level, both athletes and artist are in the entertainment business. Whether you are a quarterback, a pitcher, race car driver, actor, dancer, or musician, your job is to sell tickets. Your value is based on how many people want to come see you do whatever it is you do.

Sometimes art is sold as a competition solely to sell tickets. I am referring to popularity contests such as the Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, and the hundreds of similar events that are mainly political, where the winners are chosen by obscure methods with little or no preset criteria. Such contests should be taken with a large grain of salt. They have much more in common with political elections than actual indicators of talent.

Sky Blue will be in the Kansas City Blues Band Challenge in a few weeks. This is a judged event with clear criteria. These types of events are like the high school music contests and seem to have a lot in common with livestock shows. Livestock shows judge the entrants on how close they come to a predetermined standard. It is a good way to check to see how you compare to the rest of the breed. The “Best of Show” at the Westminster Kennel Club may not be the best pet you could have, but you know it is going be one good looking dog. It is the same kind of deal.

It will be interesting to see how we do. Win or lose, these kind of things need to be kept in perspective. We are artists first. The contest is to see how close we come to the standard idea of what a blues band should be. Do we even want to be a “standard” blues band? Who knows? We are artists.