At the Corner of Art and Commerce

Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in News | No Comments

Happy Holidays.  This is a reprint of my first Curtain Call column from 1997, a column that was just jump-started…to my excitement.  It’s a reminder of why I fell in love with this business, and the moment it captures is one where I reminded my friend David of why he fell in love with it.  Ironically, I need to remind myself every once in a while.  In this age of technology, relationships suffer and Art is not as apparent in our day to day tasks, but the core of what we do still is unchanged. Of course the musical references are grossly out of date, but you can substitute Justin Beiber vs. Florence and Machine. :)    Nancy 2012


by Nancy A. Oeswein, copyright 1997


Last year, I began keeping what I call my Moon book.  It is part yearbook, part autograph book, part journal and all magic to me.  The inside cover is subtitled “Nancy’s book of the famous, the nearly-famous, the should-be-famous, or the merely fascinating”.  I ask friends and acquaintances to capture a moment or a thought inside about themselves or our relationship or whatever they feel like writing.  Some are simply autographs of the already famous. Some pages exist just as they’re written and others have so much portent between the written lines, I see something different every time I read it.  I have my favorites that I point out and I have others full of secret meanings I would never explain to anyone.


Just the other day, I was rereading one page filled by my friend and fellow writer, David Harris.  It was a story in which I was written as “a girl with flaming red hair, clad in overalls and riding a bicycle.  I approached him at the corner of Art and Commerce and skidded to a stop, pebbles skittering and smiled a fine smile, bright and warm, and told him about the marvelous intersection in which he had broken down… “  The fact that I do not own a pair of overalls notwithstanding, it is an image of me which flatters and the entry is one of my favorites.  It captures, in very poetic fashion, a moment in time, a conversation David and I shared about the nature of Art.  Capturing such moments is the most important intent of my moon book.  And in this business we’re in, whether as agents, artists, or students or professionals booking talent, the debate over whether what we do is Art or Commerce is one of our most frequent discussions.


While I rarely perform myself any longer, I was once a singer/songwriter.  And today, I still argue that because what I do as an agent, in many senses, elevates or disseminates art, I am a part of it.   Being considered an artist in some small way is an important distinction to me (especially if I never finish my novel).  This is not just a job; it is who I am, and I need to feel I am part of the greater good and I certainly believe that Art is ultimately good.


So what is Art?  In my definition, Art serves to lift up the soul to a higher level regardless of its starting point.  So even Art that appeals to the lowest common denominator has its place.  There are those for whom Nietche or DeToqueville elevates their sense of oneness with nature and a higher power or for whom the interwoven counterpoints of a Bach fugue simplify and demystify the counterpoints of intellectual and spiritual understanding.  And there are those for whom Madonna raises their esteem or sense of belonging in the face of rejection by wearing the same bustier or singing the perfect pop hook.  I suppose I am arguing that even Madonna is Art and not just commerce (which to me feels one step up the evolutionary ladder from arguing that free speech must necessarily extend to the Nazi Party.)  Even for the most spiritually enlightened, there are days when I believe a ride in a red top-down Sebring convertible, blaring “ I wear my sunglasses at night…” on the radio can be as freeing and enriching as a literary glide through Walden Pond.


Art is arguably anything that evokes real emotion or thought.  I saw a 42nd Street Marquis in New York recently that block lettered “All Art is either revolution or plagiarism!” Hmmm.  This implies that true art does not necessarily need to evoke change.  Even a plagiaristic style of Art may produce thought or feeling or even change, in some denominator of society.  A lithograph or print or copy of a masterwork of Van Gogh allows more individuals to see its beauty or anger or vision than the original.  A band playing covers of REM and Billy Joel in order to get gigs that include their own original material may touch someone listening with fresh ears to the artful lyrics of the cover tune as well as to the originals.  And a student or an agent who is touched or changed by a singer or a film or a speaker and in the course of their duties, works to share that art with others and perhaps change them too, well, I believe that each of us wears the badge of honor “Artist” too.