EDITION #36 – Minnesota Nice

August 25, 2014 · Print This Article

Minnesotan Artists Decent at Sports

If anyone understands the preciousness of summertime, it’s our fellow neighbors in the Midwest. All across Minneapolis WTT? discovered artists and creatives playing Minnesota “Nice.”

Tuesday Night Music Club at the Lyndale VFW.

Our week in Minneapolis started correct when on Tuesday friend and former ACRE resident, Cris Cloud, invited us to the Tuesday Night Music Club, a post-kickball dance party at the VFW by Lyndale and Lake Street (FYI- also the name of a ’93 Sheryl Crow album). Not just any TNDC, this evening was the after party for the annual kickball game between the Kennwood Kickball Club and the team from Uptown who were decked out in full clown regalia.

Fraternizing with the locals outside TNMC.

Not a party for the faint of clowns.

In addition to the annual kickball game TNMC’s MC Jacobs was celebrating his last night at the club before leaving MN for China. The night’s sets started off with The Artist Formerly Known As jams and escalated into full booty dancing on the ol’ VFW juke box kinda night. Scantily dressed clowns danced alongside the somewhat dejected Kennwood-ers, who exhibitied true Minnesotan-sportsmanship.

Possibly the best ever use of Nite Brite.

When questioned about their lack of costumes in the face of the triumphant clowns, one player retorted, “Do you know how much planning that takes and how much we don’t give a fuck?” A teammate added, “They go hiking for fun.” Either way, the party was worth it and there’s always next year.

Later that week the T? got in on the game. Having beefed up on our Basketball Bidness all summer on the Stueben courts, it was awesome to ball at the regular Thursday afternoon game played by the Artist Basketball League at Lyndale Farmstead Park. We ran into artist Jesse Draxler near the California studios on the way and he assured us that the game was collegiate. “Sometimes we play 11 year olds,” he said as we parted ways.

Draxler wasn’t kidding, at the half court game there were four artists and ballers Malachi, 11, and Xavier, 8. What he didn’t mention is that 11 year olds are sharks, just running back and forth steady scoring. Informing me that he “didn’t like art,” Malachi showed me his moves, the low dribble, the layup. Xavier followed suit, dribbling between his legs along the side of the court. Impressive.

Artist Basketball League’s Thursday game.

Serendipitously, that day our old tubing buddy, Sara Caron, got in touch right around the time of the game to invite me to the Blue Dress Cup. If you didn’t already know, Blue Dress Cup is an annual competition to determine the Best Artist in Milwaukee.

We’re pretty sure you don’t have to be from Milwaukee to be the best artist in the city, so why not apply now? We definitely think Malachi has a fighting chance despite his aesthetic apathy (maybe in part because of it). I want to see what happens when Minnesotans meet Wisconsinites meet Illinoisians (?) on the field of battle. See you on September 20th in Milwaukee for the summer and sports’ real final hurrah. Tri-state tournament anyone?

T around Town(s)

After visiting Minneapolis recently for Bad at Sports’ participation in Open Field at the Walker, WTT? was excited to return for a longer and more in depth visit to the MN art scene. After a week we don’t know the true definition of “Minnesota Nice”, but we found MN dwellers to be genuinely nice, chill people to hang out with. Oh yeah, and the art wasn’t half bad either. We found the artists we met to be a proud and supportive group with just enough buzz. It’s kind of like being in Chicago, but nicer, and cuter (super compliment) and with better bike trails. Here’s just a sampling of what we saw on our TC getaway.

First on our Nathaniel Smith sponsored tour was Soo Visual Art Center in Uptown we were caught Lovesickness with Trees: Recent Work by Sophia Heymans and Garrett Perry.

We had heard about SooVAC and Soo Local from Negative Jam on our last trip, so we checked it off our list first thing. Word on the street is that the Local space is pretty rad, but we unfortunately just missed the closing of Congruent Influence, a collaborative show between Mark Schoening and Drew Peterson. Carolyn Payne was way cool, we talked shop and it seems obvious that Soo’s got big things coming on the horizon.

Work by Sophia Heymans on view at what the locals call “SooVAC.”

Work by Garrett Perry on view at what the locals call “SooVAC.”

SooVAC ED, Carolyn Payne with Nathaniel Smith in the gallery.

