Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

Gentrification prefers Blands Pt. 6 (All the Pieces)

“The corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst.” – David Hume

“Sometimes corruption is slowed by shedding light into what was previously shadowed.”– Paul Wolfowitz

Hello Blogiteers!

I have been one busy little Artbitch as of late- despite being under the ticking time-bomb of unemployment, walking through the sticky morass of both a workman’s comp and employer discrimination complaint, and getting closer to finding out who my cyber-stalker is, it seems I’m almost always running out of time, no matter how well scheduled it may be. Add in the fact I’m battling some major diabetic-related weight loss, that required the fitting of a CGM* sensor, along with the occasional flare-ups of my Diabetic side-effects, and you’ve got yourself a bag full of fun.
*[Continuous Glucose Monitor]

Specifically, the kind of bag you try to pass on to someone else. Speaking of passing the bag, it seems my last screed twerked a few nerves. For that, I’d like to apologize…. but I won’t. It’s a rather well-known fact I’d rather be right than liked, and when it comes to the subject of Artlink, it’s disturbingly easy to be both. Takes hardly any effort at all, to be quite candid, and therein lies the rub- while I hear CONSTANT griping from the bottom to the top in regards to their idiocy, I see very little push-back against the same, save for a few, and you already know who you are.

Now, you could take the tack that as an individual, there’s very little that one can do against a non-elected entity that has seemingly grabbed full control of the PAS steering wheel, but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. I didn’t grant them permission to run this scene as incompetently as they do, and I see no reason why we can’t do better than we currently are. And yes, while my overview may present as simplistic, I also see no reason why it isn’t moreover in tandem, justly valid.

If a hinge creaks, you oil it. If a structural timber is rotting, you replace it. If a small-handed ass-clown cheats on his wives, spews racism, and raw-dogs a porn star, you elect it president. Ok… that last one was a horrendous example, but you get the grist of my outlook. In the case of our more-interested-in-dancing-with-the-mayor-than-being-an-effective Arts Advocacy group, it’s high-time for full-on replacement, since outright attrition has failed to do the job that’s obviously needed.

It’s time to stop making excuses, roll up our sleeves, and get to actually doing the work that’s required, rather than throwing pricy self-congratulating parties celebrating the stunning mediocrity of our scene. I’m pretty sure if you measured the arms of Artlink’s current pecking order, you’d find that one of them is considerably longer than the other, due to their relentlessly patting themselves on the back for the most middling of art-related accomplishments.

Sure, I like to don black-tie as much as the next average working Joe Six-pack, but if I’m going to waste all that makeup and Bondo to look presentable in public among my peers, it’ll be to fete an actual series of deeds, not just noting our ability to break-even (or less) at the end of the year. Bringing up yet another point of concern, exactly how much money is wasted on this circle-jerk that we get to pay for twice via taxes and tickets? If I’m part of the scene, why should I have to pay for admittance to an event that supposedly celebrates the “success” I’m part of?

In addition, enough with the “we’re great” / “you’re great” speeches at this thing- if the majority of us are working three jobs to survive, rather than the one we want and should have, you don’t get to masturbate your useless ego and friendship with the former mayor in front of a captive audience.

And what pray tell, is the upshot of this artsy glitter-f**k at the conclusion of the day- has any progress been made in our marketing and outreach? Has a truly profitable working relationship with our local media been established? Have our careers been affected for the positive, have our artists been promoted past the already-knowing choir, has anything USEFUL ever come out of this self-indulgent and pointless twaddle-fest?

I’d say to the point of heated argument that the answer is a hearty “Oh, Hell, no“, followed up by an even more profane exclamation of “definitely f*****g not“. But hey, at least the leader of our faux art-brigade gets to Rumba with the PR-seeking politico, and that’s what apparently passes for advocacy these days.

