Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art


Month: October 2011

Yuma and Back Again PT.1 (An Artist’s Tale)

“The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.” – Oscar Wilde

Hello Blogiteers!

From the quote above, I guess it’s obvious that we’ve taken a slight detour from my ongoing series regarding the Phoenix Art Scene, wherein I have been offering gentle and kindly advice for the three subgroups that comprise our so called culture: Patrons, Galleries, and the Artists.

Now,  this blog was supposed to contain some temperate suggestions for my fellow tribesmen the Artists, but due to a promise that I made several months ago, that particular slice of snark will have to wait to be served.

Don’t worry, kids.I will get back to picking apart the fairly obvious as soon as possible, but I have a few things I need to get off my chest first, and for a change- they’re gonna have a positive spin. Very positive, in fact. I know…  I shock even myself sometimes.

Some time ago, I wrote a blog called “On the Road with Amy & Claire. (With apologies to Bing and Bob)” as a reaction to yet another steaming pile of elitist condescension that was published online as well as in the print edition of our local Pennysaver with Porn, AKA: the Phoenix New Times.

Co-written by PNT’s Managing Editorzilla Amy Silverman, and her preferred pet Claire Lawton, it was a so-called travel review of the City of Yuma, and if one was to diplomatically affix a description to their narrative, they might be tempted to label it as extremely one sided.

Other adjectives I might use to describe this review could be: unwarranted, vicious, xenophobic, ageist, and deceitful, but I think the worst sin of all is that it just seems so obviously pre-written to many of those who’ve read it. Read the link below, and then make up your own mind. Go ahead… I’ll wait.
[NT Link: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/jackalope/2011/03/a_sense_of_yuma.php]

As I noted in my “Character Study Part Deux” blog, this article generated close to 100 comments when it appeared in the “print” version of New Times, but when previously available on the “web” only, it garnered over 300.I t also created an uproar in Yuma, where shockingly, the community didn’t appreciate some of the elitist and ignorant generalities stated about their hometown.

Of course, this prompted New Times to do what they do best- double down on the controversy. So they reprinted the whole slander in the weekly print version, preceded by this statement:

 “Editor’s note: A March 11 post on our culture blog, Jackalope Ranch, got so much attention in Yuma- a front page story in the Yuma Daily Sun, airtime on the NBC television affiliate, talk of a billboard in downtown Phoenix- we decided to share it this week in print.”

They decided to “share” it… ain’t they just the sweetest? Naturally, I just had to respond on the PNT forums by posting the following: “Close to 300 comments blasting New Times on the original post wasn’t enough of a “hint” for Editorzilla and her loyal pet- they needed to do it one more time.

Not a statement or an apology, this reprint is nothing more than an arrogant stand against an increasingly dissatisfied readership base who has been complaining vehemently as of late, due to the lack of quality writing, inaccurate reporting, and unprovoked attacks on the people, communities and culture of Arizona.”

So as you can imagine, some major heat came New Time’s way, and how did our terrible twosome explain themselves? In a statement to KSAZ FOX News TV 10, they explained their arrogance with this craven backpedal: “Our issue is with Sunset Magazine, not Yuma. Yuma is what it is. While it might be a nice place to live, we haven’t ever viewed it as a tourist destination and after visiting last week, we still don’t.” – Claire Lawton and Amy Silverman, Phoenix New Times”

Hmmm. Something rings false here… what could it be… I know- other than the fact that Amy Silverman uncharacteristically gives Claire top billing, shades of her thrown under the bus future perhaps, maybe it’s the small fact that the article only seems to directly insult Yuma, and NOT Sunset Magazine?

Go ahead. Read the article again, and see what I mean. Some days it’s like shooting moose in a barrel with these people- just when I think that Amy and her flying monkeys couldn’t possibly do anything more asinine, it’s like she drives up in her bedazzled wannabe wagon and unloads a whole bunch of beautifully wrapped gifts at my doorstep.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she just really wants me to do well, which is more than I can say for New Times’ recent overall health. Recently, Village Voice Media [NT’s Parent Company] issued layoffs across the board, resulting in the firing of one of my favorite reporters and the virtual hamstringing of another in regards to what and how much they could write.

But there are even more intrinsic problems within the unhappiest Queendom on Earth…

The tablet size is getting smaller, the ads are getting more numerous, and the writing keeps getting exponentially worse, as the writing staff now only has three full time reporters [there used to be twelve] and the balance is comprised of a mixture of inexperienced interns, somewhat practiced freelancers, and totally green bloggers.

Did I mention that the print edition of NT is also starting to read like a blog? Not like this one of course, since the majority of my readers are capable of reading beyond a paragraph or two, and as an aside- when I write something funny, I don’t have to subtitle it as “humor” under the byline, like NT has to do in regards to their website.

That can’t speak well of the quality of your content when you have to tell your readers the nature of what they’re about to read. To be fair however, sometimes that’s the only way you can differentiate between the articles. One might tend to think that all those Arizona Press Club Awards that NT likes to brag about so much aren’t really helping, since overall- principled journalism is seemingly dying on the vine.

