Monday, October 5, 2009

Funny how 1857 just creeps up on us...

At least one person -- a teen in the parking lot of Baker Books hollering into her iPhone -- enjoyed this weekend's "Open Studios" exposition in New Bedford. For those unfamiliar with the event, I'll let her words explain:

"So, it's like, these like artists have their places like open so that and you can people and see them make their arts and stuff. It's all right. We had a rully good time."
The Standard-Times found a much more eloquent observer in our friend Keri Cox, who both praised and proscribed the artists of New Bedford -- one of whom is her eight year-old son (who is, incidentally, excellent company at any art opening that's filled with stuffy old Yankees). Well, she said something that I'm just tired of people saying about New Bedford's economy:
"'The arts community holds the key to New Bedford's future,' she believes. 'The next wave brewing is the creative economy.'"
The city of New Bedford has been the off-and-on home of Southern New England's arts economy since the Nineteenth Century, when available whaling and manufacturing cash supported local artists and allowed for the wholesale manufacture and sale of art, which bolstered its continguous business, like dealers, suppliers, and banks.
I'm sure that I've shared these sentiments at another juncture: I loathe when people use terms like "emerging arts scene," or when they refer to the "creative economy" as a new "wave" or "movement" or some new version of Capitalism.
The "creative economy" is not an economic wave; it is a label that describes a whole bunch of occupations and products that all the economists forgot to mention in the textbooks that haven't been updated since the Seventies. The "creative economy" -- of which artists, performers, writers, and designers are constituent -- has always been here. It's just that corporate capitalism has never effectively wrapped its economic theories around it, nor benefited enough to think of it as anything other than goofy beatniks and distracted hobbyists.
Which is simple-minded diminution of art's significance, ghettoizing artists. Which is how you eliminate a class, not promote it.
Which is exactly why it galls me whenever I see "artists lofts" or those dreadful "live-work spaces" that put artists on display like isolated animals in a zoo. Which isn't all that far removed from these "Open Studios" events. That Disneyfication of labor cheapens every piece of art that's created because it only focuses on the facility which houses the artist and not on the art itself. "Oh. Look, honey, let's go to see the funny artists. And kids are doing the arts too! It's so cute!"
And make sure that you pick up a little something as a souvenir after the show.Weary Artist Ginger Rogers is weary.

(This presentation features a photograph of Ginger Rogers.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So the NBEDC still has a Creative Economy Consultant political hack job?