Delightfully, I can say that when it comes to this particular Ego-Circus within the PAS, it’s no longer going to be my burden to herd the monkeys- I’m so burnt out writing about this particular topic that I’ve decided that this (with any luck) will be the last time I call note to this Ponzi scheme of an organization. Looking forward, it’s probably much better to focus my cynicism on building a new structure that has room to expand past Phoenix rather than pray that the currently obsolete model can carry on being jerry-rigged past the point of imminent failure.

In regards to my vision, the advocacy concern I’d like to see not only operates like a fine Swiss watch on it’s worst days, it utterly crushes all obstacles that it encounters as well. I’ve laid out the framework in previous scrawlings, so I’ll decline to rehash it here, but even the most open-minded devils advocate would grudgingly agree with me that the current incarnation should be put down much in the manner of Old Yeller, albeit with metaphorical shotguns, of course. I neither have the time, the quicklime or the correct-sized wood chipper and or chainsaws necessary to dispatch this localized enemy of the Creative class, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go over/through/around them to get what I want.

Even if we somehow managed to fix the machine, It would still carry the rancid stench of it’s numerous alleged Machiavellian double-crossings everywhere it presented itself, and that’s a problem too big to eviscerate within a logical time-frame. In my humble POV, it’s a much stronger concept to start anew, and show up in a pimped-out ride that would make Ice-T himself cry tears of pure joy. Think of Black Dynamites sweet Cadillac, but with 26′ tires instead of the staid 17’s, and an absolutely thumping sound system.

Oh, Hells to the mother-f***ing yeah.

Imagine an advocacy group that unlike Artlink, would strive to get it right every time, and to the benefit of our Creatives. Wouldn’t that be a purely delightful change from the sandpaper sandwich we’re being offered now? I’d say yes, but to be fair, my POV might be biased, due to my penchant for seeing things realistically and all. What can I say? I’m just a simple mercenary capitalist who thinks that earning an actual living wage while practicing your craft is pretty goddamn spectacular.

The last time we were together, I outlined what (in my humble pov) constituted a truly effective arts advocacy, as well as suggesting what tools were desperately needed in order to be a non-stop artsy juggernaut. While those suggestions were received warmly, I still found myself tripping over the occasionally indiscriminate human speed-bump regarding as to why nobody is willing to get off their ass and put their necks on the figurative chopping block. If the excuses and rationalizations that I receive in relation to the discussion of this issue were currency, I’d all be swimming in a sea of cash and Bitcoin so deep that the Marianas Trench would present as a mere pothole at best.

Cash however, is key in almost all things, and the way Artlink spends theirs has always made me scratch my cynicism in puzzlement. I’m a big believer in getting the best bang for your buck, whether that’s in relation to buying food or yet another book chronicling the behind-the-scenes details of making the Nightmare Before Christmas. Trust me- you can never have too many bound tomes about Jack Skellington, no matter what your girlfriend Ashley tells you… repeatedly. I’m apt to research obsessively before I buy most things, and while I do know not everybody else has the same OCD approach to life that I do, I’d tend to think that when it comes to non-profits, they, out of all the organizations on Earth, would be consistently downright draconian in regards to how they squeeze blood from a stone.

So in Artlink’s case, how do they pretend to make it rain? Well… “ineffectively” would be my first modifier, but I’d be equally comfortable using the mildly derisive, if not accurate, idiom “convulsive scatter-shotting” to depict their approach as well. Throwing mud at a wall to see what sticks may not be the most singularly shining example of what Artlink does best, but they surely do it better than any other non-profit I’ve ever seen.

Let’s say I gave you ten grand to be used towards the promotion of the PAS… how would you spend it? Would you spend it on “prizes” for a lame as f**k art show that only benefited three people and provided free PR for a company that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about our community, or would you get the best bang for your buck by spreading those greenbacks around the proverbial forest?

