November 19, 2009

Where We Live @ Real Art Ways

I went to the taping of Where We Live last evening at Real Art Ways. The theme of the show was Locating Creativity in the city of Hartford - official guests were an official from the city of Providence (Water Fire....ooooo!) as well as the COO from the city of Hartford. Several local bloggers were in attendance (waves!) as well as a cross-section of the local arts community.

Meta Commentary: Just love watching radio happen. John Dankowsky is quite entertaining as he does his opening bit (using his hands and body to drive his voice) although he settled down for the interview itself. Nice to see the faces (oh so young!) behind the WNPR shows I listen to daily: Catie Talarski, Libby Conn, Patrick Skahill, Chion Wolf. Not *quite* as interesting (from a performance standpoint) as the Thsi American Life simulcast (for example) but good nonetheless.

I was not so thrilled with the guests (civil servants) - Providence seems to have hit the creativity jackpot with Waterfire but it was not so clear if this was the city putting together a framework that the ground level folks built upon, or if this was a vision of one person / group that the city reluctantly embraced once it became a success. Regardless, it capitalizes on a city that has embraced it's waterways rather than turned its back on them.

Asked for ideas to engage Hartford, one of the audience members (forget who) quipped "Daylight the Park River" - and yeah, I get that. Ever since I learned of the history (wherein Trinity College was relocated and the Park River buried to make room for Bushnell Park and the State Capitol), that seems like the fatal move that sealed Hartford's future.

An Artspace resident spoke highly of that facility; although I suspect there is a waiting list. Local artist Anne Cubberly countered with concerns about the cost of studio / workshop space. Janice LaMotta from Billings Forge spoke, as did a number of artists, U-Conn students, and other local arts / culture insiders.

There was some discussion of the iQuilt initiative to knit local arts and cultural destinations and make the city more walkable. Mention was made of Theaterwork's recent "City Arts on Pearl" project as well as the Bushnell working to connect the Capitol / Bushnell Park are to Main Street.

Discussion, but not a lot of solutions nor a lot of consensus. Most I spoke to afterwards felt that the focus on a governmental solution was not optimal. Many spoke of "silos" - individuals or organizations that are taking on their own corner of the world but not a lot of synergy or formal collaboration. So we have Real Art Ways, Billings Forge, Artspace, Theaterworks, Hartford Stage, Bushnell, the Wadsworth Atheneum (not represented....), and dozens of other organizations, each chipping away at their geographic and cultural plot of land. But not really working within an overall framework.

I'll add a concept in here are well - Interest Silos. Have been part of a few different communities, I see small groups of interest. The film clique - moving from Real Art Ways to Cinestudio to Cinema City to the Atheneum. The theatre group - from the larger equity theaters to the smaller community spaces. There are, I am sure, small communities formed around jazz. Around folk / acoustic music. Around indie / rock music. Around dance. Around visual arts. Around spoken word. Around sports (cricket? historic baseball? disc golf?). I am sure there are others.

I see the key to developing a vibrant local culture to expand the iQuilt concept past the geographic (still important) and figure out the connectors - individuals and organizations that, either by design or by accident, bridge these interest silos. Real Art Ways is one such entity, with connections to film, to music, to visual arts, to spoken word / performance, and to the corporate world (via the popular Creative Cocktail Hour which takes all these entities and stirs them together). Billings Forge seems to be there as well, mixing locavores, arts, music, with a healthy dollop of community activism.

An interesting evening; I look forward to listening to the show, to see how the show was mixed down and cleaned up.

On a personal note, sitting here in my new digs within the city limits of New Britain, I am torn between my relationship to Hartford, and a desire to look towards my new city - which has a number of burgeoning arts spaces itself. And I'm excited to be emerging from a few months of focusing on my personal saga (buying a condo, and moving) and looking once more outward, on the blog and in the rest of my life.

Addendum: Where We Live / Real Art Ways Collaborative Blog


jd said...

Thank you so much for the nice post, and for attending. The "silos" bit was really the thing that needed to be said. The "mix-down/cleanup" of the show came off great, thanks to the stellar editing of Ms. Talarski. Please keep in touch - and send us ideas! Be well - jd

Anonymous said...

I agree with the sentiments expressed here. AS I said at the broadcast who'd trust a gov't bureaucracy to run the arts, to establish creativity. All I can think of is that old TV ad, for Soviet runaway, "swimware- evening-ware" and so on where all the clothes look the same. Nope its got to be roots based. Oh, and I am tickled to be described as a civil servant, makes me sound all british. (pip-pip). Good thoughts...

- Dave Panagore