Sunday, April 1, 2018

Gentrification prefers Blands. PT.5 (Money for Nothing)



“Make your marketing so useful people would pay you for it.” – Jay Baer

Hello Blogiteers!

It's been one of those years where the hits just keep coming, do they not? First, my former employer decided at the beginning of last summer that we were "too slow" at work and cut my hours in half, right before they went and hired a full-time person without even thinking of offering me (the person with seniority) the option to restore any of those lost hours, which is perfectly fine, since the general sentiment in the workplace at that time was that the head of our so-called out-of-state boss should be displayed much in the manner of how William Wallace's was, after his minor disagreement with the English.

However, while that shared attitude provided cold comfort in regards to the loss of a warm, if pathetically small paycheck, I'm assuming as only one can, that I'm apparently independently wealthy and don't require the trivialities that come with everyday life, such as the ability to pay for my Ding Dongs. Or electricity. Or rent. In addition, the company I found myself regrettably associated with also felt that its perfectly fine to be late with said paycheck four times in three months.

Thank God I have that rather lucrative sideline business running 80's mix-tapes to the Sandinistas, or I'd be screwed. And as to the nature of my dismissal, I'm rather proud of the fact that I wasn't fired for poor performance, or being rude to a customer, or even that old go-to of running naked through the corporate hallways wearing nothing but sparkly gold go-go boots and what I have been told is a dazzlingly warm smile. Nope, when it came right down to brass tacks, I was fired for being something even worse... a diabetic.

Hold on just a Ding Dong eating minute, you say- isn't firing someone for having a chronic disease illegal? Why yes... yes it is. And my former supervisor may be the only person on this fk'd up planet who doesn't know that. I won't go into the details, as we'd be here all day, but in essence, my former supervisor stated rather directly that I was, and I quote: "a burden on the business", and that I "should go on disability". After that, the dialogue dissolved into some rather unpleasant language more suited for an 1890's cathouse, and due to the fact I don't generally work blue, it won't be repeated here. But if you're currently surmising that most of that lexicon rhymed with "flucker", you'd definitely be on the right path.

As you might suspect, I have a few key issues with this flawed perspective, and I'll start with this amazingly rude and wildly inaccurate assessment. First, I'm not disabled- to me, that means that I'm physically challenged and require the use of a wheelchair, a cane or a walker... anything along those lines. And to be clear, I'm not dissing those who have those issues, and yet nail it like a badass. I'm just not in that unique category, and I hope never to be.

Second, while I'm observably comfortable talking about my illness up to a limited point, it still remains a rather private issue among my friends and intimate confidants, so when it came to a superior freely offering opinions as if they had the right to do so, that's where I draw the freaking line. Since this particular person took on the mantle from my previous (and way more professional) ex-boss, I have endured a litany of harassment in regards to my chronic illness. The suggestion that I needed to go on disability was a consistent irritation in regards to doing my job, and had been going on for months by the time I was fired.

A note for later recall- if there's one thing I truly despise, it's having to listen to the opinions of internet scholars and doctors, especially given that I'm the one who since my diagnosis 19 years ago, has been walking around and doing the labor within this somewhat defective meat-suit.

To further help set why this aggravated me past the pale, you have to also understand who was audacious enough to dismiss me as a disabled wretch, that being a somewhat obese individual, who in order to be able to work themselves, required a knee brace, compression gloves, and a constant flow of topical salves for their bad back. Yep... I should definitely take medical/life advice from them, and then when I'm done doing that, I'll ask Donald Trump to give me the finer points of how to maintain an open and honest dialogue in regards to a life partner.

Getting back on track, it's not like my doctor or I actually know anything that can't be solved with aromatic oils and crystals, right?

To be fair, due to a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, a form of nerve damage, I do have some obvious issues that I can't easily mask- my hands have a slight tremor, I have balance issues, and I also suffer from low blood pressure, which is surprising, given my renowned affinity for being a fire-spark. However, I still did my job, and if they were unhappy with me, they could have just fired me with some bullshit excuse, rather than attempting to rid themselves of my presence via attrition and later on, slander.

Factor in the complications that arise from an out of touch manager reacting with insensitivity to the necessities of testing & dosing my blood sugar as diabetics need to do, and it's not too hard to understand why my health started going off the rails. Initial snarkiness aside, the arrogance this overly demanding craven exuded after they took command, poisoned the well of what was once a fairly tolerable work environment- while the job itself always sucked, the atmosphere of camaraderie balanced it out, and while the place never would have been mistaken for running like a Swiss watch, it definitely didn't improve under their inconsistent management style they brought so ineptly to the table.

If you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen, my late Oma used to say, and if you do flee, don't whine like a bitch as you do it. As an illustration of such, it wasn't uncommon to have to listen to a laundry list of complaints about their boss one day, and then walk into a love-fest the next. The best analogy I can give about how things were being dictated is for you to picture a decapitated chicken running around in circles with a clipboard, freaking out about trivialities, as they steadily composed a never to be sent email blasting their immediate superior.

Add in the unnecessary commentary about my health, and it isn't too hard to see why I used to refer to my commute as "taking the road to where all my dreams have gone to die". In contrast, my last boss never yelled, never lost their cool, and the only thing I can say that was a negative to their character is the fact that they really didn't like peanut butter.