Hastened by the erosion of corporate ethics, most newspapers these days pander to the lowest common denominator in favor of profits over substance. Case in point: Amy and Claire’s road trip to Yuma, fueled by acidic spite and undeserved elitism.

As a rule, I tend to see things in black & white- it’s just the way I’m wired, and taken as a whole, it keeps my life fairly uncomplicated, which is just the way I like it. But after visiting Yuma, it would seem I owe Amy Silverman a very sincere apology.

Sure, in the past I’ve referred to her as “Editorzilla” and stated that she a was a “c**k juggling thunderc**t”, along with saying that she might possibly own a Dalmatian farm just so she’d have puppies on hand to eat, but I might have been a tad bit hasty in my assessment of her character.

To be brutally honest… I was just dead wrong about Amy. If truth be told, I think I may have completely underestimated her, and missed the proverbial mark by miles. After spending three days and two nights in Yuma, and using my own experiences as a baseline for comparison, I can only conclude the following:


Boy… is there egg on my face or what? More often than not, yours truly is really good at pegging people correctly, so you can just imagine how embarrassed I’m feeling right now. It’s downright mortifying, let me tell you. After all, while it’s one thing to suspect that someone might have a few issues, it’s quite another to know for certain that you’ve been dealing with a fully stocked magazine stand right from the start.

Writing about a meeting I endured with her once, I described the ending of my unfortunate encounter with the tongue in cheek description of: “when you’re that close to crazy”, but this off the cuff depiction is somewhat inaccurate, I’m afraid. It would be more apt to claim that  rather than having a few screws loose, all of Amy’s are seemingly fastened way too tight. As regular readers of the ol’ PNT know by now, there’s a consistent tone leveled at the city of Phoenix, and it isn’t one of friendliness.

The Pennysaver with Porn that Amy is slowly death-spiraling into the ground is blatantly hostile towards the community it conducts business in, and it all stems from the personal sense of failure and self loathing that she carries, and then dumps on us. But like most craven bullies, one victim wasn’t enough to satiate her Ego, and she needed a new one to go bitch slap.

Scottsdale? Too rich to pick on. Tempe? Nope- that’s a good chunk of their advertising base, so they’re hands off… for now. Mesa? No one would care, and she needs that controversy to drive up ad revenue. Flagstaff? Too pretty and popular, in my opinion. Tucson? Possibly the same reason as Mesa, or maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

So what major city was left that could stir up the controversy she required, and yet be far enough away so as not to negatively impact their ad revenue? The answer for Amy’s dilemma came courtesy of Sunset Magazine in the form of a travel article about Yuma.

And thus begins our tale. During the initial firestorm over NT’s article, I received the following E-mail from Ann Walker, Media Director of the Yuma Tourism Board:

“Hello dear Artbitch,

I know that Our Fair City has come late to the party — dragged kicking and screaming courtesy of the so-called “review” of Yuma by Amy and Claire — but I just wanted to let you know that we are, in fact, in attendance.

The local paper is writing a story about this little dustup tomorrow … we’ll see where that leads.

In the meantime, be sure to let me know if you plan a visit.  I’ll be happy to take you out for warm beer, cold food and lousy art.

Ann A. Walker
Media Relations Specialist

Now with an invite like that, how could I resist? And thus, a three day vacation was planned, to which of course, Editorzilla was invited. Thrice. Shockingly, she didn’t take me up on it, despite my generous offer that she could stick her head out the window the whole way. To add insult to injury, she also posted on NT’s FaceBook page that I “really wouldn’t go”, which I find rather hypocritical, for reasons I’ll get into later.

So, um… Amy? Nee. Nee. Nar. Nar.   😛

I went, I stayed, I enjoyed, I relaxed by a crystal clear pool, the same one that Amy depicted as being green in her article. And as an homage, I walked the path of my favorite hack Editor, retracing her steps that were laid down in the NT article. Along with my pilgrimage, I also made a point to go off the beaten trail and see what Yuma was really like. In other words, unlike Amy and Claire- I actually made a conscious effort to see what was outside the comfort of my air conditioned rental car.

Because while I may be caustic, I believe in being fairly honest, and that particular quality gets me into more trouble than anything else, since at the end of the day, I’d rather be right than liked. My belief has always been that the only thing that people will truly remember you for is your depth of character, so you’d better make yours a good and solid one. Three guesses as to what I think Amy’s just might be.

In the interest of full disclosure, when I was invited to visit Yuma by Ann Walker, the only thing I knew of the city was what I had seen in Westerns playing on late night TV. There may be a chance that some of that information might be a tad bit incorrect.

However, I didn’t know that several of my favorite films had segments filmed there, among them Stargate, Spaceballs, Tank Girl, and of course… Return of the Jedi, which brings up a special aside to George Lucas: if I ever meet you, you’re getting punched in the face for that whole Ewok subplot…

While I was armed with all that obviously relevant information, my GF Ashley and I still had no idea what to expect as we picked up our rented Nissan Versa (s’ok) packed with all the luggage, snacks, and sandwiches the back seat could hold (lots) and headed out on our three and a half hour drive. So for the sake of clarity, I’m going to compare the NT article against our experiences in Yuma, and let’s start with the first thing we did: checking out the local lodging.