We also managed to battle our way into a few studios during our trip. An old friend from our SAIC daze, printmaker Drew Peterson, invited us to lunch at the teeniest Tiny Diner and then showed us his to his studio in the Powderhorn neighborhood, east of Uptown. We were stunned by the surprisingly painterly pixel paintings of Mathew Zefeldt at his studio at the University of Minneapolis. Right before we left we were able to squeeze in a visit with Nate Young, more on that later.

We want to tell you all about the beet tagine we had with Drew at Tiny Diner, but this isn’t Instagram.

The Weatherman Report

Work by Drew Peterson, from his series Waterworks 2013-14.

Our favorite work, a sweet and sold(!) fire butt by Garrett Perry.

Peterson’s Waterworks series in his studio.

Peterson has been busy since we both left SAIC. This and the other unique screen prints he showed me are destined for the artist’s solo show in the fall.

Peterson in his studio, the type of tight and well organized space you’d expect from a seasoned screen printer.

Mathew Zefeldt’s studio at the University of Minneapolis. The artist is working on his upcoming show at the Minneapolis Institute of the Art, opening October 16th. We heard there’s wallpaper involved. Excited.

Zefeldt looking svelte in his studio.

Not only were these paintings clearly a glorious mindfuck, they also include the last two video games I remember playing as a child. I fucking loved killing Nazis in Wolfenstein.

Despite the digital feel of the paintings, Zefeldt doesn’t even touch photoshop. This “mood board” is his way of testing out aspects of the painting before committing them to canvas.

We had a chance to visit some of the major cultural institutions, most notably the Walker (can’t get enough!) and the Minnesota State Fair, where you can see sculptures made of butter and “The Miracle of Life” barn (too real for this city mouse). We partook of all of the mini donuts and cookie buckets we could muster at the fair and had our minds freaking blown away by the awesomeness of the Walker. The Flux exhibit was pretty cool but the Radical Presence exhibition was well, radical (as you might expect), featuring 36 artists and over 100 works spanning the 1960’s to the present there were a ton of blockbusters, lots of Chicago favorites. It’s an exhibition that really can change the way you think about art. Oh yeah, and OMG! The Clock! Who even needs the east coast? We have everything we need right here in the middle.

No caption necessary. At the Minnesota State Fair.

There were more items and artifacts from Lorraine O’Grady than we’ve ever seen it one place. It was resplendent.

A image from O’Grady’s series Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire.

Detail of sculpture/video work Jacolby Satterwhite on view in Radical Presence at the Walker.

Installation view of work in Radical Presence.

Video by Kalup Linzy at Radical Presence.

Saturday night, David Petersen Gallery had an opening that we were tipped off too by our buddy Nathan Coutts from Midway. Probably the most chi-chi thing we did in MN, the exhibition, What Was The Question was replete with NY artists, Joshua Abelow, Sadie Laska, MacGregor Harp and Adrianne Rubenstein mingling with the Minneapolitians. We were particularly fond of Rubenstein’s beach umbrellas and I don’t think we were the only ones.

The turnout for What Was the Question at David Petersen.

Midwest meets Midwest. Andrea Hyde and Cory Schires at the Petersen opening Saturday night.

Aforementioned paintings by Adrianne Rubenstein.

B@S fan Nate Lee with Rubenstein and Joshua Abelow at What Was The Question.

Last but super not least, we were lucky to meet up with Nate Young on his way back from the Black Artist Retreat in Chicago on our way back to the city. Everyone in Minneapolis was pointing us to The Bindery Projects in St. Paul, the space that Young runs with his wife and fellow artist, Caroline Kent. Young was MN nice enough to open up the space for us so we could see Zachary Fabri’s solo show, Video is Dead (he’s also in Radical Presence at the Walker). The spacious and industrial alternative space has two large exhibition spaces, installed with images and a game board/ assemblage of dice and painted chicken bones in one room and a video called The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, which was shot outside the Apollo on the day Michael Jackson died in the other. We also got to check out Young’s studio in the background and even explore the old factory building a bit before emarking on the long ride home.

Installation view of Fabri’s show at Bindery Projects.

Detail of Morgan Freeman image from Fabri’s ongoing series, Aureola.

The formidable Young in his studio.

Work by Nate Young in his studio.