I know... I thought it was weird too.

The only respite I have in regards to the issue of my illegal discharge is the knowledge that I've filed complaints with OSHA, the EOEC, and the Industrial Commission [more on that below] in regards to a workman's comp claim- measures which I hope will knock both my former supervisor, and the company they work for, down a few pegs. I guess we'll see if there really are protections for people like myself, and whether it was worth rolling the dice or not.

On the upside, having all that downtime has allowed me to whittle down my "honey do" list, and catch up on some overdue reading and research, so there's that. The second and more worrisome concern, is that while working said job from Hell, I injured my supraspinatus, which is one of the muscles around my rotator cuff. The length of time that it takes for the injury I suffered to heal is six to twelve months on the average, and having to do the physical therapy required to fix it just bites.

The people I'm working with are awesome, but from the POV of a guy who gave up working out over a decade ago, I'm fairly convinced that the Dark Lord Satan himself designed my exercise and rehabilitation program, and then recruited my therapists from the Sith Racquetball Club. If true, that just hurts, because I thought we were tight.

Seriously Lucifer... you were so much cooler before you went all mainstream.

C'est la vie, I guess. So as one can assume, I have been all shades of bitchy lately, and I'm not the type who enjoys pain in any form, given the fact I'm already dealing with a flare-up of my diabetic neuropathy on top of it all. To be brutally honest, saying I'm a bit vexed right now would be a colossal understatement. Nothing aggravates me more than having to be on the sidelines when I'm all fired up and raring to go, but thanks to this stupid injury and my previous health issues, I've been somewhat locked-down for months.

Speaking of being locked down, I also find myself in Facebook "jail" for the next month, because apparently white supremacists are allowed to say whatever they want, but God forbid, us actual humans respond negatively towards it. I'm starting to think their algorithms spend an inordinate amount of time listening to Skrewdriver and visiting Stormfront.com. One can only hope that when Schmuckerberg is in front of Congress, they have him for lunch, raw. And as if things weren't truly bothersome enough already, I'm also dealing on and off with an utterly disturbed cyber-stalker of the MAGA variety, who has taken an interest in me not seen since Fatal Attraction was in theaters.

Minus the bunny boiling, this ludicrously inept Hot Pocket aficionado started with physical threats, moved onto spamming my Instagram page, tried to threaten my followers, created and then posted, pathetically transparent videos on YouTube claiming I'm a serial rapist and child predator, much to the amusement of all who've seen them, and capped off his asinine psychosis by redirecting my website traffic to a pharmaceutical website, which took GoDaddy all of 15 minutes to fix. If I did have to comment in regards to these truly impotent Trumplethinskins, they are willing to put in the hours to defend Cadet Bone Spurs, AKA: President Spanky, Odin love them.

As a salve towards keeping my sanity, I've been ultra-focused on the advocacy concern I've been crafting for quite some time, and despite the inevitable hurdles this sort of undertaking unavoidably comes upon, I've managed to make some heartening progress- it seems that a lot of people feel the way I do regarding the pathetic quagmire that passes for art advocacy in this city, and want to be involved somehow, whether it's directly or peripherally.

Here's the issue- the PAS may not be truly dead, but it's doing a pretty good job of playing the part of an artsy corpse. Think "Weekend at Bernies", except this time the cadaver is being dragged by Artlink through their mismanaged two-night-a-month craft fair, as they stridently bray about how good the job they're not doing is going. In other words, a typical First Friday. The question has arisen via the normal lines (Email, direct contact) as to why I'm harping on the ol' A-link if at their core, they're essentially useless and/or irrelevant.

Why that is a valid query, it does overlook the elephant in the room- that being while Artlinks odious influence seems somewhat limited to a designated arena, their artistic circle-jerk in actuality extends far past that. The PAS as an entity is scattered like so many dandelion seeds, and I don't see that situation rectifying itself anytime soon, no matter what certain players in this town believe. And if you don't have a stable core, you can't build on (or out) from that.

Speaking of which, I had the... let's just call it luck, to run into a relatively fresh face on the scene some time ago, and while they project the stereotypical mélange of unicorn dust and elf glitter regarding the 602, I also found them to be, (if I were to formulate a sexist and rather boorish connotation grabbed off the politically incorrect shelf) somewhat "bitchy" at best.

Trust me, I hate myself for feeling like I need to compose the use of such raw verbiage, but that's the first thing that comes to mind, and as usual, I'll explain myself. One of the more excruciating things I force myself to do are the local "artist meet and greet" soirees put on around Phoenix, and If I were to take the position of being viciously honest, I'm much more interested in the free cheese cubes than I am about the events themselves, which typically, not only waste my time, but test my already limited tolerance for people of narrow intellect and/or use.

Why?

Well... it may be due to the fact that I loathe non-realistic, unicorn-riding, glitter throwing, rainbow painting, overly friendly, artsy leg-humping, huggingly clueless dipsticks. Don't misread me, I'm all for people promoting the ol' 602, but I draw the line at vapidity and haughtiness in how and when it's done. This leads me to introduce my newest scratching post, an arrogant Art-Barbie who works for the well-organized, but increasingly ineffectual entity known as the Roosevelt Row CDC.