In the NT article, Amy and Claire wrote the following: “Now, if someone would rehab the Hotel del Sol on Third Street, just a couple blocks off Main, that would be something special.  The place, built in the 1920s in a Spanish Colonial Revival style looks like it put Tucson’s Hotel Congress to shame back in the day. It’s been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s also boarded up and abandoned, leaving the Best Western as pretty much the only choice for lodging. “

While I agree with the sentiment about the Hotel del Sol, as it is an amazing building; I have to call bulls**t on the rest, due to a few glaring omissions. The Best Western was the only choice for lodging? Hardly.

Other than the fact that a 28 room Hotel is less than ½ a block away and it’s sign and facade are CLEARLY visible from the Hotel del Sol, Amy and Claire somehow missed it. Originally, built to service the railroad engineers working in Yuma, it has been owned by the same family for over 75 years, and it’s caretaker is named “Red” a very nice man who filled me in on it’s history.

But there’s one more fact the NT article doesn’t tell you- as of 10/15/2011, Tripadvisor.com lists 35 hotels in the Yuma area, many of which are National Chains, such as Hilton, Motel 6, Clarion, Radisson, etc., five of which had signage that was highly visible from the Interstate.

Seriously- I discovered six just walking around, so the obvious question would have to be: how much research did our dimwitted duo actually attempt before they left Phoenix, or was this just a convenient omission of facts? I’ll let you be the judge of that, I think. Ask questions, you learn stuff. Guess that was never taught in the journalism class both these faux news-gals took.

I don’t buy the description of the Best Western, either: “Even if Bob Hope did slumber there once upon a time, we never will. We couldn’t get past the green pool.

Since I’ve already pointed out one falsehood, let me move on to another possible one. Yes, Bob Hope DID stay at the Best Western Coronado, even NT can get one actual fact right every now and then, but if that pool was green, then I’m a tiny ballerina. We stayed at the Coronado for the duration of our visit, and from the rooms to the parking lot- that place was clean with a capital “C”. A personal insight: I happen to be a neat freak, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with this hotel. At all.

Co-owned by the delightful Yvonne Peach, the Coronado boasts an excellent and informative staff, fluffy towels, free internet, super comfy king size bed, well appointed room with kitchenette, amazing bathroom with a waterfall shower head attachment, and much to the delight of my Historian GF, an onsite Museum featuring the history of the BWC (very cool) and as I said earlier- a crystal clear swimming pool.

[Info- http://www.bwcoronado.comor call: (928) 7834453, you’ll be glad you did.]

Considering the source, I’m gonna grant this one a pass based on the question of integrity alone. Given Amy’s travel sensitivity, I’m starting to think that she would go to Disneyland and complain that there’s a six foot tall rat just walking around the park with seven freakishly tiny men. Now, after checking into our suite, Ashley and I took some time to catch a quick nap before heading out to have dinner at yet another place that Amy and Claire panned, The River City Grill.

Located less than two blocks from the BWC, Amy and Claire summed it up as thus: “we drove around town in search of the River City Grill, another Sunset recommendation. When we finally found it (we don’t think this is a neighborhood Sunset’s readers would want to venture in after dark, or even in the light) the place was manicured and cute enough, by Yuma standards.
The food – described in the magazine as “eclectic with the spices” – was edible. But barely worth driving a few blocks, let alone a few hundred miles. The River Wrap, the “owner’s favorite,” was huge and well-plated, but bland.

And the promised curry flavor in the chiken dish we ordered was just okay. Blame the place’s clean, yet very Pier One atmosphere for its reputation as the City’s “cool” restaurant.”

Once again, there are a few observations that I need to correct. Hey Dimwits… ever heard of Google Maps? Despite the fact that the RCG is less than TWO BLOCKS away from the BWC, our wretched “Tourons” had to drive all over town to find it. Ashley and I took all of three minutes to zero in on the location by doing this wacky thing called “asking somebody”. I know. Sometimes we’re just too damn clever for our own good. It’s a curse.

Granted, I know that being from NYC might give me a slight edge in surviving your average urban jungle, but there was NOTHING remotely unsafe in regards to the community that surrounds the RCG. Overall, it was no different than walking down Roosevelt Row on an average Saturday night, begging my curiosity at what exactly freaked out Amy and Claire that bad- the surrounding area was quiet, clean, and completely devoid of any skeezy atmosphere.  

If there was a problem, Ashley and I didn’t notice it, and I would surmise that neither did they. I’m not calling them liars, I’m just suggesting that they make stuff up. Perhaps it was the mind numbing fear of the imaginary that drove them over the edge that night. When it comes to eating out, I am one picky Artbitch. God help you if I’m disappointed, because I will complain a great deal, if I think it’s justified.

To be completely fair, I do understand that restaurants can go off the rails every now and then, but when Ashley and I dined at the RCG, they were hitting nothing but grand slams that night.

From the appetizers to our main course, every note was perfect. Excellent quality, first-rate presentation, and remarkably reasonable prices, and the wait staff was outstanding, to boot.

Asking rather disingenuously whether it was worth driving a few hundred miles to eat there is not really a fair question, in my humble opinion. No reasonable person would drive 3 ½ hours for a meal that they could possibly get in their hometown, nor would they be expected to.

