Consortium of Mediocrity (An Army of None.)
September 6, 2012
How are we today? Better than average, I hope.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being average, mind you- it’s just that if given a choice, why would you be? Nothing is more boring than being just like everybody else, and while vanilla may be the most popular flavor in the world, it’s also the least exciting.
I’m not talking about Hipsters, whom I was hating long before it was cool- no, I’m referencing the subject of Mediocrity, a quality that America seems to have gleefully embraced wholeheartedly lately. From what we consider literature to our movies to our Politics, it seems we just can’t get enough of half-ass and the half-witted.
So, is it really a shock when our local Arts organizations are any less sub standard?
In the past, I’ve touched on organized Mediocrity (First Friday, The Phoenix New Times) practitioners of Mediocrity (Peter Bugg, Claire Lawton, Amy Silverman) but this time around I’m aiming at the highest pinnacle of the lowest form of thin-skinned narcissism, that being self-congratulatory Mediocrity, personified as of late in the guise of one Mrs. Elena Thornton.
So who is she, and what’s the story as to why am I feeling the need to issue a bitch-slap?
Well, in the short version, she’s the Artbitch’s newest scratching post, and in the long version she oversees The Arizona Consortium of the Arts Charity, whose Mission statement is to do this:
“Nurture an inspirational environment for individuals to self express through the Arts, and to develop their creative abilities.”
That’s a noble goal, albeit one that’s worded really badly.
Trust Me. I’m an Artist.
Several months ago, I was introduced to Elena, while attending an event where the ACOTA was presenting a “show” of it’s accumulated collection of works by local Artists. To call it truly awful would be an understatement of biblical proportion, and this is coming from someone who’s eyesight has literally survived hundreds of First Fridays.
Now, if I were forced to say something nice about her substandard effort, the only straightforward compliment I could grant regarding this train-wreck is that it was hung well, but that’s only because she had nothing to do with that part of the process.
Possessing all the charm and ability of a High School Art Fair, it also managed to have absolutely no connection with where it was being displayed- that being the Arizona Historical Society, located at Papago Park.
To give you some context on the depth of my dislike, I’d sit through a Peter Bugg retrospective, TWICE, before I’d ever go see crap like that again.
Sorry. That was a little harsh, I think.
On second thought, my chances of playing for the Redwings are actually pretty good overall, and Bugg might deserve a retrospective, if only to serve as a practical example of what unbridled pretentiousness in the Arts truly looks like.
My sincerest and deepest apologies all around.
Back to the grind.
Several little artsy birds have informed me that the only reason this show was approved to occupy a free space at the Society was because it was pitched as pertaining directly to the Museum’s Mission Statement, which is listed as such:
“The Arizona Historical Society is a state agency whose mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate the history of Arizona, the West, and northern Mexico as it pertains to Arizona.”
Keeping that in mind, I have no idea as to what low quality art depicting Egyptian Pyramids, and Russian Onion Domes has to do with AZ, but hey… I tend to use actual logic in my day to day life, so maybe that’s what has been keeping me from seeing the deeper meaning that was inherent there.
To be fair, there were two or three pieces that were of good quality, but the odds are fairly strong that those were solitary glitches in her collection of mediocrity amber. But that’s not the reason I’m annoyed with her- far from it.
Bothersome- but easily dealt with once discovered. Unfortunately for the scene, our dog is covered by scores of these artsy parasites, and no matter how tough our mangy little mutt may be, eventually he’s gonna drop dead from blood loss, if not Lyme disease.
Now don’t get me wrong- I’m not of the mind-set that my humbly acidic screeds are changing the world, but if every now and then, they facilitate a dialogue that gets the art-peeps talking about the future of this scene, then that’s nothing but good, in my opinion.
Debate. It moves a civil society forward, and it is absolutely vital to the alteration of a problem, since no revolution was ever started by people who were happy about their situation.
Irritatingly, one of the more maddening things about working in PHX as a Creative is the thin-skinned attitude that persists within- if I had a nickel for every time I saw a fellow “Artist” get his or her nose bent out of joint over a perceived slight, I could have bought that evil volcano lair complete with matching Death Ray and retired years ago.
[Granted, I may be directly responsible for a majority of those slights, but I digress.]
