I am perpetually fascinated by the shifting shapes of cities and the relationships artists have with their original and adopted homes. It also makes me consider my privilege. I’ve lived in three cities (New York, New Orleans, Nashville) that have vibrant art communities right alongside abject poverty. Typically, as the cities get richer artistically, the most “authentic” neighborhoods are gentrified, leaving local residents — those who provide the “local color” sometimes coveted by arts communities– in the lurch. For a local discussion along these lines, read the comments after this Nashville Scene cover story about photographer Elise Tyler. For me, it’s impossible to separate class and race from such a conversation, and I expect the gray areas to be messy and emotional.
It’s something that’s on my mind a lot: As we promote artists and build communities that are investing in the arts, who gets shut out? How can we maintain our own authenticity and the truth of our work without subjugating or ignoring citizens in our communities? How can we avoid more Gulch-like clusterfucks and maintain a city’s sense of integrity, while growing and welcoming artists and artisans? How can we remain mindful of history and sensitive to needs and wants of all citizens?
Even as cities, like Nashville, with entrenched and thriving artist communities enrich my spirit and provide me with a complex intellectual landscape, I would be indulging in quite a bit of arrogance to assume the elephant in the room will simply let itself out.
This Saturday, I’m hoping to deepen my understanding of these issues by engaging in dialogue at Seed Space. There are two events. From their website:
As part of their month-long social practice project “By the Steeple Bell Rope,” Scott Zieher and Mike Womack will present a projection piece related to their research and work in the Wedgewood Houston community. Their project highlights the plight of the creative class in the local neighborhood and other regional situations of gentrification and civic shift.
“U. S. Cities Contemporary Art Rankings: A New Hierarchical Approach (Nashville edition)” by Andy Sturdevant, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Sturdevant will perform an interactive seminar on placing U.S. cities in a tiered ranking system by their relation to the contemporary art world. Visitors will be asked to give their input, providing results that are heavily influenced by their own experiences and personal prejudices. Located in that gray area between satire and earnest inquiry, the project draws on its audience’s collective knowledge and investment in their own individual regional identities, as well as demonstrating the inherent limitations in reducing complex cultural and sociological factors into easily digestible charts, maps, and lists.
Seed Space director Adrienne Outlaw has asked me and Tony Youngblood to participate in a Q and A about the work that will be published in the exhibit brochure. I hope we can make it through without too many Star Trek references.