What is real art? or Pardon Me, but I'm Raging Against the Machine.

God as Burgess Meredith?
You know that old saying, "If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it's a duck."

Well, that's how I feel about art. If it's self-expression, it counts as art in my book.

We're trying to get something off the ground at our church right now, something we've been trying for and praying for for years. Ever since Jake and I were married, we've had a vision. It's kind of amorphous at the moment, but aren't all ideas about life, when you're young and married and you have no idea what your future holds? Right now, we're attempting to get some filmmaking workshops off the ground for people with no knowledge of cameras or editing. For people who want an outlet, a voice, a way to make a documentary or a short film that will change the world, show something important, or just give people power in their own lives. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg in our vision.

This dream is nothing new.

Our dream changes shape sometimes. The first year we were married, we wanted to open a comic book store, hang local art, have it be a place for community outreach. (And of course, comic books.) We even had a name. The Inner Sanctum. We thought it was funny, alluding to places like the Bat Cave and the Fortress of Solitude.

Then we wanted to take the show on the road and open up The Inner Sanctum in post-Katrina New Orleans, a safe place for kids affected by Katrina and still holding true to the original vision.

Then we realized we knew nothing about money or business.

Then we started learning things about money and business.

Then the dream grew into a media company, because those are our skills. Both graduated with degrees in TCOM from Ball State (Film, Radio, and Television), both love film and filmmaking etc. So we went back to pursue more education. Jake got a film degree, I'm finishing my MA in creative writing.

We've spent the last four years getting lots of real-world experience. I work for Indiana Public Radio (In fact, I'm interviewing Karl Rove tonight.), various magazines, voice over companies, etc. Jake is a professional editor and mastering engineer now who has worked for several TV shows. We work creatively and we try to play creatively. (That's Park Geeks.) But all that is beside the point...

The dream is to create a media and/or art-centered business that we can run as entrepreneurs that will help people. Help a community, help an individual, help anybody for crying out loud. Do something other than pumping useless junk into the world of entertainment and media. And it feels like God is training us. Not like, Burgess Meredith training us, but it seems like God sends us opportunities to do just that. To create videos for someone who needs them, to mentor someone who wants to pursue their creative interests, etc. Things seems to be lining up.

But there's always opposition.

There's internal opposition, where I spend large amounts of time being mentally self-deprecating and picturing Jake and I as two extra characters from American Movie, lost, utterly without direction, and disconnected from reality. (Watch the preview below to see the face of my internal insecurities.)

There's external opposition. People who tell you to just shut up and get real jobs. (Which, for the record, we both have. Multiple ones. I teach creative writing, work freelance for Indiana Public Radio, FiveSprockets.com, and more and Jake works his rear off editing videos, designing DVD menus, and mastering things for companies like Pampers and Flir and the Merchants of Bollywood. So I have to check myself on that one sometimes. We work our butts off, even when people don't see what we're doing as a worthy pursuit.)

But there are always naysayers. People who want to know where the money is going to come in. Of course, in business, you must turn a profit to stay alive. But what we're figuring out is, maybe we want to be a non-for-profit. That maybe there's enough merit in empowering others creatively to tell their own story just BECAUSE that's a good thing to do. What if the kids in post-Katrina New Orleans could shoot, edit, and upload their own videos about their day to day lives? Would it be as easy to brush them from our consciousness?

What if a cooperative of people could spend time working on a documentary or a film whose proceeds would benefit something in their own community? (A la, "Be Kind, Rewind".)

I guess my question is, why is the only worthy "art" that which rakes in millions at the box office or goes on display in glittering metropolitan galleries? The books on the best-seller list. The accepted forms consumed, sometimes literally, by the mass media. Featured on network morning shows. Turning profits. Profits. Profits.

"Yeah, but where's the profit in your idea?" someone asked us once this summer.

Um...the betterment of individual lives? The ability for people to speak for themselves in a world full of noise where people are constantly trying to speak for them? Is that good enough for you?

The answer is "no". That is not good enough for most people. But then, there's always somebody who wants to fight the idea of giving a voice to the "little guy".

There are people who hate bloggers, you know why? Because bloggers have the power to write and publish, and some people who shelled out for expensive journalism degrees don't like that.  They don't want art and expression to belong to just "anybody". They think people have to earn it. I say, we've all earned it by being born.

Some people don't think that pop culture is worth talking about. I say, pop culture and nostalgia take the pulse of our nation. Tell us where we've been, where we are, and where we're going. Pop culture can serve as a warning, a connection between strangers, and so much more.

Some people say, the only art worth pursuing is commercial. I would never turn my nose up at commercial success, it's something I want to achieve. But it's not the only kind of success. Is the memoir of a president more worthwhile than the memoir of a mother? I think you know what my answer to that would be...

So Jake and I have to keep adapting our vision, trying and failing, trying and failing, until hopefully, we succeed. In some way, form, or fashion. I think that eventually we're going to have to figure out a way to do this on our own, instead of looking for other people and places to give us a platform. At some point, in the very near future, we're going to have to pull a Ghostbusters, ("Don't worry Ray, everyone has three mortgages on their house nowadays.") and just come up with a plan and go for it independently.

To prove that I'm no art snob, I'll share some of my own bad poetry. I wrote this last week, when all of these frustrated thoughts went swirling through my head, right on schedule. Four little lines,

"I have a fantasy every autumn,
my husband and I run a book store somewhere atmospheric.
The wind blows the late fall leaves, dry and raking across the sidewalk,
carving out an invitation to the beggars in the street."

See? Poetry is not my strong point, but it sure did make me feel better to write... 

You know what? Even bad art is art...if all I had to make was, "Coven", I'd be a happy camper. (Warning, strong language.)

It's alright, it's okay, I have something to live for. Jesus told me so.