Our last minute trip to The Bindery Projects was definitely the most clutch way to close our trip to the Twin Cities. We’re happy to finally wind down in Chicago, but this summer we’ve learned there’s good T to be had all over the Midwest. Until next time, Wisconsin, Twin Cities!




Top 5 Weekend Picks! (8/22-8/24)

August 21, 2014 · Print This Article

1. The Square Root of Pi(e) at Chicago Artists Coalition

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Work by Rami George, Dan Paz, Jenyu Wang and Alexandria Eregbu.

Chicago Artists Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.

2. Almost Ergonomic at Studio 424

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Curated by Third Object, with work by Alex Chitty, Laura Hart Newlon, Kate O’Neill, David Bhodi Boyland, and Jeff Prokash.

Studio 424 is located at 167 North Racine Avenue, Suite 1. Reception Saturday, 5-9pm.?

3. Retreat at Richard Gray Gallery

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Curated by Theaster Gates, with work by Derrick Adams, Erika Allen, Elizabeth Axtman, Bethany Collins, Tony Lewis, Kelly Lloyd, Valerie Piraino, Mitchell Squire, Wilmer Wilson IV and Nate Young.

Richard Gray Gallery is located at 875 N. Michigan, Ste. 3800. Reception Friday, 5-7pm.

4. Iffy Conditions at Garden Apartment Gallery

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Curated by Daniel Bruttig, with work by Boris Ostrerov, Erin Thurlow, Frank Pollard, George Blaha, Jessie Mott, Joe Cassan, Julia Klein, Kelly Kaczynski, Lauren Carter, Mike Schuh, Paul Nudd, Peter Fagundo, Scott Wolniak, and Shane Huffman.

Garden Apartment Gallery is located at 3528 W. Fulton Blvd. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.

5. Fetish at Defibrillator Gallery

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Work by Dani Ploeger.

Defibrillator Gallery is located at 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday, 8-11pm.




The Rematerialization of the Art Object: Stone, Soil, Words, and Wood; A reflection on Chicago artists participating in documenta13

November 15, 2013 · Print This Article

Instigated in conjunction with “The Locational Turn? Reflections from Chicago on documenta in Kassel, Alexandria, Banff and Kabul” panel discussion held November 13 (2013) at the Block Museum on Northwestern University.

by Daniel Tucker

Anyone who tries to generalize about “the art world” owes you an explanation about which world they are describing. While there is undoubtedly overlap between major institutions, mid-sized institutions, high-end commercial galleries, universities, art schools, community colleges, apprenticeships, auctions, internships, craft galleries, non-profit galleries, informal and community-based cultural centers,  residency programs, private philanthropists, collectors, public grants, magazines, theoretical journals, blogs, public art commissions, street art, artist collectives and individual artists – they can still seem worlds apart.

One world that can seem worlds apart is that of the Documenta exhibition, founded in 1955 by Arnold Bode, to occur every 5 years and reconnect post-war Germany to the contemporary art conversations and practices developing internationally. Produced by the documenta and Fridericianum Museum Event Company which provide the ongoing organizational infrastructure to keep the project going, the exhibition is largely guided by a curator. This position is akin to “being the mayor of a small city,” according to Michael Rakowitz, a Chicago artist exhibiting in this years show (1). In 2008 the search committee arrived on Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev as the curator, and she began her work on January 1st, 2009 re-inventing what has become over the last 13 incarnations, a crucial node in the intellectual and critical discourse of art around the world – itself producing conversations, catalyzing careers, and generally generating trends that will be talked about in years to come (in Chicago over the last year at the MCA, SAIC’s Sullivan Galleries and U of C’s Logan Center Exhibitions there have already been three exhibits of re-worked pieces shown at documenta13). In the summer for 100 days, from June 9th to September 16th of 2012, over 300 artists, writers, and thinkers participated in documenta13 in Kassel, Germany.

In 2012 a remarkable number of Chicago artists were invited as participants. Theaster Gates (with John Preus and Rebuild Foundation), Claire Pentecost, Michael Rakowitz, and Lori Waxman are all exhibiting works. A number of Chicago-based authors produced texts for the 100 Days 100 Books portion of the programs including Brian Holmes, WJT Mitchell, David Nirenberg and Jane Taylor. To have this many participants from one city would be unusual, but for it to be a city so detached from the commercial facets of art selling (gallerists, collectors, auction houses, etc) and so oriented towards political, community, and socially-engaged art is what makes the decision stand out.

