Wednesday, February 25, 2009

YRC Worldwide Gifts $250,000 to the MLK JR. Boys & Girls Club

YRC Worldwide, one of the largest transportation and trucking firms on earth and a major proponent of a memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. delivered $250,000 worth of donated art supplies and learning software to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys & Girls Club, 2950 West Washington Blvd, in East Garfield Park, on the West Side of Chicago. The Boys and Girls Club have proposed to keep the dream alive for children in the Chicago area.

A photo of the proposed memorial can be seen on the website

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The State of the Arts

I am wondering about what the "state of the arts" is right now, and where the arts are heading. Last month NPR reported that the NEA was scheduled to receive $50 million in the stimulus package which Obama signed into law last week, but I don't know what the real numbers are. The economy stinks all around. Local funding has been hit hard. Illinois' budget has been slashed, Chicago's budget has too. It seems that a lot of organizations and individuals are trying to decide how/if they want to reconfigure/change direction.

Artists have contributed a lot to neighborhoods like those on Chicago's West Side, and that will continue into the future. But more funding is needed. A lot of artists don't get the kind of monetary compensation that they deserve -- for their roles as educators, curators of cultural programs, and other aspects of their involvement in the community. Artists are part of the "new economy"; Chris Carlsson writes about this phenomenon in his excellent book Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today. (Incidentally Richard Florida, who has written extensively about role of the arts in society, will be giving a talk at Columbia College at the end of April.)

It will be interesting to see how things progress, with the Obama administration. How will decisions on the federal level wend their way down to the state and local levels? We can be certain that the days of "trickle down" Reaganomics are over, but still it's hard to see how the funding will hit the streets in constructive ways. And artists / creative types can't just rely on federal funding. However it is pretty remarkable that only a month into his presidency, Obama and his administration have set a tone which have positive ripple effects through different layers of society.

Going back to the role of the arts in society and how that relates to Chicago's West Side (as well as its other neighborhoods), I'm wondering what are the latest developments with Obama's National Arts Policy. A year ago Obama released information about the National Arts Policy Committee, but I'd like to hear about how much of these ideas have been implemented as initiatives. Does anyone reading this blog know about recent developments?

Throughout history creative types have questioned the system and offered up alternative approaches. Here in Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S. there has been lots of evidence of this. Individuals, loose associations, and formalized organizations have been playing around with structures for a long time. It will be interesting to see how change happens.

Environmental and Social Economics

Environmental and Social Economics- I just want to remind artists that are relocating to neighborhoods like East Garfield that this neighborhood has also functioned as a cultural insulator. Within its bosom minority cultures have remained intact, and new ideas have incubated.

We are reminded that urban cycles of decline, decay, and abandonment followed by rebirth through rehabilitation, renovation, and reconstruction may appear to be natural processes. In fact, however, the fall and rise of cities are consequences not only of financial and productive cycles and state fiscal crises but also of deliberated social policy.1


So how do you change a city? The answer is block by block! Adopt a block works effectively in other cities and neighborhoods across America and it can work in East Garfield! Whether it’s taking food to the homeless, cleaning the streets, planting flowers, or playing with kids we need to as artists reconstuct nature.

Homeless today can affect anyone, especially artists. As we witnessed in the Stimulus Bill Government is abandoning artists once again, and the poor, as American’s cities are reorganized around the global economy and corporates profits. Homelessness today is an indictment of the capitalist system, yes artists are being displaced, losing work, losing studio space, and wondering if they should double-up housing.

In today’s economic and political conditions, it is incurable. It results form the elimination of jobs due to automation, and outright greed. These jobs are gone forever. What can we do? The power of society must be brought to bear to compel the government to house everyone in need. More developments like the "Switching Station Artist Loft", affordable housing, for artists!

If you have something to contribute, contact, [1]
1. "Nature as a icon of Urban Resistance"- Gregory Sholette, afterimage September/October 97
1. "Fragments of a Metropolitan Viewpoint, in If You Lived Here: The City in Art, Theory and Social Activism, Brian Wallis, Seattle: Bay Press, 1991