Don't get me wrong, the last get-together I attended a long while back at Unexpected Gallery was surprisingly awesome, and if I were to make a bad joke, the whole vibe of the place was, well... unexpected. The art was top-notch, the lighting was great, and the sangria was free, which is always a plus. So what separated this get-together from the previous three I grudgingly attended? Two things: first, the person I'm about to verbally shred wasn't at this particular meeting, having taken the time to go "experience" Burning Man, and second, the people I was fortunately among actually "got" what I tend to preach in regards to the PAS, that being the concept of securing financial stability within and marketing outside, the choir for a change.

More on that in a bit.

I've written at great length about how the development of downtown has eviscerated the PAS, aided by our so called art advocates, so I won't rehash all of my previously noted complaints here yet again... you're welcome. What I will say however as an addendum, is that Roosevelt in essence, could play a zombie in The Walking Dead, and shamble away with an Emmy for Best Performance by an Ineffectual Reanimated Slab of Meat. Now down to a few art-spaces of note (all of whom are still doing innovative shows), the Row's goose has not only been cooked, it's been diced, sliced, and compressed into snack cakes that are currently being sold in Japan under the moniker "Goosinkies" via a vending machine that occupies a space next to one that sells used panties.

[Seriously. The Japanese have some weird-ass fetishes. Google, if you dare.]

In other words, saying you represent the Row via the CDC these days has all the cachet of saying you're besties with Vanilla Ice. It may have pulled in the babes once, but all it acquires now is scorn and jokes about your unmaintained fade. But here's the thing- you were probably keyed in to what was hip once, so there's still a chance you might be salvageable in the long run. It's a marginal possibility, but it does exist, and you may even still have some fans left, even if that's only due to pity or more likely, nostalgia.

And while some of those fans may defend you, it's still obvious that you're completely out of step with the truth of current events, which is the doorstep we find ourselves on regarding my newest chew-toy, whom I ironically met at a meet and greet for creatives interested in making a difference, via earth-shaking radical socialist kind of thoughts. The ones that get bearded guys named Che killed. But as usual, I'm getting slightly ahead of my self, so let me spin my tale from the beginning of things, where due to an unforeseen miscommunication, I was informed that this eventual waste of my time was targeted at the PAS. Instead, I found out it was a gathering of avid social justice warriors, and while I don't have anything against the SJW brigade, I'm not really their particular recruitment demographic either- just saying.

While I'm by no means an isolationist, I tend to worry about my own first, long before I worry about political prisoners in El Salvador, if you get my drift. I pick the battles that I know I can fight, and more importantly, win. If you feel that makes me a bad person, you can leave your self-righteous opinion on top of the bad karma pile (next to the mailroom) as you leave my lair. So as I was pondering how to make an escape from this scene straight out of a 70's liberal-arts college coming-of-age- movie, a round of (I'm paraphrasing) "Who are you, what do you do, and what are you passionate about?" sprung up.

Oh dear Odin... I am now officially in Helheim, and on top of it all, my Sleipnir is nowhere near within walking distance. As expected, most of the answers were relatively what you'd imagine from people committed to a cause outside of your own, not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you- it's just that my idea of social crusading tends to be more localized, versus global. What can I say, except that my belief in the old adage of "start small to build big" remains strong as ever. To reference a character-forming movie of my errant youth:

"You don't want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie... a rebel."  [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKLizztikRk]

As I sat there, slowly tuning out as I wait for an opportunity to jump ship without anyone noticing, I heard the following: "Hi! My name is ***, I'm ** years old, and I'm with the Roosevelt Row CDC, but I don't carry any of their baggage, so please don't ask me about any of that... [Um... what?] I recently graduated from ASU with a Sociology Degree, and I don't know *giggle* when I'm ever going to use it, and I really don't know anything about the art scene, but I'm willing to learn."

Continuing to glitter-babble, she goes on about how a church and maker space two blocks off Roosevelt is going to revitalize the currently rotting art-carcass that is the Row, and in an extra touch of Unicorn belching, adds to her inanity by implying that families and teenagers alone are going to keep our so-called art scene afloat. And as she says this, I inwardly hear the sounds of my inner cynic emitting a deep sigh as he pours himself a three-fingers shot of bourbon... thrice.

Traditionally, I've never been much of a drinker, but I'm giving serious pause and accreditation to the thought of taking up the habit, mainly because of helium-headed second-handers like this.

However, I do happen to be gregarious by nature, and since I like to think of myself as a fountain of useful information, I start to tell her why her take might be slightly flawed, given the fact that she just admitted publicly she has no idea what she's talking about. As I've noted oft before, I really need to fire and replace my sense of optimism one of these days- due to the fact he's been pretty much phoning it in the last few months, and after the gas station sushi incident back in February, I don't really feel I can trust him with anything delicate anymore.

"Made fresh daily", my ass.

As I'm laying out why her POV may be not entirely accurate as diplomatically as I can, she cuts me off, and rather snottily states that: "Um, let me finish... and then you can get all [and I quote] judgy."