Locally there has been a thriving art community in Chicago that is focused on strong social bonds, engagement with concerns and disciplines that exceed the focus of art, and political and ethical commitments around themes ranging from war and labor to housing and food. This has a long history in the city, dating back to the 1960s in terms of direct lineages with existing practices. It has developed in a particular and regionally-specific way, while art since the 1980s more generally in the United States has experienced a gradual engagement with political and social life. All over the country, but particularly on the coasts, there are art schools and universities initiating “Social Practice” focus areas for students interested in art that deals with social forms as a material in place of traditional art materials and mediums that have come to include clay, video, performance, paint, photography, sculpture, murals, and interactive websites, among many others.

Through my study of Chicago, I have observed that this turn towards “the social” is less of a turn, and more of a ever-present fascination. It has also been observed today, as well as in reflections on history that the work in Chicago has always been more serious than elsewhere. In a dialogue held at the South Side Community Arts Center, respected photographer from the Black Arts Movement  Bob Crawford spoke to his experience doing a photo show in New York City, where he observed that “the Chicago photographers’ work was usually more political. And the New York photographers’ work was a little more “art,” narrowly.”(2)

Deeply familiar with the Chicago artists and authors participating in documenta13, I traveled to Kassel last summer to see their work and consider my hometown art scene in relationship to this massive global event. Below are a few scenes from that trip.

 

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Lori Waxman, Photo by Nils Klinger, Courtesy of Documenta (2012).

Words+

Jorg Doerig’s friends and family have joined him to go have his art critiqued. They pack into a small self-contained room, a sleek writers cottage of sorts, where Jorg unpacks his paintings of flowers, and a self portrait, and layes them out on some shelves and leaning against the wall along the floor. It was time for his appointment with the Chicago Tribune art critic and art historian Lori Waxman, who had been taking half-hour appointments with local artists in Kassel three days a week all summer. Over the visit she asks some questions, but mainly gives her attention to interpretation of the art.

“Why Paint?,” she writes in response to Jorg’s work. “For love of certain subjects.” She concludes.

To watch her type (a mirror of her laptop monitor is displayed on a screen facing the artist and a steady-stream of passer-bys) is akin to watching a live poetry reading. Nothing else can compare to the experience of watching someone invest herself in the creative practice of another. While art criticism has become a game so detached from the making and the maker, Waxman reinvests herself in people and their artistic output. And she herself is on display, revealing the writing process, her process.

Most artists Waxman critiques in this project, titled “60 WRD/MIN Art Critic,” have never had their art written about. For the most part she has executed this project in smaller towns throughout the United States with the support of a writers grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation. In these settings, her presence incites tremendous excitement.

She consults an online thesaurus. What is a synonym for “Lovingly”? Jorg stirs, he smiles and looks around at his friends. What a strange experience, to have someone craft language before your eyes about your heartfelt and time-consuming creative activities.

 

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Michael Rakowitzl, Photo by Roman Maerz, Courtesy of Documenta (2012).

Stone+

In “What Dust Will Rise?” Michael Rakowitz presents an entire room of enclosed vitrines and display tables immediately conjuring the space of a museum, a special collection or an archive. Upon closer look, you notice handwritten notes in thin black marker ink on the glass panes of the display shelving. Like many artists in this installment of documenta, Rakowitz engages in the legacy of the Nazi presence in Germany and in the present military operations and occupation of Afghanistan. The building in which his installation is presented, the Fridericianum, was a library when it was bombed in 1941 and all but 15% of the books were destroyed. The artist elegantly draws a parallel between that sited history, infusing it in the present, with the interrelated history of Taliban destruction of cultural artifacts in Afghanistan – most notably the Buddha statues in Bamiyan.

Presented on the tables I encounter replicas of books destroyed in that bombing, carved out of stone quarried in Bamiyan by artisans Rakowitz commissioned in Italy. Proceeding through the space, books from other bombings, fires, and cultural assassination appear. Many of the books were original printings with intricate woven and printed cover art, shown here in rich three dimensional carvings of the cover, spine, and worn pages – all beautifully carved with precise details. Other books take the form of an open spread, drawing attention to the content through subtle and surprising connections with the form or the act of destruction that inspired the installation. Others, like the oldest lexicon of classical medieval abbreviations, are just devastating because of what they contain, and what knowledge and culture was lost.

