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