June 6, 2017
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” – Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear
It has been heavy lately, has it not? I dropped the past blog to mixed and somewhat apathetic reviews, dealt with some annoyingly ongoing health issues, and had somebody I formerly respected stab me in the back to the point that I could do a fairly notable impression as a *Cenobite porcupine.
But what are you going to do? My limited faith in Humanity as always remains standing, but my reverence for certain people… not so much. To be quite honest, I’ve never understood why some of my fellow humans cave in so easily when faced with an ethical decision that doesn’t affect them directly, peripherally, or at all. It seems cowardice is the new bravery these days, much to my chagrin, and this brings me back in a roundabout way to the incessant thing sticking in my craw as of late, that being our so-called arts advocacy group known as Artlink.
Now, I’m not going to bore you with a rehash of my opinion in regards to how Artlink’s president Catrina Kahler has allegedly tossed the art community under the bus by metaphorically shacking up with the very people who are helping destroy it, but I will say one opinionated thing nonetheless- it’s time for either a palace revolt or a metaphorical firestorm that purifies. For sake of clarity, I have no issues with Catrina as a person- she seems nice, is easy on the eyes, and comes off as the type of woman I could probably really exasperate in a checkout line if I started randomly chatting her up.
In that regard, I’m pretty sure she’s not alone, and if I were to be brutally honest, she’s possibly overstocked with sympathetic allies in that department.
Along those lines, one ex-board member/artist recently confided in me that during their term under Catrina’s leadership, they felt more like a curiosity than an active participant. To quote: “I felt like a monkey in a cage.” This thought will be touched upon later in this screed, but this, in my humble opinion speaks volumes in regards to the disconnect between Artlink and the artistic community it claims to serve.
However, for me to say that Artlink has done nothing since it’s inception would not only be exceedingly untrue, it would also be outstandingly arrogant. Artlink’s list of accomplishments is long and wide, and to not give open credit where it’s truly due, would be an affront of gargantuan scope- even I will happily laud their (and this is key) past accomplishments. Nonetheless, that was yesterday, what are they doing today?
Well, gleefully getting in bed with the carpetbaggers dismantling the PAS, if one’s been paying attention, but I digress. Other than that almost inconsequential tidbit which quite honestly, I’m embarrassed to have to point out, Artlink is running like a fine tuned Yugo. Sure, I could note the fact that I didn’t see any advertising for this years’ Art Detour, past a few posters on Grand where all the galleries are, because who outside of that corridor needs to be made aware that a free art festival is taking place?
Nobody, that’s who. And let’s not forget the absence of local media involvement- since publicity for our two-night-a-month art scene seemingly ranks right up there with Artlink organizing their T-shirt drawer, one couldn’t possibly deem that Art Detour should fare any better- after all, isn’t it the height of true professionalism to post a volunteer call a week before an event you had months to plan?
Nah.. it would be impolite of me to make certain so-called advocates blush under the weight of their alleged mismanagement, downright boorish, if truth be told. And if there’s one thing I’m known far and wide for, it’s a sense of supreme diplomacy even when facing opposition from faux advocates who outwardly lack not only common sense in regards to promoting our efforts, but allegedly, a sense of ethics as well.
The definition of advocate by the way, is as follows: “One who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group.” Given those parameters, could somebody please explain to me or anyone for that matter, how Artlink’s two last “deals” for Creatives in this city come anywhere close to the concept of true advocacy? This concern is followed by another query split in twain: does it seem like Artlink is truly doing the job it claps itself on the back for, and where is it spending the money it raises from it’s soft coercion? I’d say no and I’m not sure, but then again, I’m a cynic who believes in tangible reality, not hype.
Unless it comes to how awesome Ding Dongs are, and even then, I’m kind of judgmental.
Despite my disparagement, this year’s Detour came off as pretty solid, but the success of such cannot be laid at the feet of Artlink, if word on the street is any indicator. In gathering the opinion of some of the gallery owners on Grand, my takeaway was that Artlink’s influence upon the scene is akin to that of a deadbeat father- they’re there for the BBQ’s and the make-up sex, but flee when the metaphorical diaper needs to be changed.
