Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A special night, thinking about what we need to risk for a real sense of collectivity

Tonight was not just special because my proposal just received matching funds from the Knight Foundation"Exploring life in two post-industrial cities by pairing artists from Detroit and Glasgow, Scotland, to collaborate on curated exhibitions".

Related: Images from Over, Over, Over, Judith Butler's description of a livable life, trying to fundraise projects that don't involve asking friends for their extra time and money.

But Michael Brown's delivery of the collective decision by the incarcerated men who are part of "The Writer's Block" to not simply accept the voter's choice award, but to give it away under the condition that the other runners-up get matched funding.... it really set a precedent. People around me were tearing up as Michael could not hold back the emotion that he was delivering such a meaningful gesture and almost none of us had a clue what he was moving towards. They did not ask that everyone including themselves should get funding, they asked that the other runners up would only need to come and visit and see what they're doing, and help in person.

Many thoughts were running through my head the moment that the Knight Foundation accepted the counter-offer on the spot:

  • Rachel's writing on the state of arts funding in Detroit
  • put up on Infinite Mile which was also awarded with matching funds from the Knight Foundation which then reminded me of 
  • Variant out of Glasgow which lost the crucial funding structure it used to have.
  • The surprisingly conservative response from Lucy Lippard when someone in the audience asked her if Detroiters should just 'take the money', short answer, yes.
  • Having fond memories of doing a close reading of Society of the Spectacle at the Hamtramck Free School with Steve Panton, Jonathan Rajewski and Michael Brown.
  • Oren Goldberg in a panel discussion with Ron Scott and Nick Tober, just being frank that us artists just want the foundation's money, not all the strings attached.
  • The moment right after Creative Capital told the inaugural Kresge Fellows not to do anything for free or that doesn't promote time for quality that it was then pitched that maybe the fellows could take part in a festival... I almost forgot about the drama until Erin McDonald reminded me at a Wayne State University panel discussion how much the immediate negotiation caught them off guard.
  • How Lawndale Market (Poloroid Liquor Store) used to have drawings and messages that came from prison that he prominently would display and how that has all changed... God Loves...
  • Halima talking about how brilliant it is that these inmates used their power to do this.
  • Thinking about the whole schools vs. prisons funding paradigm, the war on drugs but no war on poverty. Poisonous individualism that leads to fear based decisions...
  • Thinking about Anne Reinhardt first telling me about where she works when she was in Detroit and how it just seemed like a whole generation of younger artists had a strong moral compass unattached to religion or guilt or a degree in do-good-ery, but it somehow felt like that was just what was expected because of the artists that were here before us...
  • Thinking about all the wonderful people I know well in that audience as well as those local voices who probably vouched for this project sending positive vibes my way and all the conversations with Rosie Sharpe that helped to get the word out even further into Knight-land.
I also love that this will be a vastly different impression that being 'a creative do-er' isn't the priveledge of being a 'dreamer' at a time when people should be getting to work, but that a defining characteristic of many local people here is how far we are willing to go to support each other, and if anything, we all need better practice to do exactly what The Writers Block just did. 

See also: The entire USC Roski MFA class, The resignation of the President of the University of Missouri, The removal of the confederate flag on Charleston's state capitol, and the Open Letter to Creative Scotland, The Knight Foundation extends their matching funding program for 3 more years...

I thought I was going to be excited to talk about reflecting on the interactions and moments from when I put on an exhibition while Francis McKee and John Nicol were in town and my projections about what the matching funds mean for the future, but maybe this is all related.

Could we all take this momentous occasion to have more conversations about taking critical stances and how we can all support each other's projects, even with the ways that funding can seem like it creates a tricky level of competition where everyone's drawing from the same well, or our own personal energy becomes at risk of being immediately depleted, but here are some suggestions that I'll put out there:
  1. Don't start with spending your own money, start with finding similar projects and trace it back to perhaps those who should have funded this as they have the most to gain with the least risk.
  2. Pitch your friend's idea while having your friend do the same for yourself, we all somehow gain energy and focus when it comes to describing someone else passionately, even though we conversely can't find the same genuine clarity to describe our own activities.
  3. What does someone else think should be your own minimum payment who gets paid to do what you're about to do? How much money does that realistically leave?
  4. (too late but...) Start with having the matching funds in mind and plan accordingly so that maybe strategically you won't need to ask anyone for money.

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