I have just finished reading a stack of articles published by this fine online rag, Henry Harbor.
They concerned the general kerfuffle and sore feelings following the recent Texas Avenue Makers Fair. I am not speaking figuratively when I write “a stack of articles.” I printed out, stapled together, and marked up about three dozen pages from this very website.
Why? Why would I not just read them online, you ask? I hate trees. A tree was responsible for the death of my beloved uncle, but that is not at all relevant here.
First, let me say that I am glad to see a forum for this discussion other than Facebook. Second, I believe that the complaints are honest and valid. The relationship between the Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC) and the DIY community is perennially poor. SRAC is, at best, a negligent parent and, at worst, an abusive partner for the local new and emerging arts community.
It is deliberately offensive and provocative to compare any organization, such as SRAC, to an abusive spouse insofar as it trivializes the terrible reality of domestic violence. The Providence House will likely close it’s Safe House and Domestic Violence program in June due to a lack of funding. The Providence House has been a part of the Texas Avenue community for more than twenty years. I would like to see more support for their important mission. I have sent in my contribution. Have you?
All of these opinions are my own. I apologize to the Providence House for dragging their name into this squabble over the fine gradations of privilege. I am reminded of an episode from ancient Roman history (so you know this is a thoughtful and serious argument):
The Secession of the Plebs. The Plebeians refused to work or fight until the ruling class, the Patricians, shared power. The Patricians relented and the Plebs returned.
I have a similar proposal for the Shreveport DIY community. Do not work for or with SRAC if you feel undervalued or disrespected. Local artists, performers and makers do far more to further and support SRAC than the reverse. Leave. Do not stick around for more abuse.
I believe the people that make up SRAC are good and well meaning; however, their organization is woefully out of touch. There has been surprisingly little change in leadership since SRAC’s inception in 1976. It is not entirely their fault. The environment for the arts within the community has changed. Grants for the arts from government organizations and nongovernmental agencies are disappearing. The grant writing and reporting process consumes large amounts of time and energy. It stifles creativity and expression. It can lead to art by committee, or worse, rank cronyism. The heyday of New Urbanism is gone. Top-down planned boutique arts districts do not work. Such artificial designs squash the existing culture of a neighborhood. How much better is the organic development from entrepreneurs and full time residents?
I do not advocate that individuals stop collaborating with SRAC solely out of pique. The value of engaging with large arts administrative and granting organizations is diminishing. The role and impact of the artist, alone or in small groups, is evolving. There are new opportunities for communication and cooperation between makers. The means of presentation or distribution for creative work are far more accessible and numerous than at any other time. The emerging artist or DIY-er should remain independent and nimble. It is such an intensely personal enterprise. Due consideration should be given to the transitory and effervescent nature of creative expression. That is where the growth takes place.