Having said that however, I think the RCG is an exceptional first choice for dining when one is vacationing in Yuma, and it comes with the Artbitch stamp of approval. When I return, it will definitely be on the menu again. And speaking of which, it’s spelled “chicken”, not “chiken”, and I know I’m splitting gnat hairs, but does anyone at NT actually bother to proof read the articles before they’re published? I’m sorry- I know it’s just the OCD talking, but this kind of causal sloppiness just aggravates the hell out of me.

With all due respect, in reference to their assessment of the decor, would Amy and her hipster pet Claire ever allow themselves to be caught dead inside a Pier One? I seriously doubt it. If one were to be honest, the apt description of RCG’s interior would fall more under the description of funky, rather than the corporate blandness that has been ascribed to Pier One.I for one, thought it was pretty cool.

But then again, I have a sense of style. It came as a package deal with my intelligence.

Sadly, I didn’t get to check out the other two restaurants named in the article, Das Bratwurst Haus and Lute’s Casino. Not because I couldn’t find them, but because when I did, I was stuffed full to the gills from eating everywhere else. While I was exceedingly curious about trying the hot dog/hamburger sandwich served at Lute’s, when it came right down to it- I choked like one of our local sports teams. Next time when I go, I  promise to put on my big boy Underoos and just wolf that sucker down.

But not until I get the all clear from my cardiologist, of course. Moving on… so, after some fine dining, Ashley and I took a brief stroll around the downtown area noting various things to check out the next day. Rising early, we had breakfast at The Landing, a cool airplane themed local restaurant, and then went and checked out the main tourist attraction, the Yuma Territorial Prison.

Seated on a commanding bluff overlooking the broad Colorado, the prison was nicknamed “Hell on Earth” by it’s inmates, but dubbed the wryly sarcastic “Country Club of the Colorado” by the local townspeople for the fact it had one of the early electrical generating plants in the West which furnished power for lights and ran a ventilation system in the cellblock.

Schooling was available for convicts, as well as a hospital, and it housed one of the first “public” libraries in the territory- the fee charged to visitors for a tour of the institution was used to purchase books. Usually, I’m not real big on doing History type stuff, but I have to admit that it was very interesting, especially when you get to go check out the native stone and Iron barred cells for yourself.

From the perspective of someone who suffers from claustrophobia, I’m amazed more people didn’t go mad. Two minutes was about all I could take in the infamous Dark Cell, and the reality of a prisoner once spending 141 days inside is just amazing to me, especially when the cell would house as many as the jailers could shoe horn into it’s suffocating interior.

Educational fun for the whole family, and all in all- a rather enjoyable way to spend an early morning, considering I’ve spent my entire life trying to stay out of prison.Since we are escaping,  this seems like the best place to take a break for now.

And when we come back…a walk to remember, ice cream, artsy stuff, historical stuff, and a choo-choo train

Yes, I said a choo-choo train. How’s that for a cliff hanger?

“Reporters no longer ask for verification, thus they print charges no matter how outlandish they may seem, and once having done that, when the truth comes out, it’s buried in the back page or never makes it on the air at all.” – Dixie Lee Ray

Daze of Whine and Poseurs PT 3 (Two Days with the Interest of One!)

Business is a combination of war and sport.”- Andre Maurois

Hello Blogiteers!

You are looking at one very tired Artbitch. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on new photography and paintings, contributing to this blog, as well as organizing my past ones for a possibly collaborative book project. I need more hours in the day. Well, that… or I find some way to paint and write while I sleep.

Sleep? Oh look… I made myself laugh.

As I’ve gone through my past screeds, one thing has stood out: truly, I am one wordy bitch. The total word count for all of my online literary excursions (forums, blogs, etc.) from 2005 to now is well over 225,000 words.By way of comparison, the average short story is 7500 words, the average novella 15,000, and your typical novel clocks in at around 90,000 or so.

Over 225,000 words…. that is a lot of snark, and as long as I can still get annoyed at something, I see no end in sight to the distributing of my sugared venom. Lucky, lucky you.

When we last enjoyed each others cultured company, I had just given some gentle and heartfelt advice to my fellow Artists regarding our so called Patrons, and much to my surprise, the response was just shy of overwhelming- no sarcasm intended or implied. It seems that what I said resonated among a rather large group of my artistic peeps, to the point of an almost embarrassing amount of e-mail being received.

While many of these were well written and also full of warm regards, two comments stood head and shoulders above the rest: both were posted online, one on my photographer friend Martin Hazine’s FaceBook page, and the other via a message to my Model Mayhem account.

[Martin’s amazing (and easily purchased) work, is available at his website: http://www.Glossyworks.com is not to be missed, and after you’re done reading here, you should go visit his site ASAP.]

With all due respect, I like compliments just as much as the next guy, and it’s always nice to be told that you’re pretty, even if they only meant on the inside. So sue me, I can be flattered. Sadly, there’s no time to dwell on my obvious inner beauty, as there’s some serious advice that needs to be served along with the usual heaping helping of snark. But not until I show off the compliments I received, of course. So, what were they you ask, as I note the small hint of annoyance in your voice? Fair enough.