So let me get this straight if I may, a person who wasn't even alive when I started doing art as a career, a person who just told a roundtable of strangers that she knows nothing about the basic history or elements of the community she's supposed to integrate with, a person who for some reason thinks that working for the CDC means not having to answer for any concerns regarding it, a person who despite her claim that she wants to "learn", has just told someone with a 25 year background in the PAS that he should just shut up and not be critical about the scene he knows better than the liner notes of his ABBA albums..

To quote Shunryu Suzuki: " If you cannot bow to Buddha, you cannot be a Buddha. It is arrogance."

And keep in mind I'm the one saying this, so you can only guess at the beauty and depth of my intended insult. As I sit there, glaring in New Yorker, I decide that there's no better time to leave than in the middle of her droning, as after all, I wouldn't want Art-Barbie's Kumbaya moment to be tainted by something so trivial as irrefutable reality. In an odd quirk of fate, sitting behind me at this event was a fellow artist who unlike me, is a tad bit more tuned in to the global social warrior network, and as such, constitutes the true demographic that this group was aiming to recruit.

As I rise, feeling that my time and intellect had not only been wasted, but insulted as well, said artist grabs me by the shoulder and informs that we should talk and that she needs to grab a beer, which is strange, since she already has a full one in her hand, a fact I call attention to. Her response?

"Yeah... I'm probably going to need another one soon."  

All jokes aside, this chica definitely knows who she's about to break metaphorical bread with. The meeting as such, turned out to be both personally and financially lucrative, as it led to a delightful collaboration that wound up with the selling of some of my artwork. God, do I freaking love doing business. And therein lies the key difference for me: the facility to understand the distinction between being a hobbyist who plays, and a business-focused advocate who ACTUALLY works for progress, is what's currently crippling our ability to become a serious player, and the question that arises is why is the obvious so damn hard?

Observing with my insider overview, I can only assume it's because the hobbyists within the PAS are enjoying their charade at presenting themselves as successful marketers or in a twist of unintended humor, an advocacy group, and with no due respect- there needs to be a culling, and that right quick. However, never let it be said that I am without a means of escaping this artistic Labyrinth we find ourselves in, as if there is one skill I possess in buckets, it's knowing how to make a grand (and sometimes hasty) exit out of an unfamiliar room.

Let's just say my penchant for speaking my mind has given me a lot of practice, and leave it at that.

But solutions are required, and I may have some, if I were to be so bold. Some are simple, some are obviously more complex, but the first steps into making Phoenix an artistic destination, not the pit stop on the way to somewhere else, have to start somewhere. So with that in mind, I present some concepts that hopefully, will lead to a financially stable future.

1) Working 9 to 5. It's just not for the cubicle people.

One of the issues that most fail to consider when it comes to promoting the intangible is the amount of time it takes to advocate for it. I can only assume the complexity doubles when the prime offering is based more on a want, than a need. Granted, I wasn't completely oblivious to the commitment that such an endeavor requires, but I never contemplated that it would be akin to a 60+ hour work-week just by itself. As one past president of Artlink informed me: "it becomes your life to the point of exhaustion, if not exclusion."

And that gives me an idea- if the workload already equals that of a normal job, why don't we make it an official position to begin with? Think about it: a salaried advocacy concern whose sole purpose would be to pimp the 602 full time, 5 days a week, the cost of such underwritten by either grants, or even more probable, a partnership with a community-based and art friendly, corporation. Now how is that I've come to a place where I feel that we should possibly collaborate with people who like the biblical locusts of old, have become a plague upon our scene? I'll explain.

For a start, we don't approach the gentrifying mother c**k-sucks who've treated the PAS in a manner more suited for a prison shower, as the past "deals" Artlink made with two of these parasites clearly illustrates. Much like haggis or an Adam Sandler movie, these vanilla wafers dressed up as humans are best avoided, and under no circumstances should you make direct eye contact with them.

Otherwise, they may subject you to their idea of architectural uniqueness, that typically manifesting itself as a metal-clad monstrosity lifted wholesale from Portland, and then rudely dropped into what was formerly a distinctive and vibrant space.

You know... standard Developer 101 protocol. I swear these beige-slugs are easier to read than the novel Dean Koontz just wrote on his way back from the bathroom. However, hope springs eternal- for every scene-eating carpet-bagging huckster, there exists it's exact opposite, and that's who we need to make friends with, mucho pronto. Exactly how we can do this I'm not sure, but I'd suggest we show up at their offices with cake. Lots of cake.

I tried cookies once as an opening gambit with someone who I hoped might help with the promotion of the PAS, and failed despite my best effort, so this suggestion comes from a painful lesson learned at the bedazzled feet of a narcissist who makes Kanye look humble, so pay heed. And no, I'm not referring to Amy Silverman... it's just an amazing coincidence that the description still fits her so well*. A simple quirk. Chance. I swear. Pure happenstance. Fluke of the Universe, and so on. [*Allegedly.] 

The validity of a fully funded and full-time entity making outreach to other cities, institutions, and more importantly, pre-established patron bases, cannot be underestimated, and try as I might, I can't really see too many flaws with this idea if the funding issue can be resolved, and promoting during the workweek seems to me at least, a much more opportune time to put our wares out there than the down time of nights and week-ends. Considering that the current board comprised of fourteen members possesses only two actual Creatives while the rest are all Suits, you'd think that they'd have already figured this part out. A purely creative take on the old adage of make hay while the sun shines, and all that.

