Post and Re-post

An extremely bastardized title of The Atlantic‘s* “Post and Riposte” section. Oh, well. I’m re-posting this from Tu Scene to here because I feel it’s more in the art-writing vein, which I have guiltily neglected for the past couple of months.

(Don’t worry CAG, I didn’t forget about you either, the title was just too appropriate to resist). Lots of people have been chiming in on PLAY’s Facebook links to articles in the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen regarding award-winning chef Janos Wilder’s (of Janos and J-Bar fame) new restaurant location alleged to go at the corner of Congress and 5th, that would result in the displacement of Tooley’s, PLAY and Central Arts Gallery. According to the articles, Tooley’s owner Patricia Schwabe was apparently notified by Wilder (or representatives) and cooperative about the “transition.” However artist and PLAY co-founder and artist Jessica Van Woerkom says she was not contacted by any of the parties involved in the business deals or by the media who were writing this article. PLAY works very hard to put on well-publicized and outstandingly-attended events twice a month or so, myself and other artists make a extra cash for selling marchandise there every couple of weeks, their contact info is ridiculously easy to find… why were they not informed?

Ultimately, the issue here is not who screwed up, whether you think it’s the city, developers, property managers/owners, tenants, the Universe, whatever. There’s no point in playing the blame game. Governmental administrations anywhere, no matter how much their city is perceived as being a Utopia, will have instances of gross incompetence, and he who has the most money will rule. Mr. Wilder has occupied space in downtown before, so it seems safe to assume he’s probably actually in favor of the revitalization already happening now, where the little guys have made huge strides without much backing from big bucks. But when there’s 26 empty buildings in 2 square blocks — a plethora of spaces just itching for investment that would not involve displacement of valuable, if low-funded cultural arts businesses — it seems reasonable to expect that the property owner would at least notify the tenants of the move, and the tenants, in return, have a right to ask for some compensation to cover moving expenses in the situation that they are not being evicted upon grounds of non-payment, physical neglect, criminal issues and so on.

Throughout all of this drama is that it’s important to keep in mind why people go downtown. People don’t go there simply just to indulge in gourmet food and then drive back to wherever they came from. They go down there for the culture and the experience. Besides myself, I know and regularly witness many, many, many veritable throngs of people who go to downtown in the evenings to visit the galleries and music clubs first, THEN, if they feel like sticking around, frequent the bars and restaurants that service the area. And without those lower-middle-working-class patrons, yes, Tucson is stuck with a downtown polarized by only the very wealthy and very poor.

Hopefully, this will open a door for PLAY and CAG to occupy new locations with improved facilities and more communicative property owners/managers. It’s also a sad but crucial case showing that artists must know their rights and verify that their business arrangements are 100% legal. Or, I hate to say it, but sometimes beautiful things have to die in order for people to miss them. This, in turn, lights a fire under more creative butts to start their own venues. I remember when this happened in Austin when a couple of popular and critically-acclaimed art gallery/studio hubs had to close. A handful new venues sprung up in their place as a result, and then it spread like wildfire on buffelgrass. True, the art scene was never quite the same after these places shut down, but it turned out to be a catalyst for expansion. Necessity might be proved, again, to be the mother of invention.

Blogger’s Note: While I don’t read it very often, I find the Star in particular sadly lacking in doing basic research on individuals involved in the pieces they write, much less contacting them prior to publishing their articles. I understand in the newspaper industry there are hard-and-fast deadlines and there’s no way for journalists to get everyone’s angle, but like I said, this oversight can be prevented by a short Google search, and clicking on one or two web pages. To be perfectly candid, when compling calendar listings for Tu Scene, I give up if I can’t find any concrete info on the web about an event within Google’s first Search Results page. I’ve pointed this out with the Star before regarding the Winta Fresh Graffiti Competition, and in a recent Star article on February’s IGNITE event presented by Dinnerware, the title of the presentation Julie Ray and I did was not mentioned, despite the fact that there were two paragraphs and quotes from Julie devoted to our presentation about Pop Up Spaces. Plus, although we did our presentation together, I was identified as a “friend” of Julie Ray, when all you have to do is Google “Pop Up Spaces Tucson” (our website comes up #1 in the results) and it’s quite obvious that MAXED ARTista Molly McClintock and myself are co-founders and creative directors of the project. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but where several hairs are missing, that’s what most observers would call a bald spot (as I’m sure several male readers can sensitively attest to). C’mon editors! This era of the struggling printed newspaper is not the time to let quality control fall by the wayside! Blow off your readers and your publishing company is kaput. I find it ironic that I’ve seen fewer issues with accuracy in the Citizen and yet they’re the enterprise that’s supposed to go down.

*The Atlantic is one of my favorite magazines ever and, as I learned reading back issues at my parents’ house over an excruciatingly long Christmas break (no money to go anywhere), re-designed (or at least directed by) with, according to his introductory letter, much respect of its illustrious history by none other than Graphic Design God Michael Bierut. I wonder if it’s any k’winky-dink that The Atlantic‘s new/vintage masthead is highly similar to the banner at Karl Lagerfeld’s Guide to Life (or vice versa). ‘Cuz that’s the level Bierut’s on with us design nerds.

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