Introducing Try Harder PDX: Portland’s Only Serious Art Blog?



One very serious quality I've found missing in the Portland arts scene, and to be fair, other parts of the country, is a lack of criticism that holds the work up to a standard where the art is expected to attain a certain quality. Somewhere along the line critics who had the courage to say something didn't hold up, or who went as far as to say something was simply below expectations, were replaced by soccer-mom-commentators. These "critics" tend to find excuses for bad work, and patronize more than critique. "Everybody does well simply by trying, it's all good, and let's be encouraging rather than take the risk of hurting feelings." (Yuck!) Now, I come from a different place and time where the critics were considered a necessary part of the success of a work. I directed plays in Minneapolis. I was routinely either praised or panned in the newspapers. One critic seemed to like my work, but wasn't afraid to point out where the work fell. Another couldn't stand anything I did. Well, that's show biz! I learned to grow a thick skin, try harder, and my work improved with their comments - positive and negative. I think we need more of this kind of clear criticism. We need debate. We need to allow critics to call it like they see it, and let the chips fall where they fall. To me, one sign of a healthy arts community is a community where liking something and not liking something are not personal attacks on individuals, but rather ways of increasing the quality of the arts in a community. Hence I welcome Harder PDX. Will I always agree with the writer? Of course not, but the debate, the various points of view, the give and take are far superior to the mishmash of telling people everything is good and fine so we don't hurt their feelings. Bring it on.