BookSunday logo
Hart NPI logo

Art is Good was an informal mantra for many years between Charles Johanson and Kevin Cochran who produced theater together in New York, Connecticut, Orange County and Los Angeles for 34 years.

During that time, they repeatedly got frustrated by people (primarily those employed or elected to work for a municipality!) who looked at art through a purely utilitarian lens people who felt that theater was only good if it increased foot traffic at a nearby restaurant or a new sculpture only had significance if it raised money for the local Boy Scouts.

Now we all know that arts can accomplish those things and much, much more. But those accomplishments don’t define the value of the art. Good art has an intrinsic value that does not rely on an immediate economic impact.

This argument came to the fore many times while Kevin and Charles were producing theater in Garden Grove, California. In 2001, Kevin stayed in town over the holidays to prepare a presentation for an upcoming City Council meeting.

One night, he was alone at the theater watching the Kennedy Center Awards. He was so frustrated at the chasm between the appreciation for the arts shown by the awards and the endless nitpicking at the local level, that he painted the words “Art is Good” above the backstage entrance. He was tired of justifying art through mundane metrics and needed to proclaim that art needs no justification beyond its own essential existence.

When Charles returned to town, Kevin sheepishly told him what he had done and took Charles to see the slogan. Charles expected something neatly printed above a light switch or some similarly contained version. So he was a bit surprised when he walked in and saw “Art is Good” spray painted in red letters three feet tall! And that’s when “Art is Good” became their new motto. Charles even had it tattooed on his chest backwards, so he’d be able to read it in the mirror every day.

Charles unfortunately died of a heart attack in 2019, so he wasn’t here when Art is Good became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation on June 22, 2020 – what would have been the 95th birthday of Mary Jane Cochran, Kevin’s mother and co-creator of the original BookSunday in the fifties. Art is Good as an organization supports arts education, public performances and literary awareness. Our main focus at the moment is BookSunday.

The spirit of Charles definitely lives on in the goals and drive of the organization. Right before his death, he and Kevin started formally working on BookSunday. His death and then the pandemic halted progress on the project, but now, standing on the foundation Charles helped build, BookSunday is moving forward. And the sentiment and strength of Art is Good continue into the future. Even the tattoo moves forward as Charles’ younger brother, a professional photographer, now has it tattooed on his forearm so it’s displayed to his subjects every time he lifts his camera.

So always remember: Art is Good.

Charles Johanson memorial