Artlink hasn’t created a base for a financially stable art scene, far from it. Any positive change in regards to sales should be given to the galleries whose sheer force of will and endless networking have created the base from which they draw fiscal solidity.
Isn’t it ironic that the ones calling those of liberal bent “snowflakes”, psychologically melt the moment someone dares mock their Tangerine Jesus using either humor or more typically, actual facts? Karen Fiorito, the California-based artist who is responsible for the work, has received numerous threats of rape, death and harm to her children since the works installation, because that’s how the alt-right handles mature dissension in this, the modern era: threatening violence in their underwear, all while hiding under the internets bed.
Along those lines, a “protest rally” was organized, which garnered the support of nine “Bikers for Trump”, none of whom actually showed up. Ooh, that’s fierce. You’d think a state that went for the Mango Mussolini could do way better in the cretin department than these delusional twits, but I digress. Best part? Their posting a meet-up space that’s was bulldozed years ago just because they liked the name, which was “Patriot’s Park”. A side note: you’d think people who spend the majority of their free time web-whining would be equally adept at using Google, but as I’ve often noted before, these Trumplethinskins are as allergic to facts as Superman is to Kryptonite.
Now, while I support both the message and the staging of this provocative work, it does raise an almost curmudgeonly grumble; the people who came down here for the sole purpose of shooting selfies with it should have been here for the main event, not the sideshow. While I and I’m sure many other in the scene are grateful for the crowds [and worldwide publicity] it generated, the discovery of our collective efforts afterwards as if almost by accident is a smear that is borne solely on the shoulders of Artlink, and no one else.
Seriously… why isn’t the majority of the scene sick and tired of this half-ass, craft-fair marketing, bulls**t yet? Why can’t we as a whole find the utmost balance between commerce and creativity?
Speaking of which, can anyone at Artlink explain why (and how) they let the opportunities of the Final Four slip by? In a week that played host to one of sport’s biggest events, coupled with the Pride Parade and the free of charge Mc Dowell Music Festival, how hard would it have been to pitch a tent near any one of these events, distribute some flyers, and hand out a couple of those T-shirts Artlink is so proud of? Call me crazy, but wouldn’t diverting some of that FREE national publicity towards our local art scene have been a good idea as a means to expand our reach?
And when it comes to the concept of allegorical expansion, where is (and what is) Artlink’s long-term game plan to benefit the PAS? I see a lot of lame-ass self-congratulatory parties taking place, but I don’t see any useful forward movement, and that’s not what advocacy is supposed to be about, but I digress. Artlink’s willing pairing with Baron Development, one of the countless influences that is sublimating our community into ethereal remembrance, serves in my opinion as a shining testament to how insipidly dense the organization has become.
I noted this alliance in a previous blog, wherein Baron Properties and Artlink announced a voucher program that would have allowed residents to purchase art pieces and receive a discount on their rent in return. The original reimbursements started at $250.00, but based on availability, could have gone higher. Incoming residents who used the art vouchers were directed to an online list of participating artists, galleries and art spaces, which included Roosevelt Row spaces such as Eye Lounge and the Phoenix Center for the Arts, and tenants had 60 days from their move in to redeem said voucher with a receipt of their purchases.
All of this announced via an ever so fluffy press release, which heralded a unique and innovative approach to the promotion of our local art scene in conjunction with our ostensible advocacy group.
Except….. according to one of Illuminate’s leasing consultants [a lovely girl by the name of Lauren McCauley] the program was implemented “for only four or five months, I don’t remember- it was gone by the time I was hired”. Now I don’t know about you, but that remarkably short time frame hardly seems like it could have had a calculable financial impact, but that’s just my humble opinion- maybe I missed the part where my fellow artists were rolling in their pimped-out Cadillac’s, making the gentrified cash rain.
