Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pandora’s Can of Bait

Sometimes one has to bite the bullet, climb on a soapbox and toss worms to the wind.  Maybe it is just me, but does anyone else feel like what started as an art event (as in visual and creatively related/inspired) has been hijacked so to speak? Granted my on site presence as a vendor/destination numbers only 18 months, my awareness and participation however date back to the first conversation ever held as far as the vision for what was to be. Yes, things change, grow, morph and develop….and such is why I feel that what was the original vision is no longer what is on the menu as a main course. Somewhere along the way, visual arts have become a side dish and often not even part of the meal, but to be consumed ala carte.

My inspiration for this posting is the street festival feeling of last night’s monthly gathering. Not that there was anything wrong with the event itself or anything wrong  street festivals per say, but those of us who occupy art, (wait, I shall only speak for myself….) art is not the root word anymore for why people are flocking to the district. Flocking is a good thing….but with flocking come some concerns which need to be addressed.

First and foremost is the issue of restrooms.  Consuming massive amounts of beer requires the eventual giving back of such liquids…. Unless one is a patron of a local restaurant, the potties are usually off limits. Unless one is friends with some of the owners, the behind the counter potties are generally not available, and it goes without saying that planters and doorways should be off limits. So why should the only available restrooms be ones inside a business that seems to attract everybody in town at one point or another? That’s a lot of you know what! Why are there no port-o-potties on the streets for our monthly relief? (Besides the one on the green that is there all the time as far as I know.)  Does the health department know that when beverages are being sold outdoors by a vehicle which does not have a potty on it, that providing some for general public use might be a good idea?  Just wondering….because we may have to take up a collection or (file for a grant!!) to pay for the paper, soap and towels used by the patrons who literally pass through only as a shortcut, not to mention the repairs the often result from negligence by those a bit too tipsy to follow directions.  Don’t even get me started with what happens to aim when a man is inebriated.  I think the local overseers ‘of our ever growing event need to provide public restrooms so that those inside businesses can remain for the use of paying patrons only.

While on the subject of vending….food that is offered for sale or for a donation in a location that does not have a permit for such offerings…is that subject to review by the health department?  Should a business which sells food under a license, have the right to not allow food to be brought in from other sources? …just like movie theaters, stadiums, restaurants and for that matter, a museum? Our local museum does not allow food or drink into the space which houses the artwork. Why should places that have artwork, allow food and drink to be transported back and forth, in and out and eventually deposited on the floors and occasionally on the art? I did not know that my role was also in sanitation as I pick up cups and garbage left lying around my place of business. I can do that at home, thank you very much.

Let’s see….how about the idea of ownership? If one is participating in the event, should the owner have a right to decide who will be providing some entertainment for the guests?  I just feel that whoever brought the ball to the game and laid out the field of play in the first place should have some say in how the game is to be played. Even if the other team is bigger and has more named players on the roster, home field is home field as far as backyard rules are concerned.  Our parents always taught us to play nice and to play fair, and to include everybody whether they were any good or not so everybody gets a chance, but that did not mean we had to make special allowances, the game was the game and it had rules.  Whoever owned the back yard got final say because it was their yard.

As the mood, atmosphere, intent or whatever one wants to call it has changed over the years, so has the profile or demographic of the attendees. That’s okay because that means the morphing is working, that the goal of people participating is proving to be a successful one in that regard. The original vision vendors however, have not seen any great leap of learned viewers.  Leaning against a canvas on the wall like it does not even exist shows a blatant disrespect for the product presented.  Knocking over merchandise and breaking it  because there is some need to get from one door to the other in a hurry and then not even bothering to notify the owners….that is not very encouraging for building arts supporters or patrons.  Buyers are down (witness the number of artists who have left the local sales scene over the last 18 months) but the crowds are up. How do we make this work for the visual artists?

When the warmer months arrive, there is another big old juicy worm to add to the can….I’ll save that one for now.  Don’t get me wrong, I personally love talking to the people, seeing friends and supporters, and listing to the music. I like to see empty hooks on the walls and hear the ringing of the register. It is the aftermath of the party which is discouraging. Step one should be lovely blue porto-pots in every major parking lot and a no food from outside to be brought inside policy across the board and down the streets. Just to verify, but are there permits on file someplace that have been cleared by the City Health Department? Before I write a check this year, maybe I will go check that out.

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