The needs and concerns of 602-based Artists within this new structure will come first, period. Snazzy T-shirts can always come later, unless there's a groundswell to take group pics, in which case- we can always move it up on the timetable. After all, it's not like we're barbarians or anything.

Speaking of which, this leads to my next idea to answer the question of why these corporations would want to be involved with this new venture if it's needs are the second prerogative to be met, and the answer brings me to my next pitch:

2) Rotation, Location, Motivation.

In order to foster this very necessary relationship, we give our new friends what they need, good PR and marketing grist, along with what they can use: public art & interior decoration. I'm thinking as part of the deal to underwrite us, we provide a stock of rotating art for their buildings and spaces- all of it for sale (or lease) depending on whatever aspect is required. They get a fresh new look every couple of months, we get a place to display work that outside of our shows, studio spaces, and closets would just collect dust and disappointment, and everybody walks away happy in theory.

This in turn, could be a fabulous teaching tool for up and comers to learn the skill-set of displaying and promoting one's work, and the developers we're allied with get to make use of this symbiotic relationship for marketing and the like, which in turn, draws more attention to the PAS on a scale that actually helps our endeavors, versus limiting them. If we take the approach of leasing artwork, then one could assume that this arrangement could keep a steady stream of income replenishing the coffers as well, in opposition to Artlink's soft coercion approach, which demands money from the very demographic which can least afford it, that being the artists themselves.

If we're going to have to "sell-out" to make a living, shouldn't it be both for the right reasons and with the right people so we don't have to compromise our principles even in the slightest? Once again, I'd say yes, but I'm one of those wacky people that wants to make a living doing what I would do for free.

3) The Outsiders: a great book, a so-so movie, and a brilliant marketing strategy.

One of the logical ideas that's been kicked around the PAS for quite some time is the notion of cross-curated shows- that is, where Creatives from other cities come here, and we send a complement of our best in return. Think of it as an artsy version of Wife Swap, but with better financial results. If you can haul in big names much in the manner that Amy Young from Pravus Gallery manages to do seemingly effortlessly, you could (in theory) milk the PR cow like an octopus on speed.

New blood is always a good thing in my humble opinion, and if anything, it could add a revitalizing jolt to our flaccid and highly disorganized construct of an art scene. An interesting take on this idea comes from my fellow graffiti enthusiast Alicia Crumpton, who states: "I would love to see some cross cultural exhibitions where we take a theme and have artists from different cities create an interpretive and or representative of that theme. For examples, Delhi and Phoenix or Japanese Chicanos and Phx... In my wildest dreams, it would be a street art and graffiti festival...complete with cross cultural exchange and dialogue. Man, that would be so fun."

But even if we had let's say, emerging artists as our base for these shows, the same concept still applies- a fresh infusion of raw talent goes a long way towards promoting the ethereal, and it's something we as a whole desperately need. Keep in mind that this said endorsement would go both ways- our Creatives would be exposed to potential new patrons and their relevant media, and I can't see a downside to that, no matter what angle I observe it from. It's time to reach beyond our borders, extend the welcome mat, and acquire some new dance partners.

And if our luck holds out, we won't step on each others toes while doing the Rumba.

4) The Money Trail: You shouldn't need a CPA to follow it, am I right?

One of the pertinent questions I've always wanted to ask Artlink is where and how they spend their money- granted, there's the cost of printing posters nobody sees, t-shirts that nobody wears, and securing the use of a trolley that allegedly sometimes likes to visit the people that pay for it, but I digress. And when it comes to office supplies, we all know that s*** ain't cheap. Seriously... have you looked at the price of legal pads lately? You almost need a co-signer to walk out the door with one, and don't even get me started on the cost of truly good pens- we'll be here all day.

What I'm asking is this- what is the return on our direct investment? I for one, don't see that things have gotten better for the Creatives or the PAS thanks to Artlink, but then again, I'm a realist who believes that marketing artists under the cheesy-as-frak label of "articipants" might in fact, dilute the seriousness of what we as a community are hoping to accomplish. But what do I know? I've never taken cues from how George Lucas marketed Return of the Jedi via creepy Ewok toys, so maybe I'm the one out of line.

And as an aside, does anybody really believe that the Empire could be jacked-up by stone-age teddy bears? Sure, there's a power vacuum left after the Emperors death to contend with, but you'd still have thousands of soldiers and hundreds of ships, just sitting there rudderless. The entire idea is just absurd, and if I ever have the opportunity to meet Lucas in an elevator, we're gonna have a serious chat regarding this and the craptastic "special edition" he foisted upon us a few years back.

Getting back on track, I initially failed to find a public resource that listed details of Artlink's financial responsibilities to my personal satisfaction, and truth be told, that was probably more to my inexperience in having to do what comes off as accounting from afar. Given how much they pat themselves on the back for doing what comes off as a marginal effort driven by ego rather than community, you'd think that getting to the nuts and bolts of their financial infrastructure would be a relatively easy task, but it is and isn't.