Surprise is the crucial word for this experience. As I proceed from case to case and book to book, I keep thinking that I have comprehended the scope of the artistic gesture. And then the next object or collection startles me.  He did what? I think. He really brought some building fragments from dismantled public housing in St. Louis, the Twin Towers, and the Berlin Wall? Yes. Stone carving chisels from Bamiyan made from the remnants of exploded cars and abandoned tanks belonging to the occupying forces? Yes. Surprise after wonderful surprise, the installation unfolds with linkages and nuances that dispel an attempt at easy summary, but provoke curiosity in an unwritten narrative about our ongoing human projects of creation and destruction, war, imperialism, pre-modern and modern.

A highlight of the exhibition, this surprise echoes the best parts of documenta13, an exhibit without an overarching theme – forcing each work to be viewed for what it is.

 

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Claire Pentecost, Photo by Anders Sune Berg, Courtesy of Documenta (2012).

Soil+

Entering from the garden into the narrow glass doors on the side of the Ottoneum, I am excited to see the work of Claire Pentecost in such an ideal location. Prominently and symbolically located in the the first theater built in Germany, now serving as the Museum of Natural History, the  installation is the entrypoint for an entire building full of works about seeds, science and ecology – one of the most coherent sub-themes within this massive and themeless exhibition.

Pentecost produced this work in residence at The University of Kassel Faculty of Organic Agricultural Science in Witzenhausen and following her participation in a soil workshop at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania.

The outcome is a multi-modal installation all centered around a proposed currency called Soil-Erg. She made dozens of drawings with pencil and mud, illustrating a heterogeneous paper money version of Soil-Erg, each depicting a different ecological scene or significant activist and research figures working with food and science. Above the two walls of paper currency, are differently sized medallions of soil. The elaborate tables at the center of the room are piled up with ingots of soil, reminiscent of fantastical gold stashes from Indiana Jones or Fort Knox.

Along the back wall is an intervention into the museum’s collection – a move made by a number of artists who found inspiration in the specificity of the temporary exhibition venues. On the left there is a glass display unit from the collection of the Otteneum that shows slices of soil from different depths of the earths crust. To the right, Pentecost fabricated a similar companion unit that serves as a compost pile that will accumulate over time. The insides are equipped with microphones and through use of a headset you can literally hear the energy, heat and process of the decomposition of organic waste. On one wall of the unit, a hand-written chart depicts the phenomenon of corporate land-grabbing in the global south where North American and European companies are buying up massive farm land and even creating “soil farms” throughout Africa and Latin America.

Pentecost’s participation in documenta13 is itself heterogeneous. She is one of the few exhibiting artists who also made a book for the 100 Books 100 Days project, she gave a number of lectures and workshops, made a video for the website dealing with the importance of seeds to culture, and was an instructor at the summer retreat on the theme of “retreat” at the Banff artists residency in Canada.

 

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Theaster Gates, Photo by Nils Klinger, Courtesy of Documenta (2012).

Wood+

The immersive “12 Ballads For Huguenot House” is spearheaded by Theaster Gates along with his design collaborator John Preus, studio manager Theo Boggs, and a rotating cast of staff from his non-profit Rebuild Foundation. Walking into the house,  I immediately feel a complex social energy. People buzzing around, up and down the stairs, posting schedules for the day’s activities and consulting with one another about what the morning has in store. The video and audio pieces scattered throughout the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building are still being switched on, and some people just waking from bed.  Art tourist’s are poking their heads into the sleeping quarters, asking the people clearly in bed, “do you sleep here”? The Huguenot House is undoubtedly alive with real humans and the art pieces themselves were just a small component of the overall project. It may have one artist’s name attributed to it, but something this alive is the work of many.

Mobilizing people to invest in places and buildings is one of Gates’ strengths. The building at 25 Friedrichsstrasse in Kassel had been empty since World War 2. Under very different historical forces, there are homes in Gates’ neighborhood in Chicago, Grand Crossing, that have also been abandoned for decades (though not quite as long as in Germany). As a crucial facet of his participation in documenta13, a deal was made where a house in Chicago would be purchased and its wooden and metal guts would be converted into objects to repopulate the building in Kassel and at a later date visa versa, forming a kind of architectural material exchange. This insistence that elite cultural institutions should subsidize projects in the places where he lives and works (which has now grown to include a number of Black communities throughout the midwest through the work of Rebuild Foundation) is something Gates unabashedly names in his public presentations.

