Friday, February 01, 2008
Do you like this story?
Over the course of the past weeks, I have had some time to reflect on the Indianapolis art scene and how we compare to what is going on elsewhere in the country. Some of this reflection comes from recent conversations with the artists and arts professionals I have worked with while curating the last couple shows. My feelings about the local scene is like that of a rollercoaster ride. On one hand I love living in Indy, after all I was born and raised here. It is here I call home. I like that things seem to be building momentum, but not without a few speed bumps. Unlike Chicago and New York, studio space is much more affordable, so artists can afford to make their work. An artist, critic, or curator willing to put in the time and effort in this community could really make an impact on the scene, help shape and reinvigorate the scene. The community is small enough that you can get to know nearly everyone who is active and publicly seen. Overall all everyone is willing to help and support each other when they can. All of this makes for an ideal place for new and exciting things to happen.
The down sides of this are many and varied. The continued lack of arts writing of substance in the city. Aside from the regular and always brief art previews, press releases, occassional promotional pieces, and while I give credit to NUVO for still writing some art reviews, aside from J.T.'s round about column all we get are 4-5 sentence snippets. Before you come and point out OtC's lack of reviews and criticism, we too are admittedly at fault here and need to step up our game. Aside from arts writing being a problem, there are only a handful of galleries in the city and only a few are regularly exciting. There is this overwhelming perception that the "grass is always greener" that fills the community, along with a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" reaction to those who are active here. Some view more arts venues and events as a bad thing with everyone competeing for the same funds, but perhaps we need more competition to raise the bar.
But once again I have digressed into a rant that was only to be a segue into a wonderfull passage I came across while reading a great post over at PORT (a wonderful art blog from Portland, Oregon that I often read and have refered to many times on OtC). The post is a fabulous list of interviews with local Portland art curators that I think many of you would find interest in reading. But in the context of how we percieve ourselves and in the spirit of building an active and vibrant community, I felt this passage by Stephanie Snyder seemed to resonate with me and seemed relevant to our own community.
I think that the art establishment should start doing things for artists to support them, to delight them ... none of this would be happening without them. Instead of making more and more money off of their work ... fund their development! But it's different here, the level of exploitation that I am talking about happens much more in a place like NY ... because what we actually do need in Portland is a groundswell of capital ... more collectors. And I hope that we can all work to develop collectors (and institutional PATRONS) who will buy the work they genuinely respond to, not play the market for investment. But we're in a low-overhead art market here ... buying a painting at PDX or Small A really does support the artists showing there ... so on the one hand I would like to see us grow, we desperately need to bring more money into the arts here ... but lord help us if we end up like Chelsea.
Also, I was on a panel recently with Jon Raymond and he said something that we really need to remember ... that supporting artists means giving them time to work, and essentially leaving them alone. Supporting artists-or writers-means being political, it means voting for affordable housing and medical care for freelancers. It means working to keep bicyclists safe and caring for our freedom of expression. I really want the broadest possible range of our community to get this and live this ... supporting the arts means supporting cognitive activity at the slowest possible pace.
Building an art community is a slow process and takes a lot of proactive people willing to attempt new things, willing to make a few mistakes and learn from them. After these conversations with artists and arts professionals who are active across the country, I feel more confident than ever that we are not so different from other cities. We deal with many of the same problems although it maybe on a different scale. It may no longer be enough to just sit in your studio making art in seclusion and hope that things will change by the time you are ready to exhibit your next body of work. It may be time that we live by our convictions and embrace every aspect of the art world as it is today. Pay attention to local and national politics and understand how it will affect our careers in the arts. It can be a slow and uncertain road, developing an art community, and I understand peoples desire to move to a community already active but I hope we can convince more people to stay in Indy and help make it more vibrant.