Notes from the 2012 Nancy Hanks Lecture: Alec Baldwin

I had a very strict usher shut down the very tool that makes live tweeting possible. Do attendants have issues with Alec Baldwin and wireless devices? Luckily, I was able to take notes in a different fashion without getting booted out of the theatre. I won’t reveal my secrets.

Mr. Baldwin’s speech was an “attempt to distill [his own] relationship to the arts.”
He divided a period of over 50 years into three groups: 1. “Art is all around me but I don’t know what art is,” 2. “Art is all around me so maybe I should introduce myself,” and 3. “So much art, so little time.”

Consider the details of your own childhood. Mr. Baldwin’s past is not too unlike our own, if we grew up in a middle class family, in an age of television, movies, and popular radio. What were the moments that triggered a deeper appreciation for art?

What parts of your early awakening made you want to know more about art? What things made you dream of being an artist? What inspired you to envision a path to the improbable? I remember singing into a hairbrush, and wanting to be Olivia Newton-John. Mr. Baldwin shared as much.

Mr. Baldwin shared stories of wanting to know more about art; even at the risk of having his lack of education snubbed by those “more sophisticated.” Thank goodness the snobbery didn’t sway his curiosity. Baldwin explained why he’s leaving a popular (and probably lucrative) TV show in order to soak up more art as he “has more years to look back on than ahead.”

Image from speech. Details in transcript when available.
Ross Bleckner "Sea and Mirrors" 1996, oil on linen 84" x 72"

Mr. Baldin rounded out his personal story with a deep appreciation for arts administrators. My favorite quote from him tonight, “Raising the funds for those programs is an important as each note that is played.”

His speech ended with a resounded battle cry for the work ahead:

Despite what I do for a living, despite the potential to be surrounded by creativity with what I do every day in my field, I get my art the way you get your art; as a ticket holder, as an audience member, as a patron. And although I may eventually get in a shorter line than some of you, my love of the arts and for the artists is no different than yours. And I want as many people as possible to experience that regardless of income, where you live, or whether or not we elected representatives who get it.

Maureen Dowd’s introduction was splendid. “Of course, we all know that Alec Baldwin has a problem of being completely incapable of expressing his feelings or sharing his emotions. He lives with the pressure of having a name associated with “being smokin’ hot.” It’s unfortunate that the introductions aren’t archived with the speeches. This was one for the record. Only a writer of her stature can combine “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Schweddy Balls” in one sentence.

Will Alec Baldwin’s life be dramatically changed? “Zen and tranquil [ from downward dog]? God, we hope not.” We need his mad genius.

Random other notes – The opening remarks from Mr. Hill included two quotes:
– Bobby Kennedy “The future does not belong to those who are fearful of bold projects and new ideas. But rather the future belongs to those who lend passion, reason and courage into a personal commitment into the great ideas and enterprises of American Society.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘We are all tied together in a garment of mutual destiny”
Tying both quotes together, Mr. Hill said, “The root of the word “courage” is “coeur”, which means “heart.” Many of us are linked because of our hearts.

Ben Folds and YoungArts Alumni musicians performed two songs. The second stole my heart “I’m the Luckiest.” While the song has become a new favorite for weddings, hearing the song again on Mr. Fold’s website, (Rocking in the Suburbs, track 12) and reflecting on Mr. Baldwin’s story – it truly made me realize how lucky I am to have been given the opportunities in my life to be saved and inspired by art. As an arts advocate, I do my part to make sure others with me and after me have their opportunities, too.