And in the case of Hugenot House, this subsidy to Chicago cultural possibilities that lie in the future of that local project, have been reciprocated with real life-force being breathed back into the long abandoned building. Throughout documenta, it has been the site of performances, daily yoga classes, community meals and what are said to be the best parties in Kassel every Wednesday night throughout the four months of the exhibition.

Conclusion: The Rematerialization of the Art Object?

As Paul Chan, another participating artist with Chicago ties, commented in a recent interview during documenta, “It is a funny time in art when making something quiet is seen as radical.”(3) The expectation has been implicitly fostered through curation and critical writing that new art needs to be participatory. It is not dissimilar from trends in governance and commerce – participation is the key to the hearts and minds!

As a counterpoint to this trend, these four projects start from complex social problems and engaged in the social processes necessary to activate and engage those problems, and then they made art objects and forms. Finding material resolutions to distill the complexity of the world into a form is one of the contributions artists have historically made to the societies in which they live. The work presented at documenta13 by Chicago artists produces a productive challenge for the debates around socially-engaged art practice and its treatment in educational and art presenting institutions. Formalist reactionaries now commonly antagonize participatory art with the same odium as was applied to performance artists in the decades past while Social Practice fundamentalists claim that objects are dead and process is the new vanguard. Perhaps these artists show a third way, a marriage between the qualities artists have long attempted to capture with material forms and the complex social processes necessary to engage the complex social world in a meaningful way.

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Footnotes:

1) Rakowitz, Michael – Conversation with the author (7/5/12)

2) Crawford, Bob – AREA Chicago (2008), http://areachicago.org/bob-crawford-and-margo-natalie-crawford/

3) Chan, Paul – Bad at Sports (2012), http://badatsports.com/2012/episode-358-paul-chan-with-john-preus/

 

[Special thanks to Judith Russi Kirshner, Marcia Lausen, Jennifer Reeder, Lisa Yun Lee, Carolina Ariza, Ayreen Anastas, Rene Gabri, and Scott Berzofsky]

 

 

 

 




Repost: Theaster Gates & The Red Line

July 12, 2013 · Print This Article

largerCHICAGO — The CTA is enlisting the help of Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates to design artwork for its planned $240 million terminal at the 95th and Dan Ryan Red Line station.

The project, expected to cost $1.3 million, would be the largest art project in the CTA’s history, according to the agency. Ten people would be hired for the project that would also establish an apprenticeship program for local students.

read more on DNA Info Chicago




Creative place-making: an annotated bibliography

February 12, 2013 · Print This Article

Recently, while trolling the facebook site for Works Progress, an artist-led public design studion in Minneapolis, I came across a thread on Colin Kloecker’s page (who co-runs the studio with Shanai Matteson) compiling a list of must-reads on the subject of Creative Place-making. What I gathered from the thread and then from talking more with Colin is that we share an interest in how new funding opportunities, that are becoming available under the rubric of “creative place-making” (most significantly through granting organizations like ArtPlace), are affecting and intersecting with socially-engaged practices. Most recently this conversation came up in Chicago when Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation along with the University of Chicago and the Bruner Loeb Forum held a conference called The Art of Place-making.

photo by Eric RogersArtplace was there in attendance, my highlights were the presentations by Kennedy Smith and Walter Hood, presenting on the importance of small business development and creative urban design respectively (arguably the two poles of Theaster’s initiatives.) There were tours of the various properties and lots of conversations about what is unfolding at Dorchester Projects, Stony Island Arts Bank, the Washington Park Arts Incubator, and all the rest in development.  One of the moments that stood out for me came in a meeting leading up to the actual conference where Theaster convened community members, local organizations, and neighbors at Dorchester Projects to talk about what was going to happen at the forum and getting feedback on a smaller-scale. I ended up in a break-out group on the Washington Park Arts Incubator and the community-building initiatives now in formation. I don’t pretend to fully understand the complexity of that project, in that neighborhood, with that set of partners, and while I am really excited about what’s happening there, I am also struck by the enormous responsibility being placed on an artist residency program sited in a neighborhood with a historically decimated economic infrastructure. A lot of people spoke about needing educational programs or job training, or of the difficulty in explaining to the neighborhood why they should embrace this place.  And I thought, this is a really complex, long-standing socio-economic context to wade into and a lot is being put on artists to have a significant impact in the shaping of that conversation. Perhaps that’s just naive, but I also think it bears repeating. These issues are really, really complicated, the struggle against gentrification is a hard battle and the issues of good versus bad economic development are very deep and hard to parse out. And it is kind of a bizarre world in which artists are put forward to lead the way, while being asked to speak about economic development and community impact. Perhaps that’s where they should be, I’m not sure.

