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Yesterday, I received an email from Rowan Derryth that the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) was accepting applications for Land Grants. At first, I thought nothing of it, and made a mental note to revisit the email and attachment at a more convenient time. Later that day, it hit me – is it just me or has LEA become an all-powerful entity in the SL art community? It seemed that even last year the SL art scene was much more grassroots and independent. Now, I’m not saying that LEA is bad and destroying the SL art community, far from it, but it does seem (and perhaps this should not come as a surprise given the proprietary nature of SL) that art in SL has become much more “controlled.” Let me put this in another way – when I started discovering SL in 2008 (I was a late-comer), the possibilities seemed endless and so much of that stemmed from the artistic freedom that came from not having to please galleries, critics, big corporations, etc. While LEA is guided by what their Wiki calls a “dedicated board of renowned Second Life artists” the exuberance that came from not having a “boss” seemed to have waned.
I don’t know how to explain this other than compare Dadaism and Surrealism. While both movements are superficially similar, Dadaism has a freedom that Breton’s structured definition of surrealism did not. In fact, Breton’s often commanding leadership position and authority over surrealist artists and their work lead many to leave the movement. At the same, and reinforcing my comparison, many prominent Dadaist artists joined the surrealist movement, in part because the very freedom the movement gave them failed to reach crescendo. Ultimately, I have heard and experienced many wonderful as well as not so wonderful things about the increasing dominance of Linden in the SL art scene. A highlight, in my opinion, was definitely A Rusted Development, curated by Rowan. Given that I have had only limited experience in SL prior to the conceptualization of LEA and have minimal experience or knowledge of art in other, non-proprietary virtual worlds, I would like to hear your opinion as well as where you think LEA has/will positively and/or negatively affect art in SL. A