Monday, April 26, 2010

Tourism Season

It's that time of the publishing year for full-page mentions of newspaper advertisers and free mentions of local politicians' efforts at blowing smoke up some neglected skirts. In a typically revisionist economics flurry of "tourism-centric" articles encouraging unwarranted self-congratulation among certain citizens, the Standard-Times has spent the past few days chronicling/enabling tourism-related credit-grabbing, including the scaffold-and-spackle adventure in room reclamation at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. "A $350K Art Gallery expansion":

Russell expects the space to display local fine and decorative art for at least the next few years. "You'll see less of a concentration on whaling materials and artifacts. It will concentrate more on the art that is produced in the area," he said.
Russell hopes the project will boost tourism and foot traffic in the downtown.

reports Dan McDonald. "Russell" is "James Russell," the President of the museum. (Yes, you can be President of a museum. Even if you weren't born in the museum. Take that, Birthers.)
Let's see. The museum up the street paints its walls and puts up a new exhibit every three months and nobody ever sends two reporters to cover that. And that place actually says "Art Museum" on the door.
All of New Bedford knows that the foot traffic in the section of downtown New Bedford below Johnny Cake Hill has already been boosted to high parking anxiety levels by the Celtic Coffeehouse and any number of other new businesses that have opened, but if the NBWM wants the credit, let 'em. This is called spin, "favorable publicity which exploits certain media to bias key markets." Considered undignified due to teevee news, spin is now a required public relations tool of any organization that has a logo.
Or some municipalities entering an election cycle.
As a personal aside: It is truly a gratifying thing to see some public use made of a wonderful part of the museum in which I worked -- whose ancient dust scratched my cornea and whose preposterous shelving precipitated a wild and acrobatic hunt for a Helen Ellis woodcarving hidden behind William Rotch (Junior)'s divan.
In Senior Correspondent Steve Urbon's account yesterday,

"Motta said the renovation will provide another 1,800 feet of museum space without having to add anything to the building. The walls, he said, have the capacity to display some large paintings that today cannot be accommodated elsewhere in the museum."

Another watercolor of a sailboat heeling over. But look at them heels!"Accommodated." Hmm. It's not that items will be exhibited in any special gallery space, it's that items will be "accommodated" -- museum jargon for "stored" -- in a publicly-accessible "accomodation" space. See, it's not an exhibit, because an exhibit requires a curator, and a well-regarded professional curator (who was counting on that income, bitches) was recently informed that his services wouldn't be needed. "The staff wanted" to do it. Assuming that this is not the housekeeping or kitchen "staff," I trust that this "want" is the curatorial staff flexing its in-house curatorial muscle; I commend all enthusiastic job-wanting.
Ah, the enthusiasm in the Whaling City! (well, one of the Whaling Cities. Let's not gorget New London CT, Or the Whaling City that they'll invent for the movie.) New Bedford city councillors enthusiastically cut the budget, eliminating positions. Like the Tourism Director -- so that they can brag to the NO NEW SPENDING WE WANT JOBS crowd about having done so. It was a wild move perpetrated by illiterate short-sighted boneheads covering up for incompetent management, but that's old news. An interesting admission follows in a News Corporation-cleared Economic Development Council puff piece:

[city councillor Linda]Morad said she supported the council's cut last year to the tourism department budget as she did not agree with the approach Ann Marie Lopes, the then-tourism director, took to her role, nor did she agree with some of the ways in which the city was being advertised.
So eliminate the position becuase you don't like the employee in the position. In this case, I would have eliminated the clueless supervisor. And, umm, isn't Morad ON the NBEDC? Never mind. She bravely voted to ax the tourism budget rather than recuse herself due to a possible conflict of interest. Of course, there are something like, what, eight hundred members of the NBEDC according to their website, so I don't know who is. I only counted one dead guy on the roster, and several members who no longer have the titles noted.
It wasn't AHA!'s opportunity for mention. The NBEDC hates AHA! because AHA! harmonizes 60 business partners every month to present a product that attracts a thousand or more visitors to the downtown. The NBEDC attracts two or three businesses to New Bedford every year -- no mean feat but not the same as face-painting and free music every second Thursday. (Maybe if they affixed an exclamation point to their name.) Also, nobody at AHA! presents himself as the Emperor of AHA!, so it's hard for an over-worked under-paid lazy simple-minded correspondent to make one easy phone call to get a quote. As it stands, the lines of ego are finely drawn and AHA! was mentioned exactly no times in the Matt-centric article.Susan Hayward 'mans' the Wharfinger building. That'll bring some sport to the waterfront.But fear not, NBEDC! and others who rely on good-natured anonymous SouthCoasters of goodwill who encounter out-of-towners and voluntarily clear up universal misperceptions. At a recent Gateway Cities event, Summerfest -- New Bedford's famed folk festival -- had to be explained to an organizer who felt that New Bedford could be a great city if New Bedford only had a folk festival. Peter Golden, a columnist from the MetroWest -- which has recently adopted a midword capitalization -- has even noticed the SouthCoast, albeit in the context of a disturbing conflation:
Visitors may also head west, to Old Sturbridge Village, Historic Deerfield or even Northampton, which is kind of old, but which is so much fun no one really cares. Battleship Cove in New Bedford gets its share, too...

Of course, now that Battleship Cove is in New Bedford, Fall River can start to make some real money on its waterfront.
Enjoy New Bedford Tourism Promoters Season.It's officially begun.
And no, you can't get a permit to shoot them.

(This presentation includes photographs of Susan Hayward and Sandra Dee.)


Anonymous said...

Everyone mentioned in this "EDC, community leaders step in..." article has been implicated in Baker-Robinson destruction. Except the audio tour guy. aha is the only groupo in the city kept their fingers off that debacle.

Carol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PJ said...

Carol, that "poof" is what prompted the post. But you can list the names and players -- as Anonymous 11:23 points out -- that had gotten some bad press over an "OOPS!" moment and obviously needed stroking.

Didn't the Ernestina lose their director a year ago? That had nothing to do with his opinions of volunteers. After sailing for one volunteer captain, I knew why captains get paid.

For those just joining: I posit that volunteers strip the job market of positions for professionals, drive down salaries and inure workers to low wages.

Professionals are paid; volunteers are unpaid and thus amateurs, by definition. Volunteers are too often over-eager and under-informed and they exhibit inappropriate and sometimes damaging ownership issues. A wise Director will trust -- in the SouthCoast, incorrectly -- that his board will be smart enough to raise enough money to hire a Volunteer Coordinator who can deal with them.

PJ said...

I hope everybody will stop in at the New Bedford Preservation Conference. Only a rumor at this point, but talk about "conducting circuses and claiming savior status."

David said...

Thanks for reference PJ. Hope you're doing well. XO David

PJ said...

Thanks for stopping in, David. Getting "the car" baack on the road soon, so let's go do stuff.

Carol, I am so sorry to lose your salient comment. Not only because it makes my comments look contextless and silly, but because you add a lot.