Archive for the ‘neighborhood’ tag
Last week, I wrote about creative economy, and although there’s a lot more to say and think about, today, I’m wondering about the products that make up the creative economy. The United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport defines creative industries as, “those activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.” While a creative product may exist as a physical entity (think paper, film, computer disk…), its value is in its meaning and what it represents—its content. The content/information of a creative product is boundless, but that content/information defines its value. Creativeclusters.org offers a good example, “Even with a designer T-shirt or a piece of [jewelry], it’s the style, the design that counts, not the cloth or the metal.”
This past weekend, on the Lower East side, New York, several artists and community organizations opened an exhibition, that puts this concept to the test. HomeBase IV, is an exhibition in a vacant medical clinic. This is not an exhibition of art created somewhere else and then transported into a pristine, neutral gallery for contemplation. A lot of what you can see in HomeBase IV, was created from materials found in the existing space. The creative product, the process, the content, and the experience of visiting the site give the project value.
“’When we arrived, it had nothing in it,’ said Leor Grady, the curatorial and programming director of the project. ‘It smelled like a combination of mildew, chemicals, medical waste and sheet rock.’ Even after a cleaning, the worn peachy-beige walls, industrial carpeting and fluorescent lighting retain a sterility that serves as a palette for the sometimes unsettling works.”
A variety of artists collaborated to explore the notion of “home,” in this specific space (unused clinic) and to engage the residents of a changing neighborhood. This means that the artists met together, talked, read, and interacted with the public to determine what would happen in the space, as well as worked to design what a visitor can see. (See images) All at once, the meaning for the project/action is in the process and its space–the product becomes spatial, as it connects people, place, and time. Gone is the presumption that art=object, or that art can only exist isolated from community in a building labeled as gallery or museum. As reported in the New York Times, one of the artists, Paul Sepuya, a Brooklyn photographer of Ugandan descent eloquently describes his reality and makes his experience tangible. “I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of home as spatial,” he says. “When you’re not at home, it’s constructed by your family’s stories.” His contribution to the exhibition includes portraits of friends and neighbors who like him, have some association with Uganda—a “home” that Sepuya has never visited! Another artist, Dafna Shalom took photos of men in the neighborhood who reminded her of her father — a hand here, a hairstyle there. Our realities are often constructed through small gestures that we don’t notice, but become intriguing when we stop and think. If a smelly, unused, and dingy health clinic in New York, can be reinvented as a site for building community and thinking about the meaning of “home,” what are we overlooking?
Creative economy is driven by creative industry. Products are reorganized from seeming non-existence, although the ideas and materials may already have been there. Ideas are what transforms materials and what can transform people, neighborhoods, cities, and towns! There are lots of creative spaces and events that promote thinking in and about Fort Collins. This week we can think about caring for each other by simply eating out to help United Way of Larimer County. Later in the week, think about places that used to be here but only exist as fading away signs painted on buildings in Old Town, or join others to think about an area of Fort Collins that will grow in the future. You can contemplate exhibitions about Dreams, Floating Worlds, and art made by senior citizens. Perhaps you’ll ride the trolley and think about public transport, or learn more about the public art that helps create a sense of place in our city. All the details are at www.visitfortcollins.com!
The whole world is a museum without walls!
Around my house we’ve been listening to Dan Zanes and Friends on compact discs for a while, thanks to a gift from great friends. On Sunday, my daughter and I had the thrill of singing along or as Zanes put it “belting it out,” live at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, where everyone was encouraged to sing out loud. Zanes confessed that he had originally been asked to do a “concert” in Fort Collins, but that his heart was set on having a house party with us. If you didn’t make it to the party, you missed hundreds of Zanes’ friends singing and dancing in the aisles. For his rendition of Catch That Train! we joined together to make a human train thattravelled through the auditorium. From the stage, Zanes pointed out that we represented all ages, sizes and temperaments—he didn’t have to point out that we were having a ball. A couple of times fans shouted requests for favorites and Zanes sweetly suggested that they might be songs we could sing together in the lobby after the show, but that he was here to raise the roof! Kids and grownups spontaneously sang and danced together—nobody risked standing out in the crowd by not joining in! Dan Zanes and Friends make music for families and people of all ages—not music to just listen to, but music you can make at home and with family and friends. This means you have to get involved—you have to sing along–even if you don’t know the words!
The “Friends” part of Dan Zane and Friends are as eclectic as the music they make. They started out from all over the globe, just like the songs they perform. In Fort Collins, the band played ukeleles, an accordion, drums, fiddles, guitars, bass and more! On top of it all, they took turns singing! To truly understand the variety of music and instruments, you had to be there, but if you weren’t, take a look at the Dan Zanes and Friends website!
On Sunday, we didn’t gather to hear a group “play kids’ music,” we joined as new, old friends to play together and celebrate possibilities. Zanes acknowledged that we are living in “let’s just call it what it is—uncertainty.” But, even in uncertain times, we can come together and remember what makes us human. It is possible to imagine a world where everyone is part of a giant house party—you just have to start where you live. In Fort Collins, Dan Zanes and Friends illustrated that we don’t have to speak the same language, or even know the words to have fun together—some of his friends speak Spanish, and he’s learning, but that didn’t stop him from singing before he has all the pronunciation down. In his bright lime green jacket and pointy shoes, Zanes sang songs that celebrated the vibrant culture that comes with immigration, songs that represent our Spanish-speaking neighbors in the Americas. Zanes explained that making new friends, and learning from them, is a way to break out of categories based on ideas of age, language, and cultural difference. This is why his performance couldn’t just be what it’s “supposed to be,” people sitting quietly and listening at a concert.
Zanes also doesn’t want to stay quiet about immigration issues that affect our friends and neighbors. Before asking us to join him in singing “Welcome Table,” from his latest album, he shared his concern for the suffering of immigrant families trying to make their lives in the United States today. Proceeds from this album will support the work of the New Sanctuary Movement, a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and congregations that actively and publicly support immigrant families torn apart by deportation. The “Welcome Table,” is drawn from North American gospel traditions and poignantly reminds us that there are repercussions to how we treat each other.
On Zanes’ website it states that he sees himself as “the town conductor,” and after watching the faces of the singing audience he led out of the Lincoln Center auditorium, I think he has a point. Zanes and his collaborative band offered a model for playing together that can be applied not only to an auditorium, but to a street, a neighborhood, a town, a state, and beyond! What I’ll remember from Dan Zanes and Friends, is that if you gather together some accomplished musicians; some songs—new ones, and some you have heard before and forgotten; some local friends and neighbors; and if you are willing to join in, you can’t but have a house party! And, who doesn’t want to have a party? In Fort Collins, people who don’t look the same, sound the same, or even sing the same tune, proved that if we do it out loud, we can make music together. Zanes’ message is that some things are for certain, even when things are uncertain—good parties invite everyone to join in and don’t leave anyone out!
Home is where you feel free to dance!