For the record, stating a factdoesn’t make you insufferably rude, it means you’re honest, and you’d think that a rational person would appreciate that. But seemingly, it’s considered bad form if you call attention to an issue that someone else would rather ignore, and here is where our tale begins.
Just like Betty White, I’m on the FaceBook, keeping up to date with what’s going on in regards to the Arts community, and whether you’re a fan or not of Social Media, you’d still have to admit it’s an excellent way to disseminate information, and call attention to certain problems that need fixing.
“Going Viral” is how the cool kids put it, I’ve been informed.
Because of the fact that the web is mostly an economical resource, it’s been utilized for both propaganda and educational platforms, porn being somewhere in between, depending on your needs. I of course, never look at the naughty stuff myself, but I’ve been told it’s very exciting.
The downside to the torrent of all this data is that everybody now thinks they’re a Rhodes Scholar when it comes to talking about the issues of the day. The Web provides a haven for the sort of people who, in the past, were relegated to shouting on street corners or picking fights in bars when you disagreed with them.
There’s nothing quite so infuriating than having a battle of wits with an obviously unarmed opponent who believes that they’re the ones who are winning.
Facts are NOT supposed to be open to erroneous and random interpretation, that’s why they’re called facts, not: “wow, I think I may be on to something here with this pile of collected data ”.
What can I say… I’m a realist.
At this point, I’d like to point out a few issues I was having so you can understand the context.
Need examples of people doing good things for the community?
So pick a path, get off your ass and do something useful already.
On the subject of Arizona being an “oasis of art and culture”, as this article claimed, if this is actually true, then Detroit must be safer than a bank vault. This vile brand of journo-fluff is exactly what I hate to read in regards to promoting the Arts, especially in a scene that needs as much exposure as it can get.
Let’s assume that someone actually used this so-called article as a point of reference- they might logically presuppose that the only thing that PHX offers up as cultural highlights are a few places to eat, two museums, one of which bleeds staff like an open wound and isn’t even accredited- and a place where you can buy… Olive Oil.
Yep… that’s some deep and Artsy roots there, let me tell you. Nothing says “culture” like a T-shirt and some salad dressing. Seriously… when did Olive Oil become a tourist attraction?
Small wonder why we’re becoming the go-to punch line for America and lately- the world.
With no due respect, if I was going to summarize what is worth seeing in PHX, I sure as heck wouldn’t mention places that already have an in-house publicity department- they don’t really need the additional PR, and they have a staff working 24/7 on their behalf.
The PAS doesn’t have that, and we’re the ones who need it the most.
Big mistake on my part, apparently.
For instance, I don’t repost any of the Libertarian / Conspiracy / Game Links that get sent my way, because I find them annoying. However, if you see something posted on my wall, that’s a pretty good indicator that I stand behind it 100%, and am willing to defend it, if necessary.
After my little bon mot was taken down, I received the following FB Message from Elena:
I’m sure some of you have already noticed a few things about this message. For those of you who haven’t, let me point them out to you- trust me, it’s gonna be fun.
My name is “Wayne”, not “Michael”, not “Wayne (hyphen) Michael”, just Wayne. If you want to really kiss up, just call me “His Awesomeness, the Incredibly Bitchin’ Funk God Wayne Michael Reich” and we’ll get along just fine. As a suggestion, I would recommend that if you want to send me a personal message in the future, whether it be happy or not- that you do a little research and get my name right before you attempt to talk down to me or deride my opinion.
After all, I got your name, and I got your number- the least you can do is return the favor.
Until I met Elena, I had never heard of her organization, and after a quick survey of my artsy peeps within the PAS, neither had anyone else, apparently. Heck, their FB page only has 626 “likes”, so they’re hardly a powerhouse of change for the community. especially when you consider that a FB page dedicated to pickles has more friends than her.
[Pickle Page Link:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Can-this-Pickle-get-more-fans-than-Twilight/338654499096?ref=ts ]
Way to use the available tools. You’re an inspiration to dial-up users everywhere.
You’re all volunteers.
Its not about how many hours you work, or who you work for, or even if you do it for free- it’s about how effective you are getting your point across and heightening awareness. Most of the people I’ve talked to who’ve actually heard of Elena regard the ACOTA as a joke at best, and considering the quality of the events they’ve been putting together, I’d say they’re being charitable at best.