They were:

“Just wanted to drop a line and say that a: your paintings are fantastic, and b: your blog is brilliant. I am a long island/new york/philly transplant, and lets just say I was underwhelmed upon my first friday experiences here.’ This was followed by the incredibly nice: “I think he’s my new hero.“

I’m somebody’s possible “Hero”? That just makes me want to run out, buy a pair of black spandex tights, the red shirt with the Artbitch logo plastered right on the front, and a loyal teen sidekick, whom I’m pretty sure I can get for cheap at Wal-Mart.What was that? Oh- thanks for the offer, but I’m good… I already have a yellow cape, along with the matching boots, and several Arch-Enemies.

Isn’t it just amazing what can be bought over the Internet these days? You wouldn’t even begin to believe the deal I got on my Fortress of Snarkitude, and even better, they threw in the shipping and a Death Ray for free. Capitalism at it’s finest, and damn, I just f***ing love Capitalism. Adore it, worship it, revere it. Honestly, everything about it, in fact. The ups, the downs, the ins, the outs, and most importantly- the sheer Challenge of it all.

To wrest the platinum plated visage of Victory from the slime dripping jaws of Defeat, and then proceed to slap Defeat upside it’s ugly face using it’s own ripped out tongue. You know… like you do? From a very early age, it was deemed that Capitalism and I were gonna be really good friends by my successful small businessman father. One of my earliest memories was his saying that cash was the wrench as well as the lubricant, that moved almost everything on planet Earth.

I don’t recall everything about that life lesson, (I was six after all) but I do remember this- he informed that to live the life you wanted, there were two essential requirements: passion for what you do, and investment capital. One I’ve always had in buckets, the other… not so much as I would have liked.

I’m not complaining, mind you, I chose to be an Artist rather than your average cubicle monkey, and I’ve never truly regretted that decision, not even when I was living on Top Ramen and water. Which, by the way, I do not recommend. As a related side note, if you really want to bond with your blue collar Dad, tell him you’re gonna be either a jazz musician or an Artist.

Trust me, he will be thrilled like the dickens at your vibrant career choice. Go ahead and do it now. I’ll wait. But while you’re gone, I’m going to start gearing up to talk about the next group of people who are getting a few new regulations tossed their way, courtesy of this here Artbitch.

Patrons were the last intended recipients of my gentle suggestions for change that needs to occur within the PAC, and this time around, it’s all about the Galleries. Lucky, lucky them. At the present, when I say “gallery”, I’m not referring to the various places that show art, such as cafes or restaurants, nor am I referring to artists studios who on occasion, open up to the public for an event such as a showcase of their own (or others) individual work.
No, when I use the term, I am referring to those art spaces whose sole purpose is dedicated to the selling and promoting of Art, as well as their various creators of said work. The ones who by sheer force of marketing will, help establish the baseline of what is, and what isn’t, considered Art in PHX.

On the surface, my description of these committed and thoughtful art sanctuaries makes them sound professional and worthy of the public’s respect. When it comes to the PAC however, it’s an entirely different ball of wax. It’s like the local fraternity took a community college Art class and then decided they needed to go open a boutique. Ouch. Did I just say…? Yes, I just did.

With a few rare exceptions, the galleries in Downtown Phoenix bear little resemblance to an actual business. Odd hours, impotent marketing, and poor quality work are some of the issues that plague this badly managed industry. From an insider’s point of view, it seems that making a profit is almost an afterthought, and that’s a major dilemma for the scene, as well as its Artists.

As I’ve said many times, we Artists have bills to pay just like everyone else, and the majority of creatives have limited skills when it comes to marketing, hence the need for a gallery to sell and promote their work. Given the advent of social media, one could argue that the archetype has shifted, and a traditional gallery is no longer needed. I would strongly disagree. Despite the ability to travel around the world clad only in footy pajamas, one still needs to bond with the artistic world in the physical sense.

In my opinion, a video monitor is one poor surrogate for standing in front of work you find inspiring, and while you can easily purchase over the web, it’s just not the same. Artists still need Galleries, but when it comes to the PHX Art Scene, I almost think that your typical creative would be better off pimping their wares on FaceBook, since unlike the majority of our downtown galleries- it’s at least open when people come looking.

In a past blog, I reiterated the following suggestions that I had directed towards PHX’s Galleries, as a conduit to strengthening their business approach. To recap, they were:
1) Clean the f*****g place up.

2) Location, Location, Location.

3) Failure in presentation is not an option.

4) Be open more than two nights a month.

As you might imagine, the Artists took to these suggested rules far better than the Gallery owners, mainly due to the commonly acknowledged fact that in regards to their business dealings with Artists, galleries have held the upper hand for quite some time. That is no longer the case, if we Artists wish it to be. Do you remember the most important bolt in my argument for enacting radical culture change in the PAC?

And that means as a whole, we Artists are the ones who hold ALL the power, and we should use it as effectively as possible, for the betterment of the PAC. No art means that there’s no reason for Galleries, no need for First Friday, and no rationale for the pointless yearly three day circle-jerk that is known as Art Detour. So how do we make this happen?

We grow a set, and dig in our heels. I feel it’s high time that the Artists demand the inherent issues within the PAC be corrected before we agree to show our work in any downtown PHX gallery, minus the rare exception here and there.

