Best Arts Institution


"Community" is a word grown obscure through inconsiderate usage. It's too often used to describe a group of people with little more than a thin thread in common -- ethnicity (the African-American community, the Latino community), common interests (the arts community, the gay community), political views (the libertarian community, the activist community), and so on. In actuality, these groups are widely diverse within themselves and, although they sometimes comprise fellow travelers, have little over which to commune. KDHX (88.1 FM) boldly markets itself as "community radio" and gets the word right. The art critic Dave Hickey talks about something he calls "communities of desire," saying that the power of art is how it can create communities -- Wilson Pickett's putting the emphasis on the backbeat creates a new style of dancing that, for a time, a select few recognize and share with one another; or a small group of aesthetes get off on the pretty silkscreen flowers of Andy Warhol in downtown Manhattan and become engaged with each other because of shared sensibilities. If one were to conduct an unscientific poll (which is the best kind) asking citizens whether there's one thing in St. Louis they couldn't live without, our bet is that KDHX would win going away -- or at least it should. It's the tie that binds this town's diverse constituencies -- and it goes out of its way in recognizing those constituencies. All kinds of crap can be heard on KDHX, and all kinds of beauties -- it's left to the community (or communities) the station generates to determine which is which. A truly receptive arts institution would not have it any other way.
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