See, that’s what I think too- I’m a big proponent of return for investment, and I’ve never been one who ascribes to the theory of blowing your wad on a singular roll of the dice, no matter how good the odds may look on paper. And as a rule of thumb, it’s also a truly horrendous idea to get me started about the concept of so-called mentorship in relation to the PAS- seriously, we’d be here for days if I started rolling on the dearth of it within this community.

But if I were to say something… I’d probably point out that in order to be an effective mentor, you need to be available a majority of the time, and let’s face it, that’s just not realistic for a majority of my fellow Creatives, due to time and financial constraints, the impact of which is far more devastating than most people realize. Mentors are in my opinion, the metaphorical equivalent of pool floaties- they keep you above the surface, let you focus on what’s going on around you, and the end result is that you’ll end up looking equally stylish and prepared, if you’ve chosen them properly.

And while Artlink did manage to launch their version of a mentorship program, it seems to have had as much financial and cultural impact on the PAS as their failed venture with Baron Development did. As I said before, the act of overly optimistic mud throwing may not be an attribute that Artlink solely possesses, but they do it way better and more consistently than anyone else I know. However for me at least, there is a ray of sunshine at the end of this asinine art tunnel, and as I noted earlier- if all goes according to plan, this will be the LAST piece I write about Catrina and her self-aggrandizing artsy Golem.

In all seriousness, I’m done with this facet, as I’ve put pen to pixel with no definable end in regards to the issues within this scene, and get tons of praise, but see little to no action in fixing said issues, so I think it’s high time I finally turn my back on those who bitch, but sit on their hands, waiting for some white knight to come along and do their required heavy lifting.

One of the driving forces behind my decision to disengage is because my GF wound up getting a job in New Mexico, and we’re gearing up to leave this shell of what used to be a scene with potential, but strikes now more as a shadow of what could have been. I don’t know what form the blog is going to take in the future, but I do know that I’m sick and tired of the inherent hypocrisy contained within this scene, and I’m way past the point of caring any longer in regards to smiting the hobbyist amateurs we’re infested with.

OK… rant somewhat finished, but I still have a story-arc to wrap up while I’m sill here, so let’s get back to Artlinks’ money, and the fumbling of it.

As noted in my last screed, the most recent financial listings I could find were for 2015, and they broke down as such: $34k went to professional fees and independent contractors, $13,419.00 for office rent, $8986.00 went to printing, publication, posting and shipping, and $10,394.00 was tabbed for “other expenses”, which probably most likely encompasses petty cash, various sundries, and the like.

To sum up, their total revenue (in 2015) was $59,092.00, with net expenses of $66,799.00, leading to a net loss of $7707.00, which really doesn’t impress one as to the theory that Artlink possesses a solid grasp on the most rudimentary aspects of monetary dispersal, in my humble POV. In further dissection of these numbers, we can see the deus ex machina regarding the currency stream, but given my penchant for having a cynical eye, you’ll have to forgive my pessimism as to the overall impact of that diffusion of crucial assets.

An insight, if not a complete spoiler: I’m of the mind that like most of Artlink’s feeble efforts, it allegedly had as much effect on the financial base of the PAS as I do on the Russian black-market crafting of faux Matryoshka*.
*[A matryoshka doll also known as a Russian nesting doll, is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. You’re welcome.]

The specific financial breakdown lists as this:

– $27, 623.00 for public events, such as the impotent circle-jerks also known as Art Detour/Art D’Core, the Juried Exhibition, and First Friday. And in addendum, according to Artlink’s 990-EZ filing, this served 200 Artists and 75K members of the general public.
(More on this in a bit.)

– $7,176.00 was allocated to the trolleys, of which I’ve noted in earlier writings as having an alleged track record of being rather uneven in their service towards some of Artlinks members who happen to fall outside of the somewhat selective core of the PAS. The Icehouse, by way of example, for instance. But yet, Bentley Gallery always seemed to be on the route, despite being in the middle of a demilitarized zone more akin to Mars. Their being on the board had nothing to to do with that, I’m sure- it reminds one of when they’ve found a religion or god who’s biases/intolerance magically mirrors their own… just one of those amazing coincidences that occur so frequently in life, I guess.

