Why Art?: Creating a Safe Place

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 14, No 1 (Winter 2003)

John R. Killacky

In the six years I have served at the Center, this past season has been the most dramatic. The dot.com collapse, declining economy, terrorist threats and subsequent drop in tourism, tempered the wild-eyed entrepreneurship that had invigorated our city.

Postmodernist irony may have collapsed along with the World Trade Center, but the role artists play in creating metaphor, defining space (real and imagined), commemorating losses and victories, and articulating the unconscious can never be underestimated.

I am even more convinced that art is necessary in our profane world. Just as I believe that cloistered nuns and monks balance the frenzied pace of life and protected wetlands stabilize the economy, artists create a safe place for unsafe ideas in our world. This is our job, making sure contemporary artists and their ideas are sheltered, protected, and emboldened.

John R. Killacky, from the newsletter of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. When this was written Killacky was executive director of the Center. Since then he took the position of arts program officer for the San Francisco Foundation.