Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Response

Last night I attended the WPA-sponsored panel/town hall/free-for-all “Running for Cover(age)” with Kriston Capps, Isabel Manalo, Jeffry Cudlin, and Danielle O’Steen. This discussion was held in response to recent articles (WaPo and AiA) and a Facebook exchange about collector Mera Rubell’s whirlwind studio visit tour of the DC area.

Well, what did I think? I am a newcomer to our nation’s capital city, so I am loathe to step on any tender toes lest I cross myself off the local art list before I even get onto it. That said, the audience was full of a bunch of whiny-assed arts professionals!

Why such a combative relationship with local media? True, arts coverage is given few column inches and tends to have a national/institutional focus , but it’s not as if this situation is much different from that found in any other city. Our newspapers are under the knife, and arts coverage is an easy pound of flesh to give up. (For instance, the Los Angeles Times no longer has stand-alone book review or arts sections {much less a daily local news section!} despite being in a center of art production and display….it’s now all lumped together into a general culture section once a week.) Art workers here need to accept the power of the Post to direct viewers and audiences, and at the same time look to themselves to solve their own problems. Someone in last night’s audience suggested an artist run publication. Makes sense to me based on what I've seen elsewhere. Texas has Glasstire, Chicago has Bad at Sports, LA has Artillery. DC needs its own smart, local outlet, too.

Notice I didn’t put New York in that list. That’s because every other complaint I heard last night was directed at the NYC-art-media-money complex. Old chestnuts such as: Why do our young artists leave for Brooklyn? Why doesn’t our art scene have a Chelsea equivalent? Why does New York media treat us as unimportant and second class? Why didn’t ArtForum review my show?

As if these complaints are original, unique, or limited to DC. New York media treat us as provincial because they themselves are provincial. ArtForum gives only the briefest of nods to the other major art centers in this country, and barely acknowledges the West Coast or the South, so of course it’s not going to cover DC in detail. Young artists leave for New York because 1) maybe it’s closer than LA or Chicago, and 2) it appears from afar that it will be much easier to make and show work there. In reality, it’s really freaking hard to make and show work anywhere, including a cold, crappy loft in Brooklyn. Every city has its own special challenges for artists, and anybody who says otherwise is kidding themselves. DC art workers, realize that you are not in New York. You have your own thing going here, that is unique to here, with many jurisdictions, out of the way art spots, make-shift studio space, and the long shadows of museums of international stature. Use your special challenges as strengths and uniting factors, not as reasons to bitch and moan.

Raise your own flag, as Bjork would say.

1 comment:

wideningthei said...

I really wanted to go to that, just couldn't make the schedule work, so thanks for posting your thoughts. I like the rallying cry of using our special challenges as strengths. And it's true, each spot has its own particularities and challenges.