But that’s what I love about the current incarnation of our resident faux-arts advocacy group- it never fails to hastily craft a feeble attempt at relevancy whenever it’s previous one has crashed and burned like Paul Walker inside a 2005 Carrera GT. I’m sorry. That was heartless. By comparison, I’m fairly confident the majority of artists in this town wouldn’t condescend to p*** on Artlink if it were on fire, and the body of work he created is theoretically something that has a much better chance of standing the test of time, given Artlink’s meandering in regards to a comprehensive end-game.
But Odin love them, they keep plugging away* like a drunken toddler in the dark, and one can’t help but admire that kind of gritty determination, no matter what side of my opinion you choose to land on.
From the press release: “Artlink Inc. is now accepting applications from Arizona-based artists for its inaugural grant program: The Artist Forward Fund (TAFF). The deadline for applications is midnight May 31, 2017 Mountain Standard Time (MST).
The program, originally announced at the 2017 Art d’Core Gala during Art Detour 29, is produced by Artlink in collaboration with a group of prominent professional artists who are serving on the newly formed Artlink Artist Council (AAC): Julie Anand, Joan Baron, Christine Cassano, Bill Dambrova, Peter Deise, Jeff Falk, Isaac Fortoul, Gabriel Fortoul, Frank Gonzales, Annie Lopez, William LeGoullon, Ann Morton, Joe Ray, Patricia Sannit, Randy Slack, Marilyn Szabo.
These established professional artists have worked 10 years or more in exhibiting and/or producing exhibitions that shine a spotlight on Phoenix; represent the diverse cultural identity of our city; and have contributed significant time/energy to either Art Detour/Artlink and/or partner initiatives that strive to elevate the profile of Phoenix’s creative community.
Problem is.. I don’t know what any of that has to do with Art. After all Art is who you are, not what you create.. what you create is a expression of who you are. If what you create is a lack of personal integrity, that is not art.”
My point is this: not everyone within the PAS went to or agrees with, this back-patting charade, and not everyone in the PAS is up to date in regards to what’s up with the limited opportunities available, so getting this information online ASAP should have been a priority. Factor in that the deadline comes just 30 days after it was, and hopefully one can see why once again, half-ass is Artlinks go-to cruising speed. I know it’s a bitchy grey area, but if you gloss over the cogs that comprise the machine, what are you like when it comes to the ongoing maintenance of it?
Personally, I think the retired without fanfare and utterly riotous failure that was the Baron “deal” serves as a stark case in point, but I tend to deal with the absolute, not the theoretical. As to the artists involved with this program, I’m not going to have too much in the way of snark to fling, due to either respect for who they are and what they represent, or because I have an inter-personal relation ship with them. Not too much, but some. It is me after all.
To somewhat smooth over any hackles that may get raised in regards to this grouping, I’d go one step further and state with full conviction that any flaws to be blamed within this proposal most likely will rest at the feet of the suits, not the smocks, as I can’t really see anybody in this pool of talent being that short-sighted. While I appreciate what this gifted group is trying to achieve, it would be foolish to overlook the level of distrust that Artlink has among my fellow Creatives, and that’s something I’m neither going to forgive or forget, given the past.
To further expand upon the earlier words of a former artist who served on the board: “I felt like a monkey in a cage most of the time… like I was trotted out when they needed to prove they knew artists, and when I resigned, the regular dinner invitations stopped completely. [In quite the sarcastic tone…] I’m sure those two aren’t related, right?”
This insight concerning Artlinks inner machinations not only once again underscores the alleged need to appear artist friendly, it also opens a discussion on the suggested proclivity of a specific person using people they’ve deemed influential as steps on the way up to a higher plane of shoulder-rubbing, AKA “coat-tailing” within the PAS. Whether this is true or not, I simply do not know, but the stories circulating around the scene have tended to echo each other nonetheless, and since Catrina has basically dodged all attempts to have a clearly defined discussion in regards to issues I’ve raised, [as described earlier in this series] I really can’t make a purely clean judgment call as a rule.
