Arts Poor Folks and the Arts
posted by May 21 at 12:08 PMon
As everyone has gotten angrier and angrier about West Virginia and Kentucky, I’ve been thinking more and more about Joe Baegeant’s excellent book, Deer Hunting with Jesus, which I reviewed a few months back. Bageant lives in small-town red state America, and he writes compassionate pieces about what it’s like. He’s a liberal, but he really loves where he’s from, and he’s a compelling voice for the poor and why they continually vote against their own best interests. It’s not at all condescending or stupid, like so many of the liberal blogs and books have been when talking about poor conservatives. I found a lot of people I knew growing up in Bageant’s book.
Over on his blog, Bageant runs letters he gets from conservatives and liberals alike, and he got a good one today, about working class art:
I guess my fear is that the age of working class art is over. That there won’t be another Woody Guthrie comin’ down the pipe. Or Roger Miller, or Lee Hazelwood. All small town midwestern boys who went on to make some legendary American music. It’s been this way for awhile in the world of visual art. Even “folk art” is made by the well-heeled at this point. Music held out a little bit longer but it is going the same direction. If things continue at this rate, the only people making music are going to be the sons and daughters of the idle rich, squandering the family fortune. Soon enough finding a redneck who can strum a guitar will be as likely as finding one who does charcoal sketches in his spare time.
It’s something that has concerned me for a while—most of my favorite art comes from blue-collar roots—and the letter, while a little too long, is very much worth a read.