A Review of The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future

Stephani Etheridge Woodson


The thoughtful work of cultural activist Arlene Goldbard has been foundational to many community cultural development artists and public scholars. Her latest text, The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & the Future, builds off her previous work with the ambitious goal to “reframe public interest in art and culture.” As she writes in her introduction: “the book incorporates arguments, stories, and perspectives I have evolved from years of writing and speaking on the subject, as well as considerable new material.” Goldbard's bold experimentation with structure continues to be one of her assets as a writer and public intellectual. The Culture of Possibility contains three distinct sections—as well as a companion work of fiction, The Wave— each framing her argument and information in particular ways. The first section of the book, helpfully called “Read this First,” serves as a brief introduction to the text while establishing Goldbard's terms and lenses. The second and longest section, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Twenty- Eight Reasons to Pursue the Public Interest in Art,” provides exactly that in short, digestible and interrelated chunks. Her last section, “The World is Upside Down” presents much of the same information while grounding her argument in a more traditional essay format. The text as a whole pulls from a broad range of Western philosophy and cultural traditions weaving storytelling with economic analysis, spiritual traditions, poetry and neuroscience.

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