So take it as it lays. It wouldn’t be out of character within the PAS, and I’m pretty much done with extending the welcome mat, if truth be told, given the fact she’s questioned both my honesty and motives overall. My adulterous ex-fiancé has better odds at getting back on my good side, and that’s only because she’d do that thing I really like… cooking. If the stories about Catrina are accurate, she’d cater the dinner, and then brag about how many hours she spent peeling the shrimp.
If you know her, I’m sure you know for certain. If you know what I mean. Allegedly, of course.
Getting back to the board, [hereafter referred to it’s proper name, the AAC] the talent is honestly stunning. I’m a huge fan of most of the assembled artists, save for one person who had a wackadoo moment and threatened me over the phone several years ago, but that’s water under the bridge, as the common saying goes, and I feel no need to reopen that particular box of idiocy, no matter how tempting or overdue it might be.
I’ll just take great satisfaction knowing they’ll die alone and eaten by the feral cats they’ve adopted, and leave it at that. My current adulting level: June Cleaver. See? I can grow as a person. It’s just not as interesting.
However, I still think this alliance will either fail or fadeout within a year, not because of the given personalities involved, but due mostly to Catrina’s already noted dearth of leadership and the unforeseen challenges ahead. Now that my minor finickiness is abated, lets get to my favorite part of why I write- the moment when I start dissecting a metaphorical cow with a literary chainsaw, and turn the surroundings into an organic Pollack painting.
First, let’s start with the “prizes” Artlink is offering: a $500.00 grant, the guarantee of a long-term mentorship “from professional artists who have been living and working in the area for years, and/or the opportunity for an exhibition facilitated by Artlink.”
Now, if these were under the guidance of a consistently proficient advocacy group, I’d probably be a tad bit less skeptical of it’s overall effect in regards to the career of whatever artist receives it. In order to explain my cynicism as to these offerings, I’m going to approach them individually, so as to keep the distinctive issues between them clear.
1) Five hundred bucks ain’t worth what it used to be, now is it?
When I was born way back in January of 1969, 500 dollars was *equivalent to the buying power of 3,400.45 today. (2017) In 1991, when I started my art career in Phoenix, that amount had dropped to $902.21. [*http://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=500&year=1969]
After having spoken to two of the artists that sit on the AAC, it seems that the flaws inherent within this grant idea cannot be laid at the feet of the creative facet, but at the short-sighted and so-called leadership of Artlink, per typical modus operandi. Several ideas were allegedly cooked up by the smocks that know far better than the suits what is ACTUALLY needed in the way of assistance to the artistic community, but according to my sources, those were either ignored or jettisoned by the ones who know the very least of which they speak.
Or as I call it, a typical Wednesday for Catrina and her cabal of second-handers.
If you remember, I wrote about Artlink’s annual juried exhibition/clusterf**k a while back, wherein they somehow managed to get Baron Development to pony up 10k in prizes, for art that was overall, top quality, but hardly groundbreaking or risk-taking. I’m not going to regurgitate the intricacies, but the show was weak in it’s presentation, and it’s choice of venue [The Heard] was out of place for an advocacy group that claims to fully support the PAS. However, I am truly happy that somebody who strikes me as relatively non-material took home the Grand Prize of 5k, and that leads me to a rather pointed series of questions:
Instead of throwing yet another self-congratulatory circle jerk, why didn’t Artlink use that money to it’s supreme potential? Can you imagine the ripple effect of ten 1k grants? Or five 2k ones? Maybe an outreach of 2 5k’s, or even better, one 10k grant- that right there, would make a difference worth noting. I for one, could squeeze juice out of ten grand better than *Xenia Onatopp practicing her technique on a Canadian Admiral, and I’m completely addicted to buying books, which can get rather costly after a while.
