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Navigator: Perhaps you could begin by telling us something about your own background in the arts.
York: I have been active in the arts and the ideas that inform them since I was very young. At age three, I began studying ballet, and I was in my first school play at age four. I began studying piano at five, drama at seven (when I started performing publicly), voice training in my late teens, and began professional writing at eighteen—although I had been writing for as long as I can remember. Because of this training and experience, I had the constant benefit of what the arts can teach in the areas of discipline, imagination, and problem-solving. At the same time, of course, I was living out the "real life" of my personal development, but the arts helped me to forge strong values and to feel very passionate about them.
Navigator: What is the history of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART)?
York: ART was incorporated in New York City as a nonprofit educational foundation in 1992. Its stated mission is to promote a rebirth of beauty and life-affirming values in all of the fine arts. We received our tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) status in 1993 and began to publish our quarterly magazine, ART Ideas, in 1994, at which time we also established a vibrant membership roster of individuals seriously interested in the arts and the ideas that inform them. Part of our membership has always been made up of people who are philosophically attuned but not necessarily knowledgeable about the arts, and another sector who are connoisseurs of art but not so knowledgeable about ideas. So the challenge has been to stimulate both without redundancy to either.
In both cases, though, ART's members are highly educated and cultured, and we have been honored to have members from many economic, religious, and geographic backgrounds. Part of the reason may be that ART is—I think—the only arts organization in the country that champions all of the arts and is also philosophically based by intent rather than by inclination. We are also privileged to have an impressive board of advisors, an asset that has provided us with good credentials from the beginning.
Navigator: Could you tell us something about what ART has done during the last decade?
York: In 1992, just as the foundation was coming into being, I curated and produced Romantic Realism: Visions of Values as the opening painting and sculpture exhibition of the seventieth season for Grand Central Galleries in New York City. The catalogue for that show has since become a reference source for Romantic Realism in the visual arts, as my essay in the catalogue analyzed that term with regard to painting and sculpture. Later that year, the show was reproduced at Hillsdale College in Michigan as the inaugural exhibit of their new Sage Center for the Arts.
In 1994, ART Ideas became the main focus around which our other projects revolved. I edited and we published informative and uplifting articles, essays, short stories and poetry, beautiful images of painting and sculpture, a special architecture issue, and even romantic music compositions that would hardly be published elsewhere in today's politically correct, postmodern society.
In 1996, we produced a major, juried art exhibit—The Legacy Lives: The World at its Most Beautiful and Man and Woman at Their Best—at Lever House in New York City. Not only did we offer a stunning display of the works of thirty-five painters and sculptors (Lever House said it was their most beautiful exhibit in thirty years) but we also offered a three-week lunchtime "ART Festival of the Arts," where we daily presented poetry and first-novel readings, music, voice, dance and drama performances, plus guided tours of the artworks on display. With one exception, all of the works were by contemporary (meaning "living") artists; it was a scintillating time for artists and the public alike. That catalogue has also become a reference source. In 1997, we were again invited to reproduce our exhibit at Hillsdale College, and this time the show became the focal point for a five-day, nine-speaker seminar entitled "Art and the Moral Imagination," with Daniel Boorstin as the keynote speaker. Along with myself, several ART advisory-board members also spoke, so the whole endeavor was a great accomplishment for the foundation.
2000's major project was the compilation and publishing (under ART's new imprint "Silver Rose Press") of a book containing some of my essays and speeches. From the Fountainhead to the Future, and Other Essays on Art and Excellence received critical praise by all who reviewed it—including Roger Kimball, managing editor of New Criterion—and it has also been successful in sales. So, it continues to communicate ART's mission to a worldwide audience.
Our current projects include: (1) a traveling Legacy Lives exhibit in conjunction with the American Society for Classical Realism and the California Art Club, two organizations with which we have had longstanding and mutually supportive relationships. This exhibit will travel to various museums and is planned for the year 2002; (2) an annual short story anthology consisting of published works that receive our Silver Rose Award for excellence; (3) the Temple of Triumph, an architectural project in celebration of the heroic human spirit, consisting of a virtual reality video and then the actual building of a spectacular temple that features sculpture, poetry, and music along with the magnificent structure itself; (4) a Rachmaninov CD that features an actor reading an account of the composer's life in the guise of a first-person reminiscence by Rachmaninov, plus piano music featuring the complete prelude compositions. This is already in the final stages of pre-production.
For more information on ART, its history, and its projects (along with a collection of painting and sculpture images), readers should consult our Web site at www.ART-21.org . The work of those artists whose pieces illustrate this article (as well as the work of other artists) are available through the ART Foundation.