Michael Fontaine


Beginning in the Midst of the World: Arts, Ethics and Social Change on an International Stage


What makes one man’s moral choice of self-creation any better than another’s? This paper explores the ability of art text to address the dilemma of an absolute relativism of conflicting values by linking poetic imagination to ethical responsibility for the other. Using a participatory research protocol drawn from Herda (1999), and a conceptual framework for analysis based on the theories of Heidegger, Ricoeur, Gadamer, Habermas and Kearney, the relationship of ethics to the arts – as revealed through research conversations held with artists representing various disciplines in Southeast Asia, Central Europe, and the United States – will be presented. Findings include a disregard – by art text creators and/or presenters – for the religious and/or cultural traditions of groups within the world community; and the belief that readers or viewers of art text are ill-prepared to participate in conversations with artists and presenters regarding their reading/viewing experience and i ts relevance to the world in which they live. Additional observations are made regarding society’s ability to control cultural processes in the interests of human well-being.


Michael Fontaine, Executive Director for a nonprofit arts organization in Petaluma, California, holds an Ed.D. in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco, an M.F.A. in Stage Direction from the University of California, and a B.A. in Theatre Arts from San Francisco State University. A singer and actor, he has also been a stage director for numerous theatre and opera productions with many professional and educational institutions in California and beyond, as well as a faculty member in the theatre departments of several colleges and universities.