Thank God / Allah / Buddha / Yahweh / Debbie Harry for my legion of devoted readers, who stepped up and filled the void of my ignorance. I owe all of you a blood debt. Or a cookie. Take your pick, I'm good either way. Some of these loyalists talked of past supposed misdeeds concerning the worrying mismanagement of assets, others whispered about a disgraced board member embezzling funds for almost a year after they accused the then sitting treasurer of doing the same- that person btw, was allegedly cleared 100% by the Arizona Arts Commission, where in an ironic twist, it was also discovered that Artlink owed him money, to the tune of about 88 bucks. An alleged debt that this person claims that Artlink has yet to repay, I somewhat cynically note. I wonder how many t-shirts it would take to balance out those books. A question for another time, I guess.

Speaking for myself, I've always been disdainfully suspicious of the "trust me / us" model when it comes to the dispersion of publically donated funds- it's always seemed an excellent cover for financial buggery, in my humble opinion. That's not to say that Artlink is currently involved in any such moral morasses, but at the same time, it's not an absolution of said activity, either- I simply just want to know how this ineffective juggernaut is fueled, that's all.

But there is this, a statement from a "please keep my name out of this" source who was intimately involved with Artlink back in the day: "At the time there was not any improper use of funds so much as general financial mismanagement. One guy who collected the mail would never get around to depositing checks and they would be under the seat of his car for weeks and months and that sort of thing. My guess is those records are just not there...

Of course the whole experience left me with a really bad taste, so I refused to be drawn back in after I bailed out in **** and I really have no notion of what went on after I left. My guess would be, more of the same, unawareness of the management of the finances of the organization. Good luck."

Now with all honesty, I don't know if these allegations are true or not, nor will I comment too deeply regarding it, as I don't have the data necessary to corroborate it to my satisfaction, but it is a refrain I've heard from multiple sources, just saying. As I said earlier: " That's not to say that Artlink is currently involved in any such moral morasses, but at the same time, it's not an absolution of said activity, either."

However, if I were to play devil's advocate, I'd have a difficult time believing that this unbidden communication was an attempt to bring Artlink's perceived image among the arts community into disrepute- because quite simply, there's no reason for this person to manufacture falsehoods that I can discern, and Artlink seems to be producing it's own self-inflicted wounds at a rate that even Wolverine on his best day couldn't heal from.

Speaking frankly in regards to when past board members have talked to   me [albeit with the assurance of anonymity] the metaphorical ducks they line up tend to follow a common refrain- while there's nothing overtly illegal going on, the organization has a propensity to play it kind of loose, despite being currently overseen by someone who has been characterized [diplomatically and not so much per se] as a control freak. Fortunately for my quest, two of my readers directed me to some pertinent info, where I could acquire the information I was seeking, via the following link: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/860638390

So what do the records reveal? Well....

If I were a person who was somewhat cynical to begin with, I might opine that the records seem a bit "shaky". To bolster my opinion, lets take a gander at the records from 2015 (the most recent I could find so far- I'm still looking for the newest) to highlight some concerns I have regarding their distribution of the assets donated to them. In that year, they listed their total revenue as $59,092.00, with net expenses of $66,799.00, leading to a net loss of $7707.00- if I ran an organization into the red like that, I'm pretty sure I'd be out of a job, but that's not how this particular breed of non-profits work, I guess.

Apparently, you can still get the participation trophy for pretending to be an arts advocate group, no matter how bad your actual performance is. So where did all that money go, you ask? Well, here's the simplistic breakdown before I start my dissection:

1) $34k went to professional fees and independent contractors.
2) $13,419.00 for their office rent.
3) $8986.00 went to printing, publication, posting and shipping.
4) $10,394.00 to other expenses.

At first glance, none of this raises any metaphorical eyebrows, but I rarely ever take things at face value, as I'm an old-school cynic. And as such, I tend to look for cracks within the plaster- it's kind of my niche. So before I start burrowing in, I have to address a related concern- for those of you who may not be aware, Artlink is also in charge of a three-day art event known as Art Detour- it's traditionally held right before the weather in Phoenix switches from "Hey, this is kind of nice." to "For the love of Odin, get out the oven mitts so we can open the car door!" On the surface, it 's presented as a vibrant art-walk, where all of the art galleries, art-spaces, and artists studios in Downtown Phoenix are open to the great and traditionally unaware, public.

Now, I've previously written at length about Artlinks puzzlingly consistent ineptitude in regards to Art Detour, and while I don't think a rehash of those issues is truly warranted, I find myself having to sadly admit they remain as a tangible sticking point, due mostly to my email lighting up like a Christmas tree with complaints about this years event, which could be arguably and charitably described by those involved as a cluster-fuck of biblical proportions.

This year's "throw mud at the wall and see if it brings cash" concept was to carve up the wide swath of Phoenix's creative centers into "Art Districts", and promote them as if they were singular islands adrift on an endless artsy sea. Naturally, this went awry. Not because of a lack of effort on the part of the Creative community, but because Artlink has the foresight of Mr. Magoo in a coal mine. Shockingly, promoting one area over another led to the perception among the masses that said region was the only one open for business- what an absolutely fucking brilliant idea.