Seriously. Am I only one who’s thought of this? If so, then we’re all in really deep trouble, because if I’m the smartest snark in the room, then you need to do two things right now: cash in your assets, and party like it’s 1999, because the end times are nigh, and the Horsemen are-a coming to play all the hits. If Artlink wants to pretend to help artists using the obvious smoke-and-mirrors distraction of self-serving and inadequate endowments, then it definitely needs to get it’s act together and cough up some effective underwriting to do it.
But then again, I also believe in extraterrestrials, so its difficult to see which will show up in this scene first… my odds are on the visitors with the unnerving *cookbook.
*[ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk01eeKMD_I ]
My simple suggestion to Artlink: next time you feel the need to waste precious capital on yet another dance party, put that money back into the hands of the demographic you pretend to advocate for, and just have a BBQ at Catrinas house- you know… the one you only get invited to if you have use as a stair-step or socially relevant prop?
This of course, now naturally leads to the second issue at hand- the so-called ‘mentorship” being offered in lieu of any truly effectual and constructive funding.
2) Mentorship, like producing a watchable DC superhero movie, is harder than it sounds.
The concept of Mentorship is regarded as the guidance provided by an experienced person in either a specific trade or within an institution, be it a business or educational concern, and in relation to where the arts are concerned. it is also an exceedingly crucial component, and I state this based on my own personal experience. One needs to choose their mentors by way of the same vigilance that mentors use to select their apprentices- that with a sense of focused caution. For the relationship to work, there must be a profound level of trust and respect on both sides, and it cannot waver.
The other two necessities are time and patience, something most Creatives are not really known for having in abundance, but that are imperative for any association to be truly successful, and that’s where I see the hairline cracks forming in this initiatives armor. To be a fairly effective mentor, one needs to carve out and dedicate a significant chunk of one’s life to the cause. As much as I hold sincere respect for the artists involved, (save for the one who’ll be eaten by cats, of course) I happen to harbor severe reservations as to if they’re truly aware how much time this aspect will consume in regards to their lives.
Once again, I’m NOT bagging on the artists in regards to their dedication or passion for this project, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that given the fact most artists typically work a day gig on top of their “real job”, finding time to be a life-coach for an inexperienced minion running underfoot is gonna be a real bitch, no matter how much energy you approach it with. This leads to another query I have: if the role of mentorship rests on the shoulders of the group entire, how will they share custody of their artsy Padawan? I can see it now:
“You get them Monday, I get them Tuesday, the rest of you can have them on Wednesday and every other Friday, and we all draw straws on who gets to take them out for Dick Blicks and Pinkberry on the weekend.”
Yep. There’s no possible way that this plan could have any massive hiccups. Like most of Artlink’s other endeavors as of late, I’m sure this one will run smoother than Teflon on glass. After all, just because their past track record of merging inefficient marketing while throwing artists under the bus, proves otherwise, that’s no reason to be a negative Nancy now does it? Of course not. Even a monkey with a broken typewriter will eventually draft an Academy Award screenplay given enough time, so this feeling of unbridled optimism that come this same time next year, we’ll all be watching Exit Through the Gift Shop Pt.2, is *clearly in order.
*[Sarcasm highly intended.]
Or more likely, we’ll be standing outside where the gift shop used to stand, staring through the cracked windows of yet another failed venture. If the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions, I’d opine that Artlink has pretty much built a 12-lane super highway by now, and that all the traffic on it is being routed through one lane, while they decide where to place the electronic billboard heralding their lack of accomplishment.
3) Did anyone else notice there’s more vagaries in this Artists’ Call than a French New Wave film?
I won’t speak for anyone save myself, but I’m a person who really likes specifics. Specific specifics, specifically. I despise platitudes, saccharine treacle masquerading as Peter Pan advice, and I, if truth be told, loathe the phrase “trust me”, with the heat of a thousand suns- especially when there’s no base to stand secure on. Why do I feel the need to state this?