So with that in mind, while cribbing Colin’s list and adding some of my own, I thought it would be interesting to compile a list that reflects the dialogue as it is in this very moment. With the 10th anniversary of Richard Florida’s book “The Creative Class”, the much-criticized and massively influential book on urban development that ties arts funding to innovation culture and business development, rather than inherent social good, we’re primed to revisit the failures and the successes that are now the received wisdom as to the state of arts funding.

Creative Place-making from the government:
The original white paper from the NEA
In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.

And from ArtPlace on “Vibrancy Indicators”
ArtPlace is a collaboration of 13 leading national and regional foundations and six of the nation’s largest banks. ArtPlace is investing in art and culture at the heart of a portfolio of integrated strategies that can drive vibrancy and diversity so powerful that it transforms communities. To date, ArtPlace has awarded 80 grants to 76 organizations in 46 communities across the U.S. for a total of $26.9 million.

And then the analysis:

Dead End on Shakin’ Street in which Thomas Frank explains how Creative Place-making pits Cincinnati versus Rockford versus Kansas City versus Akron in the vibrancy test. It is perhaps unfair to pit funds for city tourism over what should go towards universal health care coverage, but it might as well be put in perspective. A very trenchant and important critique here.

This guy has some beef with Frank, writing from Asheville, NC. I think he misunderstands Frank’s larger point which to me is about pointing out the disinvestment in the public sector on a wide scale, not that universal health care is being specifically defunded via the millions spent on vibrancy initiatives. He also writes for what looks like a marketing firm called Placemakers.  They “cultivate livability.”

The Fall of the Creative Class, a first person story of why following Richard Florida’s plan to the letter in deciding where you live might not be a good idea by Frank Bures. Madison-bashing and a totally baffling set of unrealistic expectations aside, this has some good analysis. Also as a side note, the part in here where an overweight woman who he imagines as never leaving her apartment stands in as a symbol of his existential angst is totally problematic. Fat people are not signs of the world coming to an end.

Richard Florida responds to Bures directly here in his “What Critics Get Wrong About the Creative Class and Economic Development” which is basically a rehash of the correlation versus causation debate and then Bures responds back here. And more from Richard Florida in More Losers Than Winners in America’s New Economic Geography.

And here Florida talks at the Aspen Ideas Festival with our retiring NEA chairman Rocco Landesman who cannot wait to spend more time in Miami Beach.

Ian David Moss from Fractured Atlas and Create Equity blog (which is really good) has some great analysis  in Creative Place-making has an Outcomes Problem. This will truly take you deep into art administration nerd-dom but his critique of ArtPlace and its vibrancy indicators is coherent and worth reading. And there are links at the bottom of his post that will lead you to more Florida backlash.

Roberto Bedoya on Creative Placemaking and the politics of belonging and dis-belonging writes about creative place-making strategies of community engagement not adequately meeting the challenges of spatial justice and how “place-making” has to contend with the very real histories of displacement, colonization and indigenous struggles. As Bedoya writes, “Creative Placemaking activities’ relationship to civic identity must investigate who has and who doesn’t have civil rights.”

And here’s a hilariously raw assessment of Richard Florida’s consulting group “The Creative Class Group” implementing a program to train “community catalysts” in Charlotte, North Carolina; Duluth, Minnesota/Superior, Wisconsin; and Tallahassee, Florida, conducted by Knight Creative Communities Initiative (KCCI) that Frank Bures talks about here. And a similar aggregate of the arguments with Can Creative Placemaking Be Proven? The (New) State of the Arguments.

Enjoy the rabbit hole!

Photo by Eric Rogers