– $32K was for “Reinvention Phoenix” which is actually something I think was a good idea at the time, as it involved the implementation of four murals at public schools, way-finding at 3 light-rail stations, and the development of PhoenixUrbanGuide.com, which is currently still online, and provides info on Phoenix’s downtown arts and entertainment culture.

See? I can acknowledge when the broken clock strikes right, however it’s not like I have to do it consistently though, sad to say. But even given that positivity, how does this help us in the long run as an arts community, and more importantly, as a financial entity? Don’t get me wrong, I dig dressing up all artsy and showing off my labors as much as the next Creative, but I’ll be damned if it’s expected for me to do so for little to no recompense.

As I’ve noted oft before, I’m a mercenary capitalist motherf***er, and I expect to get paid.

And if we’re being brutally honest, a lot of us are seemingly just a conveniently accessible time-killer for unappreciative vulgararians, who at their best, could be easily mistaken for barely sentient tater tots. And I say this as an art scene veteran, which should not be confused with my outgoing status as the art scenes resident curmudgeon. Given Artlink’s penchant for vacuous bragging in regards to it’s so-called accomplishments that span the gamut from imaginary to minor, one might be under the impression that our scene was firing on all cylinders, but the truth as I’ve noted, [for years, sadly] is even more f**ked up than Artlink’s traditionally disingenuous take on it’s own false narrative.

For instance, let’s look at their claim of serving 200 Artists and 75K members of the general public. I wasn’t aware a two night a month art scene could actually post those kinds of numbers, given the fact that most of our so-called “patrons” come down for free wine, and random cheap amusements, all while generally failing to buy enough art to justify the expense of being consistently open for First Friday at all, but c’est la vie.

Factor in the reality that downtown has now become a haven for insufferable hipster trash, that the once gritty realism of Roosevelt Row has been sadly homogenized into an unpalatable vanilla wafer, and is surrounded by a bloat of ugly and overpriced housing, and it’s not too much of a stretch to assert that our art ‘scene” presents itself less than a force to be reckoned with, and more of a farcical attempt at fitting in with Phoenix’s newest and increasingly desperate clutch at a pre-fab relevance

Naturally, as a false advocacy for the Arts group, Artlink and this current incarnation of the PAS were destined to meet, dance, and fake being in love with each other. And I have to admit, nobody in this 3rd rate arts-burg fakes it better than Artlink. Personally, I wish I could spend this much money to no truly noticeable difference and yet still get to keep both a death-grip over the direction of the PAS, and high social status among the many sycophants within the scene. It must be even nicer to have allegedly no individual integrity and still claim a mantle of leadership, without providing any examples of it.

As I’ve said, c’est la vie.

And while I’m painfully aware that these statistics are from a few years back, I do have a few questions as to how an organization can spend $27, 623.00, and yet have so little to show as a positive return. Keep in mind that over the last few years, the only advertising and promotion regarding Artlink events that’s consistently seen are some brochures, a few posters, and some signage- that’s it. I’ve had galleries complain to me over the years that they allegedly get said promotional materials late, or not at all, with one space stating that they got theirs the DAY of the scheduled event. I’ve never seen any secondary advertising such as TV or radio spots, nor have I ever witnessed any published ads either.

And regarding all of that signage and posters, where are they typically placed? Well, if you were smart, you’d locate them outside of the area where the events are taking place, rather than inside the corridor where everyone who lives and works there already knows about it- now guess correctly what strategy Artlink employs, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what it’s like to play professional football without a helmet.

If I were to draw an analogy, I’d compare Artlinks awareness of the actual issues within this scene as akin to Monty Python’s Dark Knight saying: “Tis’ a scratch.”  There’s blood leaking out of the body politic, and Artlink just keeps going on pretending that the floor is slippery due to it’s being over-waxed.

