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Get the word out

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader

2009-03-10


It was a new year, and things seemed pretty bad, then we received a new president, and things seem to have stayed on the “negative” side…. now its March, Spring is on the horizon, and the art world is generally terrified at the prospect of hiking up its sleeves, looking this economic threat head on and making some hard decisions. In its defense, the art world has had a very long period of near cosmic growth (for the sake of this article, lets say this boom dates from mid 2008 going back a decade to the late nineties, and lets define cosmic growth as perpetual stream of multi-millionaires and billionaires infusing the art world-especially contemporary art-with hundreds of millions of dollars a year). Who wouldn’t want to give up the security of knowing an exhibition of large photographs would sell out pre-opening for hundreds of thousands of dollars each? There is a common sentiment that the art market rarely matches the financial market. Case in point would be the recession in the early 90s coinciding with record prices for a Van Gogh painting, which also happened to be a record price for any painting…ever…until a couple years later. Another great case of the art world putting its blinders on to the economic realities of its times would be the creation of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City, which opened its doors to the public November 7th, 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash which, until recently, was quite famous for its enormity.

And so, to fall in line with these ever-classic examples of the art world’s ability to turn straw into gold, this writer wishes to only speak of wonderful things which the arts are giving us in this time of great need. First of all, props need to be given to Courtney Tritch of the Downtown Improvement District, and Sarah Aubrey of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, who organized “Art Off Main,” which got wonderful media attention before hand, but has not received enough praise for what it did. This event brought together many of the diverse art practices which can be found (sometimes rarely) in Fort Wayne, and highlighted them including very prominently, including fashion. Too often seen as frivolous or too low on the cultural totem pole by many, fashion really has not seen any true community in Fort Wayne thus far. Hopefully this meager showing inspired other local designers to speak up, and the designers in the show to create much more often and think bigger, better, and brighter. Highlights of the fashion show included Amy V. an independent designer whose work reminds one of a young version of L.A.M.B, Gwen Stefani’s fashion label, but with a bit of a badass flair, and Robert Rebrovich, whose “Dreme Clothing and Design” has already gained many admirers with its infectious graphic tees. With such a great turn out, this is an event that needs to happen again and again, hopefully changing and growing into an increasingly experimental exhibition of the local arts.

Following this show, however, some disturbing news was released that our so far extremely prudent and fiscally responsible governor, Mitch Daniels, went off his rocker a bit and wanted to cut the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) funding in half, to about $2 million, which may seem like a large number in and of itself, but when you realize that the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs awarded $7.9 million in grants for its 2009 budget while still facing hellish unemployment, state debt and deficit, among other problems, it becomes frustrating to think that Daniels would be so harsh in his view of the arts. Thankfully, in a vote by the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee (Feb. 17th), the 50% cut was rejected, and in its place was a reduction of 8% (which brings it down to $3.68 million from $4 million), which is line with reductions that most other state agencies had to face because of the economic downslide. Now, the IAC just needs to promote immensely successful arts and culture to show how important this funding is, not only to the voice of the people of Indiana, or the enjoyment which the arts bring, or even the ways that the arts make us think more creatively and with greater capacity, but the way that arts funding has been proven time and time again, to yield great amounts of economic activity.

As a third piece of optimistic news, the fly over states have a great new publication, Proximity, which is made regionally, but looks internationally which is a great new shift in consciousness which hopefully continues to spread across the Midwest. “Proximity is a magazine dedicated to contemporary arts and culture. Our mission is to amplify discourse on local and global art ecologies. We hope to serve as a map-of artists, collectives, and alternative spaces to commercial galleries, museums and universities-as means of connecting and cultivating sustainable creative communities.” With a headlining mission like that, big things are possible for this projects future, which has recently dropped its third issue which is supported with great advertising, and is meaty with images and astute prose. Proximities art direction is near perfection. Proximity is composed of distinct sections from Shorts to Columns, Profiles to Portfolios. The best area in this publication however is very easily Studios, which is exactly what it says, examinations of artist studios. The newest issue includes the studios of “Sighn”, David Lyle, John Salhus, Sonnenzimmer, and the Delicious Design League. Proximity is released three times a year, in April, August, and December. A subscription can be snagged at $30 (normally $12 an issue), which may seem a bit steep, but considering the high quality and immersive content, this price is very reasonable. (www.proximtymagazine.com).

More than ever, the art world needs to collaborate, create, and in general just get the word out on quality exhibitions, art, and experiences so that we can all stay up on culture and keep a keen sense of how our passions can be translated into reality during a time when many of the opportunities which we have been taking for granted will be severely limited and possibly gone. However, unlike so many of industries in our now global economy, the arts have the distinct advantage of being able to taken the valueless and meaningless things and creating with them the highest reaches of human thought and enterprise. We are the unsung networkers, instillers of great hope and happiness, and through these hard times come amazing opportunities.

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