Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Art Community as an Immanent Shipwreck.

Jon Mueller, an amazing musician and very positive voice for the arts and innovative businesses in this city recently held an economic group therepy session for artists and small businesses. I was unable to attend, due to rehearsals, but he sent out an email with a PDF by Diane E. Ragsdale, called Surviving the Culture Change (google it). This has a lot of good advice for big non-profit arts organizations, even some things that i can use. It also had this anecdote:

"About 3 years ago, I attended a retreat with leaders of a dozen orchestras, at which one lamented, likely reflecting the sentiments of more than a few in the room, "I feel like I'm the Captain of the Titanic, and there's an iceberg ahead, but rather than being on top steering the ship I'm in the bowels shoving coal in the furnace. I'm afraid if I stop shoveling coal we'll run out of steam, but I know
that if I don't start steering the ship soon we're going to hit an iceberg."

I like this metaphor, it seems appropriate. If the art community (either locally or nationally) is the Titanic with these people at the helm, then i think it's too late to dodge the iceberg without breaking the ship to peices anyway. So, I'm up on the deck building a lifeboat, or maybe even a pirate ship, to come pick through the ruins after the crash. I'm also shouting at the crew of the ship to stop following the captain's commands and help build lifeboats with me.

This puts me in a weird place. For example, I'm one of the only people willing to publically mouth off at the Cultural Alliance (read my last post and the comments) because I don't want their money. Mary Louise Schumacher, and Jonathan West are trying desperately to get other artists who might have more of a stake in the Cultural Alliance's offerings to join the conversation, and so are even the folks at the CA and the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

Unfortunately, most of those artists are hangin out in bar getting shitfaced most nights cuz they've already given up. If you want to prove me wrong, Milwaukee artists, if you're not just a bunch of lazy drunken whiners, READ THE REPORT HERE NOW watch the videos on GMC's site, and comment! Join the fucking conversation, even if it's just to throw verbal stones at the out-of-touch sycophants.

This is really frustrating, i think the elitist attitudes of the funders and the funding orgs have reinforced the defeatist attitudes of the small artists, which then reinforce the elitist attitudes of the funders. It's going to take a long time and a lot of work to break that mutually reinforcing system up, work that should've been started years ago, before the artists gave up.

I'd like to take an active role in this, watch all the CA videos, and read all the commentary and blog posts, rant for days on end, even though i suspect very few people are listening, but I'm aweful busy over here building my lifeboat, and i'm pretty sure this lifeboat is going to carry me out of Milwaukee (i know, i know, i've heard it before: "good riddance, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out"). At any rate, if i don't get to work booking and promoting the winter tour, my lifeboat will never be seaworthy.


Matt R said...

Send me that report.

DBlankPrints said...

"I'm one of the only people willing to publically mouth off at the Cultural Alliance (read my last post and the comments) because I don't want their money."

That would be all of your sophomoric, shallow, mindless, ill-mannered, invectives - right?

Rex Winsome said...

Sorry, people need to give me a reason to be polite or respect them, and these people have been disrespecting and jerking artists around for years.

i quote Mike Brenner's comment:
"the same people that told the founders of MARN we should all keep starving, cause what we were doing was SO damn important, and they would be there to help us when the time came... that there would be money to support our efforts... those poeple helped raise $260,000 for the Cultural Alliance in a matter of months and $85,000 for a Bronze Fonz."

the ninth wave in an age of maritime archaeology said...

After reading the report on cultural assets I feel its pretty clear that the GMC is an enemy to culture. However not surprising - in the US alone there exists maybe only a handful of worthwhile public funded sculptures. Call it the "Jean-Cristo effect" a constant production of dazzlingly uninteresting eyesores that stand as a testament to a deep misunderstanding about culture. Personally, I like to call them aesthetic venerial diseases that only draw attention to the gross amounts of money that is not being spent on - oh I don't know - historical conservation. Milwaukee's GMC is no different than NYC's, LA's, or any other cities cultural funding worries. However, the belief that funding is the major obstacle hindering Milwaukee from blossoming a healthy intelligentsia might be a bit misguided. First of all Milwaukee does not levy the kind of commerce it takes to support a viable art market (get real). Second Milwaukee has no public, in so far as the city lacks the conditions for a "public". By this I mean Milwaukee lacks the urban infrastructure that facilitates dialogue amongst a wide cross-section of people. Most urban settings in the US have some form of truly public space whether it's city squares or subways etc (I might add that gallery night obviously is not sufficient enough to instigate provocative intellectual debate). If artists in this city want to draw attention to the superficiality of the GMC, perhaps they should consider doing what the Parisian Bohemians did in the 19th century - that is show their work outside the Salon de Paris under the title "The Official Rejects of The Paris Salon" (I should point out that the practice was not only accepted but encouraged by the salon) - Nevertheless perhaps Milwaukee artists should start proping their work up against the Bronz Fonz under the banner The Official Reject of the GMC...