I received some wonderful news today, I've been selected for the Linden Endowment for the Arts committee! I'm beyond thrilled at this opportunity to help with this project, which is very much in alignment with my goals of helping the SL art community mature and grow as a vital form of "New Media" or Virtual Art - one that is every bit as important and significant as other modes of art. We have a long ways to go.
There are a LOT of questions to be answered and some very good conversations going on about this topic. If you'd like to read some, check out the original announcement and discussion on the Linden Blog, New World Notes, Faerie Fuck, and Sand Castle Studios for some of the best discussions I've seen.
I've been immersing myself in all this feedback and a lot of it has been very helpful and raised some thought-provoking questions that we on the committee are going to need to answer. One thing is for sure, when you have to manage a program with limited resources and a constrained set of results (this is, after all, funded and sponsored by LL), you simply can't make everyone happy. I'm a strong believer in transparency, so I will do my best to push for a policy and attitude of openness about our decisions and not just hand them out like some sort of elite ruling "FIC"-like clique, which seems to be a commonly expressed fear. Trust me that's the last thing I want, as well. I would greatly prefer that we don't operate in a vacuum and regularly get feedback from the community to avoid misalignment with the real needs of the various art communities in SL.
I realize already that the question of what the scope is as far as what types of art will get emphasis is a big one and one we need to tackle. The performing arts, Machinema, and Fashion (wearable art) among others are obviously just as valid in their own right as the various visual arts in SL. I do not know if LL already has any particular direction they want to take in that regard, but it's a humdinger of a discussion that needs to happen.
The question of whether we emphasize art that "attempts to essentialize an important aspect of the human experience in a way that's only feasible in SL, leveraging most or all of Second Life's unique affordances", as Hamlet Au put it, is a vital question and one I look forward to debating with the committee.
The question about what art is is going to be a tricky one. I won't rehash the discussions linked above, but my current 2c (and I reserve the right to change my mind pending forthcoming discussions with the community and other committee members) is that discussing what art is in a New Media/Virtual Art medium such as Second Life is a bit like endlessly discussing why you can't slice wooden eggs in an egg slicer. It looks like an egg, it's shaped like an egg, but for some reason it resists acting like a real egg, darn it! New Media art has in some ways moved outside of the more generally accepted definitions of "art" and become something a little more hard to pin down. We must be careful to apply slightly outmoded definitions to whatever it is that we have in SL. Yes, they are very useful, but let's not get trapped into assuming that art in SL can be completely and accurately described with existing definitions. That being said, we will be forced to apply limited resources (space, prims, corporate policy/TOS, etc.) to the abundance of cool "stuff" there is to highlight and share with residents, and choices will need to be made. Frankly I'm tempted to never call it "SL art" again to stop all the preconceived ideas and assumptions when discussing it.
I hope to be able to share my thoughts and insights here into the project (without getting myself into big trouble lol) as this project rolls on. So stay tuned!