The Arts Center at the Arsenal on the Charles

Aesthetician R.G. Collingwood proposes that there is a certain dichotomy between art and entertainment wherein the two cannot coexist within the same product. While I do not adhere to the strict theoretical and unforgiving definition laid down by Collingwood, recent statistics make for an interesting look at the two rivals. Earlier this year, on February 16th, the movie Daredevil grossed $45,033,454 in the United States on opening night, while the concurrent Picasso and Matisse exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, which opened just two days prior, received only 3,200 spectators. While these numbers are scaring off many galleries and art projects, The Arts Center at the Arsenal on the Charles (ACAC) is grabbing the proverbial “bull-by-the-horns” in its attempt at reestablishing the fine arts as a cornerstone in popular culture. This is a multilateral effort that involves not only the exhibition of finished artwork, but also the critical process and creation of the work itself.

For those unaware of the ACAC, this is perhaps due to the fact that the building itself is not yet completely built. Many of these ideas are, however, being brought to life by Executive Director Michael Miner and his numerous contributors and staff. Their quickly approaching goal is to create a bustling cultural center on the Charles River in Watertown, Massachusetts, which will be used to teach, perform, and exhibit fine art in a range of media. With roughly 82% of the necessary construction and program funding allocated ($6.1 million raised of the total $7.5 million needed), momentum is building for the opening, planned to occur in the fall of 2004.

What separates the ACAC from other art facilities is its effort to bring all aspects of the creative process to a diverse population. Educational opportunities such as fine arts classes, internships, and studios will be available to students, emerging/seasoned artists, and novices. This experience will be augmented by the relative critical process, which will involve the dedication of professional thespians, musicians, painters, and sculptors, et al. These artists will mentor and critique the creative process through internships, rehearsals, and workshops, thus fine-tuning a developing craft. All of this will take place in a state-of-the-art building, which will include a 380-seat theater, a 100-seat black box theater, classrooms, galleries, and studios to exhibit the finished works of art.

Best of all, these resources are not specific to a particular, elite artist clientele. They are aimed to be a source of inspiration for people of all ages and abilities. The Arts Center will indeed be an “arsenal” by which art can be created, critiqued, and enjoyed.