And what pray tell, is the end result of all this bungling and short-sighted planning? Deals that throw artists under the bus, cozying up to the developers who’ve destroyed our scene, having an almost zero sum impact regarding careers and the scene’s financial stability, and the absolute horror-show cluster-fuck of Art Detour last year. All these so-called business people that sit on Artlink’s board, and yet not one of them seems to know how to aptly remove their metaphorical head out of their collective ass where effective and logical marketing is concerned.

I’m pretty sure if I laid out the bread crumbs of how many missed opportunities that Artlink has blown end to end, not only would Hansel and Gretel have eventually made it home, they could have done so as part of a multi-continent walking tour… twice. It’s almost as if every time a good idea arises, their gut instinct tells them to do the exact opposite of successfully implementing it. As someone who’s been in the trenches since 1991, I can attest to the fact that Artlink has never been a driving impetus behind a successful career in this town- and at least no one I know or have ever heard from that is, has ever told me differently.

I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything when viewed with even the least cynical of eyes.

So when Artlink like to bray (as it oft does) about “serving” artists and the general public, it invokes the same amount of derision that I normally reserve for my ex-fiancée, since she was also serving artists and the general public from a certain point of view, and I saw no definable benefit from that fiasco in the end, either. After close to ten years of writing about what the prevailing issues are in the PAS, and the middling influence of it’s slacker ne’er-do-well rough trick boyfriend Artlink, I think I’ve said all there is need to say.

It’s time for somebody else to lead the charge, or it’s time to just let the overall apathy of this failed performance piece finally finsh the job it started decades ago. But even as I leave behind what I consider to be at best, a dressed-up corpse, I still have a plan in mind that will hopefully benefit not only the artists here that I already know and respect, but will ideally open new artistic ventures within my newly adopted city of Silver City, New Mexico.

Two words and only two words for now: cross pollination.
Where I’m about to land seems ripe with new opportunities, and appears on the surface at least, devoid of faux advocacy, faux advocates, and most importantly, faux allies. I plan on using my twenty plus years of business and artistic knowledge to the best advantage whilst I settle in, and in regards to carrying the flag of the 602 scene, that’s done. I’m no longer going to promote a false narrative, pounding my head into the wall, as there’s no point trying to rationalize the obvious fact that the Empress has no clothes.

Or more importantly, the inherent courage to do what’s necessary,

Over the years, I’ve developed a theory that my Phoenix-based writing has been equal parts entertainment, commentary, critique, and sugared venom, all tempered with consideration to getting what I perceive to be the fine details right. Some may disagree with this, some may not. I’m fairly certain that Catrina and the numerous sycophants that constitute her boot-licking ilk, would have a wholly different take altogether, but if I haven’t given a damn about their opinion for the last couple of years, I’m not really certain why I would (or should) change tack now.

If I were to craft an analogy, I’d liken all that I’ve tried to do over the years as a sprawling, brawling game of artists chess, which I once perceived for all intents and purposes, as having a definable end game. As my time in Phoenix comes to the end of it’s chapter, I no longer believe this to be true- in fact, quite the opposite, actually. I see now the goal should be to just bypass the archaic and the corrupt, and instead focus on what can be achieved for my fellow Creatives here and in New Mexico, utilizing the skill set that already exists.

So given that newfound stance, I’m more than happy to relinquish my long-guarded position on the ol’ PAS game board to the sole group that truly has no idea what to do with it, save for dancing with publicity-hungry politicos in its darkened corners. And despite what some of you may be thinking, I’m perfectly fine not playing this version of the game any longer- I’ve put in my time, I’ve earned my stripes, and most importantly, while Catrina and her brood may no longer have to fear truly targeted social criticism from yours truly, they will have to remember one thing: they may now have unfettered access to the artsy chessboard…

But I left with most of the the chessmen, and I’m not giving them back.

Let’s forget the baggages of the past and make a new beginning.”- Shehbaz Sharif