[For instance?Willo North. I LOVE them, and they “get it” where many seemingly do not.] 

Originally, when I suggested the rules above, they were directed at the Galleries, with the hope that they would endeavor to fix the issues themselves. Since that isn’t seemingly going to happen anytime soon, I think I’m gonna tweak them a bit, and give the rules back to the Artists for use as bargaining tools instead.

My Blog. My Rules. My Way.

So my fellow Artists, let’s have some fun using our newly tweaked utensils of influence, and as with all things in Artbitch land- we’ll start with number one, and maybe add a new one or two along the way.

Clean the f*****g place up. It’s not Courtney Love’s house, after all. 

Many moons ago, when I was just starting on the path to becoming a gallery artist, I would show almost anywhere: Bars, restaurants, coffee houses, doctor’s offices, conference rooms, retail stores, gyms, private parties, you get the idea.  Clean, well-lit, and as a rule- very nice to spend time in.                                                                                     

And then there’s the gallery spaces of downtown Phoenix. As I’ve previously stated: I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked into a downtown art space and have wanted a TyVek suit. Filthy floors, filthy walls, and lets not even think about the bathroom- if they have one, that is.

Having once dropped my car keys in an abattoir as described above, I actually gave serious thought to just leaving them there, mainly since they were stuck to the floor already. While I do understand that some of these businesses function on a very tight budget, there is no excuse for operating a space that looks like Charlie Sheen just spent the weekend there.

Because until you do the basics; wiping down the walls of dust, dirt, and cobwebs- sweeping the floor, taking out the trash, cleaning the windows, and making sure the air doesn’t smell like the sand under the Porta-Potties at a 4th of July Willie Nelson concert, know that I- and hopefully nobody else, will ever show work in your space until you’ve given the place a metaphorical flea dip.

And after you’re done with all those basic and necessary chores- the minute a show comes down, patch up the nail holes, slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and prepare to be amazed how good your space looks when it doesn’t resemble downtown Beirut after a Hamas mixer. If cleanliness is truly next to Godliness, then we Artists need to definitely make sure that we get all shades of Yahweh, Buddha, and Jesus up in these here galleries of theirs.

No Mop n’ Glow? Then count on no shows.

Location, Location, Location. Lex Luthor was right- It DOES make a difference.

One of the other large issues facing the PAS is the address of certain galleries- while there are a few located in the center of general blandness that is Roosevelt Row, most are located in a more, let’s say… gritty, part of town. Which from a certain point of view, can come across as an artistic demilitarized zone.
And therein lies the problem. We’re never going to see an influx of affluent Art buyers until the areas that these spaces are sited in improve, and traditionally- the landlords of these spaces do as little as possible to spend money on what they see as frivolous expenditures. You know, things like striking interiors, attractive facades, outside lighting, and central air conditioning?

Seriously. Some of the art spaces in Phoenix have no AC, just swamp coolers. In case you didn’t know, Arizona gets a tad hot during summer, so AC is a definite necessity for a public space where people gather. If the temperature outside goes up ten degrees every time you open up the door, that’s a clear sign that your building’s cooling system needs an upgrade.

Just a suggestion. From the perspective of an Artist, I am somewhat sympathetic, but still crushingly realistic- rest assured that transients, hookers, drug dealers, and the occasional crack-head will not add color or character to your space, and they definitely don’t add to your bottom line either. You want to run an Art Gallery, not a halfway house that masquerades as one.

The reality is that if you want to be successful, where you’re located has to be considered both attractive and safe to the average schmuck, and that’s just the way it goes. Now, before you start griping about how the space you’re in is all you can afford, my advice is that even if it’s smaller and possibly more expensive, you need to move somewhere that’s attractive to potential customers.

Want to be a gallery owner? Then start thinking more like a businessman, and less like an Artist, and you might just have a shot.  It’s called a business model, and it works. Until then, I’ll be sitting outside your space with the AC blasting, the car doors locked, and the windows rolled up, because this part of town just freaks me the hell out.

Failure in presentation is not an option, but in Phoenix- very few got that memo.

When I started my career in NYC, if there was one thing hammered into my skull, it was this: when a Patron comes in, your objective was to make their decision to buy your work a no-brainer. The opposite appears to be true in the PAC, where amateurish (and uninteresting) presentation rules the day.
For some mysterious reasons, these methods seem to be perfectly acceptable among some of the PAC’s collective galleries. Once again, the well-worn refrain of “I / We have no money to…” rings out, its shrill pitch rising above the clamor of intelligent and focused conversation, much to the vexation of those of us who know better. Simply put, it’s a cop-out for being lazy, and we all know it.

What’s really annoying is that making your space impressive isn’t really that hard, or even that costly- if I can pull a professional show together with virtually no budget to speak of, so can you. Once your potential Patrons are inside, you can wow them with your professionalism even when you can’t with your location. So what do I mean by this, exactly?

As I noted earlier, having a clean and safe place is very important to your success, but there’s much more you can do to stack the deck in your favor. You’re an Art Gallery, so start behaving like one, or we Artists will make you. So as a complimentary Artbitch public service, I’ll start with some basic tips.