In reference to my earlier comment about roadblocks, one of the giant spanners in the works are the wannabes such as this, who, because they don’t have the chops to be Artists, decide that they’re going to be Art supporters. They go to all the events, name drop at every opportunity, and pat themselves on the back for doing absolutely nothing of worth.
For the record, scarfing down free cookies, drinking multiple glasses of wine, and being pretentious while chatting non-stop like a magpie, is not a talent, nor is it noble. It is however, exasperatingly annoying, and in the case of Elena, I’ve been informed that she makes my well-honed arrogance look like child’s play.
On second thought, that IS an impressive skill set… so maybe I’ll just call this one a draw.
To quote: “your disappointing comments upset our volunteers who wrote to me and alerted me about your negative comments…”I’m terribly sorry. If I had known I was dealing with a bunch of impotent thin-skinned twits, I would have been much more blunt. Not because I’m a jerk, but because it’s just so much fun to screw with somebody so uptight. God forbid that someone has a different (albeit accurate) opinion than yours.
Don’t like my opinion? Then try finding out why I believe it, rather than hiding under the covers- you might actually learn something, and maybe so will I, if your argument is persuasive.
As a side note, does anyone else think that it’s really strange that her loyal and trusted volunteers had to E-mail their concerns about what I had posted?
Can’t the ACOTA afford a phone, or even two cans connected by a string? Maybe her “volunteers” are like Snuffleupagus- they can only be seen when no mature adults are around.
But more than that, it serves as a perfect example of why certain “organizations” in this town are seemingly so ineffective at making a dent in our current situation of malaise. You can’t make changes that are necessary unless you’re effective with your message, and sticking your head in the sand isn’t the best way to achieve that.
Ego aside, most people don’t fail to remember talking to me- the word “intense” comes to mind, and it’s rare that anyone I’ve chatted with completely blanks me out. That’s not pride, that’s just the sad Truth.
With Ego full on, I did mention what I do, what I write, and the title of my little screed world as well- it’s something that usually sticks with most intelligent mammals, but not with her.
Actually my name is Wayne, so I can see that paying attention is not your strong suit. If you can’t handle different points of view, then don’t post.
If I were to be honest, I was totally stumped as to what to write about this month.
But now, with no small thanks to you, I now have something worthy to share with my readers, and the best part is that it was your suggestion that inspired my upcoming tale of your laughable reaction to my post.
The fact that you and your apparently thin-skinned volunteers reacted with such overkill to the legitimate question I posed only underscores why you’re an all volunteer organization.
Mature professionals aren’t afraid of negativity, nor are they afraid to tackle such issues head on, as this usually leads to solutions which are beneficial to all.
It’s truly a shame you lack such essential skills, but considering the high school quality of the “shows” I’ve seen come out of your organization, it’s really not that much of a surprise either.
So… as to my soon to be published blog about y’all, feel free to check out previous samples of my past screeds at: http://www.WayneMichaelReich.Blogspot.comto see just how “negative” I can really be when I give it my best college try.
Wayne Michael Reich
PS: If all goes well, your blog should be up within a week or so. Don’t thank me, it’s the least I can do for such a dedicated amateur.”
Apparently, she can dish it out, but she can’t take it.
Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, arranges art shows like a duck.
Must be a thin-skinned duck.
Now after that juvenile lack of response, I figured I was done with this ineffectual dingbat, filing her away under “small annoyances”. I wasn’t even thinking of writing anything about her impotent arts group to be honest, as she really wasn’t worth my time or interest.
There really is no gray in my life in that regard, and I like it. Keeps the Christmas card list easy to manage, cuts down on those pesky wedding invites, and it does make organizing a dinner party a breeze.
So to sum up- she starts a fight, runs away from said fight, blocks any attempt to debate, and then in a spineless and uncalled for action- attempts to create a rift between me and my friends.
I’ve always said that if anyone has an issue with me, real or imagined- they can always step up.
So these are your options: stand your ground and face me like the adult you claim to be, or I’ll drag you symbolically out into the light like the coward I know you are. It’s that simple.
But then again, should we expect anything less from a wannabe?
That’s the true negativity.
“There are certain things in which mediocrity is not to be endured, such as poetry, music, painting, public speaking.” – Jean de la Bruyere