In preparation for next years' collective dung-heap of idiocy and ego, I offer this subtle suggestion for the Artlink board entire- maybe, just maybe... YOU SHOULD ASK THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY WHAT THEY FKNG WANT AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, REQUIRE FIRST, BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO COORDINATE ANYTHING, YOU G*DDAMN TWITS, AND AFTER THEY TELL YOU, LET SOMEONE ELSE TAKE THE REINS.

You know... maybe someone with no actual experience? Because I seriously doubt that they'd fk it up half as bad as you guys did this last go-around. Once again, if there was a measure of success, it most likely will be laid at the feet of the Creative community, not it's bungling step-sister who for some as yet unknown reason, is still allowed to play by herself with sharp objects. Sigh... just when I think I can write about something else, it's like Artlink views my wandering literary eye with all the disdain of a spurned ex, tosses it's absinthe into the weeds around their IKEA Villa, and decides to bring it's well-honed "D" game.

But if there is an upside to this, their most recent episode of inelegance, it's that Artlink actually managed to bring an entirely new cock-up to the table, and I for one, can honestly say it caught me by surprise. You have no idea how refreshing it is to hear an unforeseen fresh-out-of-the-box complaint in regards to Artlink from the Creative community- it's akin to Santa himself dropping off a crate of Ding Dongs at the Lair of Snarkitude, just so I could celebrate Halloween early.

Look at it this way- every year, I get to hear allegations about pre-paid trolleys that don't arrive, promotional materials dropped off late or not at all, and art-spaces that get preferential treatment due to either a board member having a show or possessing an undisclosed vested interest, so forgive me if I was starting to feel a tad bit sleepy every time they were mentioned. Granted, I don't mean to diminish by any means that the overall impact of their ineptitude wasn't a negative, but even I didn't think they had any fresh screw-ups left in them, so being thrown for a loop is a prize I didn't expect to take home. And even better? It comes with street tacos, which are just like regular tacos, but cost three times as much.

Progress. Yummy yummy progress. Speaking of which, I think now would be a great place to take a break, grab some food, and rest up for the next installment, of which I am hoping will be the last time I ever have to put pen to pixels regarding this increasingly irrelevant pretend patron of the Arts in Phoenix. What can I say? Sometimes despite my better judgment, I have the optimism of a child at Christmas. Granted, I'm not asking for a pony, but if I could at least get the entire set of Micronauts, I'd be totally cool.

And when we come back, I talk book-keeping, start retooling my website, add a new layer to Artbitch, and talk about making friends with Trumpanzees via the magic of postcards.


"
Art has been hijacked by non-artists. It's been taken over by bookkeeping. The whole thing is so corrupt. But I suppose that's okay. For artists, everything is grist for the mill. Artists are like cockroaches; we can't be stamped out." - Elaine de Kooning








Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Gentrification prefers Blands Pt.4 (Dancing with the Czars)



“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

Hello Blogiteers!

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. *[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellraiser]

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.

Regardless, I will point out the fact that Artlink is neither the hero we remember from the good ol' days, or the one we currently require. The situation we find ourselves in demands consistent and more urgently, a truly effective game plan to present this city to the world, something I feel Artlink lacks. And for those of you that need proof of concept for this assertion, look no further than their "artist mixer" that attracted a zero sum of artists, despite there being ready access to cheese cubes gratis, alcohol, and free T-shirts. And lets face it- if you can't attract Artists with complimentary food, cheap booze, and free black T-shirts, I'm forced to question both your popularity among the creatives, and your perception of reality...

Vehemently.

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.

Sadly, [depending on your POV], the biggest draw for Detour this year was a billboard depicting America's Twittering Oompa-Loompa, Fake-President Donald Trump, front and center of an apocalyptic landscape, bordered by atomic clouds and squared-off dollar signs that call up remembrances of Nazi swastikas. Commissioned by local business owner Beatrice Moore, who has stated that it will remain on display for as long as he serves as president, the unbecoming [yet highly accurate] representation has gone viral, drawing both praise and controversy for the nature of it's message.

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.

According to Fiorito, the work symbolizes: “global destruction, warfare and annihilation of the planet, representing corporate power and greed and how our society has become all about money and corporatism.” The backside of the billboard however, has a very different message- it shows 5 hands representing multi-ethnicity spelling out the word "Unity" in sign language. Fiorito's artistic decision for this aesthetic choice was due to her sense that:  “I wanted to have a positive or a flip side to the billboard,” she says, “I wanted something to be a call to unity and a call for people to come together to resist what’s happening … if we become united, we can defeat anything.”

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.
*[Link:
https://artlinkphoenix.com/artlink-announces-call-for-artist-forward-grant-applications/]

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.

Submitted grant applications will be reviewed by the AAC along with members of Artlink’s Board of
Directors. 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.

“We’re excited about helping artists in such a direct way,” said Catrina Kahler, Artlink Board President. “This is not only financial support, but mentorship from professional artists who have been living and working in the area for years. They are excited to share what they have learned and we are looking forward to seeing the results of this innovative collaboration.”"