Feel free to take notes.

First up: Put out the Welcome Mat, but remember to place it behind the Velvet Rope. In my last blog, I introduced the concept of the “Velvet Rope” as a method of possible control over the mass of idiocy that without fail, surges forward every First Friday and generally mucks up the works.

The number of people who emailed me with pure hated for this idea I fronted? Zero. I may be on to something, methinks- perhaps I should reexamine my idea of a combination speakeasy & art gallery while I’m at it. Gah. Another idea for another time, I guess. Since it stands to reason that if you separate the wheat from the metaphorical chaff you’ll get a better base of Patrons, I’m all for it. Stop the “trash” before it even gets in the door, and you won’t have to take it out later that night.

Great, you say. Just what we need… more elitism. You bet’cha. Going to an art event should never be confused with going to the club, unless the art event actually IS in the club. I don’t want the cast of Jersey Shore ruining my show, and since I’m the one providing an entertainment of sorts, I’m the one who gets to pick the guest list, via my hand picked door guy.

Clad like crap? Adios. Staggering drunk in line? Dos Verdana. Being rude and disrespectful?  Gutennacht. Attempting to cajole your way in? Vaya con Dios, mi amigo. Dressed in skin tight leather, wearing five inch heels and fishnet stockings, looking like an Asian Joan Jett? The wine bar is to the left, and help yourself to some caviar as well. My treat. BTW, did I mention that I’m the Artist showing here tonight?

Now, when it comes to the door guy, you’ll want someone who’s equivalently professional and intimidating- think of Mr. Rogers after a weekend tutorial in Chemistry taught by Hulk Hogan. As a rule, I usually don’t  believe in any form of discrimination, but if someone is living out the “bro” stereotype full throttle, I’m all for kicking them to the curb at warp speed to save myself some serious aggravation later.

Stop it at the door, you keep it off the floor.

Second: Seek Enlightenment: if you want to showcase the Art in your gallery, it needs to be seen under the best conditions, and one simple way to do that is with the lighting that is paramount for your space. In most applications, some form of track lighting will usually do the trick. This type of lighting system features easily replaceable bulbs, positional fixtures (to change the angle or direction of the beam) and has become one of the more affordable systems as of late.

So lighten up, already. You and your space will feel (and look) so much better.

Third: I’m your Tour Guide and we’re going to have fun! For some people, an Art Gallery can be an intimidating experience- it’s your job to help lead the neophytes through the artistic minefields and show them the way to personal enlightenment. Your main purpose is to promote your Artists, of course, but within that context- you can also serve as a substitute teacher of sorts to the inexperienced. If we expect the PAC to transform, then we need to start sowing some metaphorical culture seeds, in my highly biased opinion.

Yes, you should talk about your represented Artists, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to educate your blissfully captive audience about the techniques and history behind their respective style as well. As a gallery owner, you must make the effort to demystify Art for the masses, and show them why one’s Life is so much richer when it’s presence is known. Everyone has had that one Teacher whom they liked as a kid- do you know why? It was because they made learning interesting, and that should be an integral part of your job at the present.

And if by enlightening the general public, you can sell a whole bunch of Art, well… that’s just additional icing on the kielbasa then, isn’t it?

Fourth: Looks Professional. Acts Professional. Must be Professional. When I was just starting out, my original Art Rep advised me that the initial perception of oneself had to strike first, your substance could follow somewhat afterward. Twenty some odd years later, its been my experience that she had a solid lead on a core marketing value.

First impressions really do count for a lot, especially when it comes to the world of business, and in the minds of many, success breeds confidence. Understanding that concept, and it’s inherent real world use, can make a key difference in how your gallery is perceived by both the Public and your established Patrons. An example from the desk of the Artbitch: ten years or so ago, things had really slowed down for my gallery career- I was so cold professionally that you could have chilled drinks on me. There were no bookings, no shows, and no interest in the new work I was doing at that point in time.
Nada, zip, el zilcherino.

For someone who was used to planning concurrent shows, this state of affairs had me as nervous as Rick Perry locked in a room with talkative Scientists. Fortunately for my flagging career, my old rep had a simple solution, one that women have used successfully for centuries: the art of faking it.

“It” in this case being the false perception that I was simply overflowing with success. Wherever I went, from art openings to my local Circle K, I put forth the fiction that I was simply slammed, with nary a chance to breathe. There was just no way possible that I could realistically accept any more private commissions, as I was just booked solid for months.

Oh… the agony and the burden of my beautiful talent. Within a month of my one man play, I was contacted by a new client who wanted a simple painting- I begged off, claiming that I was jammed up for at least a year, and couldn’t possibly accept his trifle, as I was just too damn popular. A $1000.00 commission was his offer and I actually said: “I won’t lift a pencil until I see five grand in my palm, so why don’t you come back when you’re all ready to play with the big boys?”

Seriously. And I wasn’t even drunk. The truly amazing part of my artistic arrogance was this: IT ACTUALLY WORKED. He came back the next day, greased my bank account with a very nice counteroffer, and then, THANKED me liberally for carving out the time for him. Calling me bowled over is putting it mildly, to say the very least. Naturally, I took almost two months to finish what normally takes two weeks. Didn’t want to seem too quick, you know. I learned that from watching Scotty on Star Trek: if they don’t think you work miracles, they’ll lose all respect for you.

