Erik Lokkesmoe shares the story of the Gallo brothers: With decades of persistence and hope, they transformed the concept of wine. Lokkesmoe relates the Gallo’s story to the idea of changing our cultural climate to seek value in things of substance. What standard should we strive for? Art, entertainment, and media that improve the thought process of the audience rather than destroying it. As a society, are we willing to endure the patience and persistence required to change our cultural climate?
Originally posted on Q Ideas. Read the full article below.
In 1933, the year Prohibition ended, two brothers, Ernest and Julio Gallo, launched a wine business from a small warehouse in California’s lush Central Valley. Acquiring grapes and equipment on credit, they joined a handful of other struggling winemakers in sinking every penny they earned back into the family business.
The first harvest yielded truckloads of frustration and little fruit. As the vines grew, however, so did their optimism. Neighboring vintners said the brothers told everyone who would listen, “… someday the Gallo name and family crest would appear on bottles throughout the U.S.” Lack of money and name recognition were the least of their concerns. Foreign wine-making giants, particularly in France, dominated domestic sales; and wine was viewed as an elitist drink for the wealthy or the secret indulgence of the “wino.”
Ernest and Julio Gallo made a critical decision. Instead of looking to next year’s harvest or next quarter’s profits, they fixed their eyes on the next quarter-century. Their patience paid off. By 1975, the E. & J. Gallo Winery was the largest wine company in the world; the closest competitor was half their size.
Decades of persistence did more than turn a profit. Along the way, the Gallo brothers transformed the perception and practices of wine-drinking in America. “Gone are the days when wine was only imbibed at formal occasions; when the wine bottle only made an appearance in somber dusky rooms or at candlelight dinners,” an industry newsletter reported in 1983. “Today, wine … entertains at picnics, social occasions, business luncheons, everyday meals and sporting events … [and] is becoming a part of everyday life.”
The Gallo brothers understood that changing their fortunes meant changing the cultural climate as well. The beliefs and behaviors of consumers had as much to do with sales as the product itself – as good as it might be.
Such eternal endurance is uncommon today. In our clamorous and rootless society, bravado is potent and expectations are high; great things are expected to happen quickly. Yet noble and daring deeds — ending extreme poverty, reinventing a new model for the music industry, or revitalizing devastated urban centers—require a patient and persistent vision.
The same is true in contemporary culture. Elections matter. The Supreme Court is important. Nevertheless, it is movies and music, poetry and plays, fashion and video games that shape beliefs and behaviors. Art and entertainment often normalize, even idealize, as one author said, “the weird and the stupid and the coarse.”
The answer, however, is not regulation or legislation. To change the culture we must change our approach. We must encourage young people to innovate in every channel of culture. Challenge them to pursue everything from cinematography, dance, and the creation of original music to redesigning entire educational systems, architecting urban development and founding common good organizations.
To renew all things we must create movies and music, poetry and plays, fashion and video games, employing excellence and artistry in a way that subtly offers audiences startling glimpses of goodness, truth and beauty. We must be originators, not imitators, with an uncommon ability to tell new stories in new ways through new mediums. We must transform the arts from the inside-out and the bottom-up, to “criticize by creating,” as Michelangelo said. And we must celebrate the good wherever it is found, even in the most unlikely and unexpected places.
Our standard should be this: great art, entertainment, and media that leaves the audience a little better off than when they first entered the theater, turned on the iPod, or opened the book. Art doesn’t have to be happy or easy; it should, however, be a vehicle for recreation and re-creation, an echo of grace that reminds us what it means to be human and more than human.
Do we have the patience for such long-term transformation?
Do we have the patience to train one thousand talented young artists over the next ten years to weave redemptive themes into their art, knowing that only a handful of them will ever make a living at it?
Do we have the patience to take a job in the mailroom of Universal Music Group or Paramount Studios or NBC News, to work hard and not complain, to fetch expressos for executives, to learn how things work, and then ten years from now be in a position to take that job as Vice President of Programming?
A patient, persistent cultural vision will not earn many pats on the backs or make many headlines; it is much easier to criticize and complain. Like Ernest and Julio, we must till and plant, season after season. The fruit of our labor may take years, even decades to make a difference. But the investment is worthwhile. An enduring vision takes endurance.
Do you think Erik places too much emphasis on the arts and entertainment or about the right amount? What stories of uncommon endurance could you share?
Editor’s Note: The picture above is of Ernest and Julio Gallo. It was quoted from here.