Gotta give Catrina credit... she does know how to present a puff-job like nobody else, and as always, it just gets my claws a-tingling. Seriously. I'm so happily vibrating over here you could use me as a tuning fork, and I'm completely tone deaf. Not in the range of Nickelback, mind you, but pretty darn close. So why should I have a problem with this, when on paper, it looks like such a positive? Even I, the great and unholy cynic couldn't possibly see any problems with this, now could I? 

Sigh... it's as if you don't know me at all.

To move things along, let's get the inevitable nitpicking out of the way first. As stated above, this newest in a long line of sugared placebos was acknowledged a while back at the pretentiously monikered Art d’Core Gala, which used to be known as the Artists' Ball until somebody thought that renaming it after something Phoenix doesn't actually have- that being a viable core to it's art scene, was the best way to give it legitimacy among the art cognoscenti.

We can't create a stable financial base to support what we do, but we sure can party down with the mayor, and that's what counts as a win these days, it seems. At this point, Artlinks' ability to pat it's own back for the most mediocre of it's efforts, has almost certainly given at least one of it's symbolic arms the length needed to give a reach-around from space. I for one, would rather work with the mayor, versus go dancing with him- that's not meant as a slam against Greg, I've voted for him twice, and the last I checked, that had nothing to do with how well he does the Charleston, but I digress.

Getting back to my carping, the discrepancy between the party announcement [March 16th] and posting it on their website [May 1st] just shows the casualness that Artlink exudes in it's response to what it's mission allegedly is. As a fellow Creative noted on one of my FaceBook pages:

"In regard to Art d'Core Gala and those kind of art affairs... Those who attend and participate are those who support the development ("love the expansion of ASU (my alma mater- my mommie) finally downtown is becoming a 'real' city (now that the basement dwellers and deplorables have been driven out) and the players involved (the social movers and shakers) like members of the CDC..(our own personal police informants) and people with questionable ethics like politicians, lawyers and the rich... along with desperate wannabes there to rub shoulders with those who they hope will pay for their lack of actual talent, in exchange for legitimacy, and there you have it.

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]

These days? It's un-amazingly, just 500 bucks, and in the grand sense of things, that isn't squat, especially where being a Creative is concerned. While free money is always nice, there's a certain limit as to where it actually makes a quantifiable difference in one's life, and it isn't around the five Benjis mark, that's for sure. Most artists live on a shoestring- the odds are pretty good that money won't go to artistic endeavors, so much as basic necessities, and I'm pretty comfortable in my mindset concerning this.

This isn't "financial support", this is misdirection parsed out for the sake of appearance only. When in the past has Artlink ever seemed to care about financially supporting artists? If they did, they definitely would have made a much better deal than the one they cut with RED Development as noted in an earlier piece I wrote, and they sure as frak wouldn't have let their train-wreck covenant with Baron be quietly phased out, either, now would they? Just sayin'. I find that it strikes strange that there's so many business people on the board, and yet none of them seemingly know how to successfully market such an attractive commodity.

From the call: "Artlink is supported by City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Downtown Phoenix Inc., Arizona Commission on the Arts, Phoenix Art Museum, The Arizona Republic, Dunn Transportation, Roosevelt Row CDC, Warehouse District, Central Arts District and Historic Grand Avenue", and yet despite all that shared involvement, still requires a submission fee to: "support the administration of all Artlink efforts in supporting local artists. This includes a variety of year-round opportunities to promote, exhibit and sell your work." but rest assured, "as we grow, we will continue to look for more opportunities."

How encouraging. Even when they have what could be considered a good idea, they still can't do it right, and therein lies a fundamental problem. If this group was in charge of selling toilet paper to the populace, we'd all still be using leaves, and if their product was Big Macs, everyone in this city would look like 1986 Elle Mc Pherson.  

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.
*[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenia_Onatopp]

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?

Guess which way I'm leaning. Artlink has had it's day, has had it's say, and has had it's way for far longer than it required, or more importantly- it has deserved. It's time for a true leader- whether that's personified as an individual or a group is still up for debate and eventual consensus, but I think most would agree with my POV that the need for forceful and effective leadership dedicated to every member of the Arts community, and not just those who swear allegiance under the threat of being purposefully overlooked, is crucial.

And as an aside, it also rings true that it's way past the time when this towns art-czars should have been unseated- their history and actions thus far have proven that they only look out for themselves and their interests, and not for us as a whole, so I think the proverbial running them out on a rail is not only required, it's something all the disparate factions of the PAS could bond over, if handled right. The resultant cookout alone would be worth the price of our collective effort, as I know more than a few artists who make a mean potato salad, and that right there, is what true camaraderie is all about.

But what of Artlink? Well, I'm okay with either them getting their act together or getting their ass handed to them. But if the plan I'll be laying out within the next few screeds pans out, it may turn into a and/or type of situation, to use one of their sayings, and I'm good with that too. But that still leaves the question of what happens to Catrina, does it not?

Why yes- yes it does. But don't you worry, my loyal blogiteers- she'll still get to dance with the mayor... she'll just have to do it on her own damn dime for once.

And when we come back... I meet the newest Art-Barbie that Roosevelt Row has to offer, lay the basic framework for a new advocacy group, and take a look at the exciting world of Artlinks finances, to see where and how they allegedly misspend their money. And there'll be Snark as well, but you already knew that.

“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