Friday, June 1, 2012

Fringe Communities

What happens when developers set out to create hip, urban art districts?

No there there. The kind of clunky, over-hyped monstrosities that artists usually RUN from. Just as real art is often the result of serendipity and chance, art districts emerge from an organic center rather than from city managers or top-down planning. An art district is not created from slapping up banners proclaiming “ART DISTRICT”.

In an article at by Will Doig Salon article several factors have been identified that go into artist initiated art districts:

  1. cheap rent=usually odd, old buildings/space. The coolest bars/cafes/boutiques/galleries have architectural nooks and crannies that lend mystique, or at least create cozy sitting areas.
  2. flexibility=to adapt said space w/out rigmarole or inane restrictions—usually imposed by the city to create a “district”. Hip cannot be legislated. Once left alone, Detroit has re-invented itself. Yes, it has a LONG way to go, but the number of young radicals moving there and trying new things is giving Detroit a go-to verve. The same thing happened to Wicker Park in Chicago and now Logan Square. The frontier (storefronts, old, abandoned warehouses, dilapidated Victorian houses, coach houses) get settled by people (radical theater groups, herbalists, old men with long beards who are killer with their camera, booksellers, vegetarians, lithographers, Communists/socialists/anarchists, fill in the blank) willing to take chances—sometimes these are the same people running from the law.

Another great image of Uptown from Jonie Snake's photo stream
 (That being said, when a neighborhood is cheap and, perhaps, a bit dodgy ie some crime, some homeless, some trash, etc it will attract artists and people wanting to open new kinds of restaurants. And eventually the neighborhood will change. The artists will make friends with the homeless, the restaurants will feed vets and people suffering from AIDS, trash will get picked up or recycled into art. Murals and planters will brighten up the dingy streets.

Once a “district” gets established it will continue to attract residents. The “right” kind of people will want to move in to take advantage of the hip, urbane atmosphere created by the artists. Because it is now a neighborhood on the edge, property rates will be reasonable, so more of the “right” kid will buy in. Within a few years the whole place will flip or gentrify. Mission accomplished—

Except then the artists will be priced out, and the residents will say “not in my back yard,” and the neighborhood associations and Chamber of Commerce that the restaurants now are a part of will declare war on the homeless and fringe element. There will be talk about property values and better schools. The movement that brought so much to that neighborhood will move on; all that’s left are the banners hanging from lightpoles declaring it an “ART DISTRICT”.)
My friend Fred Burkhart, check him out on Facebook!!!

  1. Chaos. That’s right. You need chaos in order to create. Nothing makes art more possible than a jumble of confusion, massive mistakes. I can vouch for this. The “what-the-hell” mindset is necessary, “I’ve-got-nothing-to-lose” is the fertile soil required for planting seeds of change. Fringe needs chaos. Only when we’re driven to the edge can we stop, think outside the box, and shake things up.

This year is the end of Cornerstone Festival. It is bittersweet. The sadness that surrounds the end of the festival goes hand-in-hand with fear. I’m afraid of what next will end. We are truthfully on the brink—maybe we always have been and we just haven’t recognized it. Maybe this is the essential problem of “man”: mortality.

But at the same time we’re free to begin something new. This isn’t simply spin. Some parts we know about and other ideas are still in their infancy, roughed-out stage. So stay tuned for details. More fringe to come . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love your words, so true. Inspiring! Check out Neil Gaiman's Speech
"Leave the world a more interesting place,.." Neil Gaiman