So, the million dollar question I’d have to ask is this: why did it work? I have a theory, and it actually makes sense on a primal level. People love a winner, or more accurately- we love people whom we perceive as being successful, and at our inner primate core, we hope that some glimmer of what they’ve got rubs off on us. We all want to hang out with the cool kids, be a part of that intimate inner circle no one else can gain entry to, and then loft our conceit above the commoners, while claiming it’s not that big a deal. In the end, we’re all just a bunch of programmable monkeys, and you as a gallery owner can seize upon that by playing the part.
When potential Patrons walk into your gallery, present yourself as successful, and exude a quiet confidence- both in your manner and the way you dress, which should display the rock solid sense of the true professional. As far as their need to know, everything you touch turns to gold, and impress upon them that your place is THE place that they should come to and then proceed to spend money in. Confidence breeds success. Try some on for size, and I guarantee you’ll like the way it fits.

Fifth: Display Standards. Please get some… and right quick. One of the biggest problem areas that some of Phoenix’s galleries need to correct dramatically, is the overall quality of how their work is displayed. To be fair, these problematic issues can run the gamut, but when it all goes horribly wrong, the usually benign act of visiting a Gallery can mutate very rapidly into an artsy version of the Bataan Death March.

And while I am obviously joking, I’m really not exaggerating by much.  As I said earlier, its like the local fraternity took a community college Art class and then decided they needed to go open a boutique- it’s just that painful. Brutal, in fact. The reality of marketing art is that if your work isn’t displayed in the best possible manner, it’s going to go home with you, and not with a potential Patron.

So as a favor from one artistic colleague to another, I’m going to share a few simple guidelines that I think would be beneficial to you. The end goal that you should aim for is this: Make it as easy as possible for someone to buy the work that you represent. The best way to do this is an iron-clad contract with your Artists that demands certain expectations from them and their to be presented works of Art.

If they’re going to be displaying prints, regardless of subject,  note that they must be professionally printed, because color copies from Kinko’s look like crap, and the truly serious buyers you want to cultivate WILL know the difference, and call you and your Artists out on it. Art that is displayed with any thing other than professional materials makes it appear unprofessional and self-indulgent, plus- it also forces potential Patrons to have to do one more extra step, which they hate.

State in writing that all work to be displayed must be satisfactorily framed, unless it’s a gallery stretched painting or some other type of artistic media that does not require framing, such as a floor sculpture, for instance. Title cards should be clearly printed (not handwritten) for supreme legibility, and ought to list the title, size, media and price of the piece of art it represents, as well as the contact info for the Artist, except in those cases where the Gallery will be handling all aspects of the sale and future contact.

Clean smudges and fingerprints off the glass (if the work is framed) and make sure the art is hung level. Sculptures should be secured safely, as accidents sometimes can, and will- happen. Not too surprisingly, Patrons really are thankful for this sort of thing, and tend to show their appreciation by sales and spreading the word about your place.
And if you do your job right, that word of mouth won’t include the word “sucks”.

Be open more than two nights a month. You have 29 other days to play with, you know. This one has always aggravated the hell out of me. Why would you spend $1000.00 a month or more to rent a space, and then be open only two nights out of thirty-one? Maybe I’m missing some ethereal point, but does this business strategy make sense to anybody? If I were to look at this from a cost per usage ratio, it would be cheaper to just go blow that cash on hookers and pizza. 

At least then you’d know that you really got your money’s worth.

I am sympathetic to the fact that many Gallery owners are forced to sometimes work two jobs to pay for their spaces, but I also know that if you want to be successful, you have to be accessible for when your potential customers are both ready and have the free time to come look at your gallery. This translates to being open at least on the weekends, when the crowds are downtown.

Friday and Saturday, you should endeavor to be open for at least a few hours during the night when people are more apt to be out and about, and as for Sunday, you can reserve it for previously set gallery appointments if you want that day off. Advertise this fact as much as possible, so that the general public is made aware of your expanded hours, and give serious thought to having some form of event happen weekly as well, whether it be music, a poetry slam, or even hosting a charity affair.

Let’s do the math. If you can manage to do this every week, your gallery will then be open eight times a month, versus two. Four times the possible exposure for the space and your Artists, four times the possible sales opportunities, four times more than what your competition currently offers.

However- you should be prepared to accept the cold reality that if you don’t have the energy to run an art gallery the way it should be, then maybe this line of work is not for you. I admire your passion, but if you aren’t moving Art and making a profit, you really aren’t helping us or yourself.

When all is said and done, your gallery should be perceived as a thriving business, and not as an expensive hobby that you like to dabble in from time to time. Unless you like throwing money away, in which case- just stay your course.
Whew. I don’t know about you, but I am beat- so, I think that we’ll take a well deserved break right about now, and when we come back, I think we’ll have a quiet little chat about my fellow tribesmen, the Artists, and how some of them need a good metaphorical kick in the ass.

Come to think of it… let’s just screw that metaphorical part. 

 “If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business” – BC Forbes