Well, due to the wording and consistent lack of details that Artlink seems so fond of using in it’s supposed artist calls, I find it’s vague promises of things that may be to come a tad bit vexing. In the case of the prior deal with RED Development, it was the cheerfully indistinct “details to follow” in relation to the compensation for the artists work being reproduced as limited edition prints, and in this newest instance, it’s the phrase “and/or”.
From the call yet again: “The selected grant recipient will receive a $500 grant and/or the opportunity for an exhibition facilitated by Artlink. Additionally, members of the AAC will provide mentorship to selected artist(s). The artist recipient will be someone who demonstrates potential in their practice through risk-taking and pushing their work in dynamic ways. It will be someone who is at a critical juncture in their career when this support would be most impactful.”
“Artlink will schedule the exhibition based on discussions and calendars of both the artist and the venue providing the space.” This is puzzlingly followed by the reiteration in the FAQ section of a previously established point, that being: ” The criteria is up to the Artlink Artist Council in determining which artist “demonstrates potential in their practice through risk-taking and pushing their work in dynamic ways.”
Two things: is there any reason why an exhibition is listed if there’s a probable chance it won’t actually be granted, and what purpose does a replication of the judging criteria announcement serve? Is it to help clarify Artlinks stance, or to serve as a bulwark against future criticism of their not providing any actual details in the first place?
Seriously… what defines “risk-taking”, and what entails the “dynamic” pushing of one’s work? Who will set that standard within the assembled group of Creatives, and how will the differences of opinion be eventually settled? It’s almost as if Catrina and her rubber-stamping scheme monkeys attended a Tupperware party and while they forgot to take notes, they still want credit for skimming the less pertinent points of the brochure nonetheless.
I’d also highlight that there will never be a time in any artists career where they wouldn’t view free money or a sponsored show as impactful, but I digress, since it’s such an obvious point that it shouldn’t have to be made in the first place. As for the theoretical exhibition, will it be all new work, or a retrospective of career thus far? Will it be a large or intimate show? What venues will be considered- established galleries, or the bottom tier of alternative spaces, such as coffee shops?
When one factors in the ongoing scarcity of places to successfully show ones work at, [IE: make actual sales] where is there an Artlink friendly gallery that fits all the ass-kissing requirements that Artlink demands, and has the level of professional presentation that this scene so severely lacks?
Who knows- maybe they’ll just book the Heard again, and unlike before, just go completely full-ass with the incompetence throttle this time. See? I can give credit where credit is due, despite all evidence to the contrary. So what is there to do in regards to this, you ask? To be brutally honest, it would be hypocritical of me as an artist to demand that my fellow artists pass up free money that could in theory, support creative endeavors, albeit on an obviously minor level- despite what some of my critics think, I’m a big believer in grabbing opportunities if they present themselves.
Having said that, I’m also a colossal proponent for not making deals with the Devil for inconsequential gains- Artlinks advocacy on the behalf of the PAS is at best, akin to Marie Antoinette telling peasants to go suck cake. What is currently being offered are metaphorical crumbs that have fallen off the table, and we’re supposed to not only be grateful for this arrogant condescension, we’re also expected to fund it as well, something I find to be particularly infuriating.
I’ve previously mentioned the fact that despite being underwritten by a host of entities, Artlink still inflicts a form of soft coercion on the art community in the form of membership fees. If you’re not a member, you, your work, and your gallery doesn’t get promoted, period. Yep… nothing screams “successful advocacy model” than hitting up the cash-strapped demographic you’re supposed to protect and promote under the threat of exclusion, am I right? In essence, you’re out there on your own, and it’s something that allegedly happens to paid members as well, if the stories of being passed over by the trolley service happen to be accurate.
So where do we go from here? Do we continue with the tried and true way of failure, or do we start anew and try a more logical approach, one that applies the reservoirs of social and cultural marketing to it’s fullest and makes use of the vast talent pool waiting to be tapped here?
“Any leader who feels the pain and fights for you, support him or you lose- but if that leader doesn’t feel the pain and fight for you, don’t support him, fight for yourself, be a leader and fight for others.” – Saminu Kanti