I may be the only person in the world who takes life advice from Sterling Archer.
If you aren’t already watching “Archer,” FX’s animated-comedy jewel, you should be. Not because the espionage world’s most lovable asshole should even remotely be considered a role model, but because every once in long while, he offers a moment of clarity that somehow counterbalances his innumerable acts of stupidity.
In one such example of unintentional insight, Archer and a fellow escapee — who happens to be an anthropological doctoral student — attempt to evade an angry, AK-47-wielding mob of Malaysian pirates, during which time Archer finds the time to tease him about his limited anthropology-related job prospects. When the doctoral candidate insists that he plans to teach, Archer points out that he’ll still only be instructing future anthropology majors, “thus continuing the circle of ‘why bother?’ ”
As crude as his interpretation may be, Archer taps into the primal fears of any and all who love the arts, liberal or otherwise, and preys on one of the art world’s greatest problems: accessibility. How do we keep a knowledge and enjoyment of the arts from becoming trapped in a perpetual loop of aficionados in a closed community? How can we grab the interest of those who would not otherwise go searching for the arts on their own? How can we keep from becoming obsolete?
Part of this fear stems not from a decline in the quality of fine arts, but rather a rapidly ballooning access to other types of media that enjoy the benefits of the Internet. You can view seven-time Oscar nominee “The Shawshank Redemption,” IMDB’s top user-voted movie, without leaving your room. You can download, watch and post a review to your blog about “Game of Thrones” without even putting on your pants.
But the fine arts often don’t get the chance to enjoy this explosion of access to otherwise restricted or alienated content. You can’t enjoy most fine arts from the comfort of your room — experiencing them means not only putting on pants, but putting on nice pants.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve skipped more than one on-campus performance to enjoy the comforts of my room, but I’ve also dragged myself out the door to a performance, only to be amazed that I might have missed it to stay home or wander to a friend’s apartment party. The countless people in and around the University that make it possible to rope in artists from around the world or coordinate the acquisition of priceless works of art are making the effort to bring the fine arts to us — and sometimes, we have to meet them halfway.
Accessibility is something that the University has down pat, but it continues to come up with new ways of ensuring that each of us takes advantage of the time we have in the midst of one of the richest fine-arts hubs in the United States. UMS’ monthly “Arts & Eats” draws out the starving college student in all of us while giving us a window into song, dance and theater from around the world. And the number of free performances offered to us, from student and professional groups alike, really is a steal — all we have to do is look them up, then show up.
We need to take advantage of the accessibility we are fortunate enough to have just a few steps outside our doors, not only to enrich ourselves, but to learn how we can bring the arts to those who aren’t given the resources we get to enjoy. Because once we graduate and find ourselves back in the real world, we won’t be so lucky. Unless we plan to teach or live next to a university with such a strong emphasis on the liberal arts, we may never again listen to an international orchestra, watch a country-hopping theater troupe or come within inches of some of the world’s most famous works of art. Schools everywhere are cutting funding for the fine arts, and I have a yearly miniature heart attack every time public funding for PBS comes under the budgetary microscope. What would my childhood have been like without “Great Performances at the Met” or “Masterpiece Theater” — and would I have ever thought to apply to be a fine-arts columnist without them?
With the year winding down and the moving-out e-mails pouring in, it seems as though I have little time to enjoy a few last-minute fine-arts performances or gallery strolls. But my view of the ominous cloud hovering in the distance that is my senior year has inspired me to make a promise to myself. I promise that I will make the most of my last year amid the arts at the ‘U.’ And I promise that even after I have finished this column, my last as our fine-arts columnist, I will continue to encourage new ideas that help make the arts accessible to all.