Well, how many artists are there?—that’s how many ways they are doing. Undaunted by the vastness of the question and my dubious credentials for answering it, I agreed to go on KUOW’s The Record and give it a go. Last year I had promised myself that I would limit the lecture circuit to stories about art and try to stay away from the real estate stories. Alas, last year’s promises have evaporated along with everything else, so I went on the show. I told her the truth, which is that artists I know are all finding creative ways to survive these crazy and difficult times. On top of that, and more to the point, they pay their rent when no one else does. Hear the entire interview here—I’m at the top of the show, or you can scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to just my part.
Last month I had a nice chat with Jeffrey D. Shulman, a professor at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, on his Seattle Growth Podcast. In Season 6, he’s focusing on how people find and build community in a changing city. We mostly talked about ’57 Biscayne in 2011 and the Good Arts Building, and how those interlocking communities were formed and what I learned along the way. Of course, he also asks the inevitable “how has Seattle changed?” I’ve been here almost thirty years, but since I am rather ornery, I talked instead about what’s managed to stay the same. There are two interviews in the episode; the first one is interesting, but if you want to skip to mine, it starts at 33:44.
I also was a guest on the show a few years ago, along with my Good Arts partners Ali Ghambari and Greg Smith. We described how we came together from very different perspectives to create the wonder that is the Good Arts Building. Jeff had interviewed us separately and used the interview with Greg in one episode. He was about to scrap the rest, when the 2016 election happened. He felt like he really, really needed a heart-warming story of people setting aside their differences to work together to do good in the world—that’s us!—so he produced a Very Special Episode out of the outtakes.
Update: Join me for Industry Night on Wednesday, October 24, 5-7 PM. There’s still some great work left in the show, and I’m also offering a rare sneak peek at the Salon Rue de Cerise, a creative project I’ve been working on that supports artists in Pioneer Square.
For the fifth year in a row, Dara Solliday and I are presenting “100 under $100” at ’57 Biscayne Studios. Each year, we gather work from numerous artists of our acquaintance and curate a show of 100 pieces of art that go for less than $100 a pop. Some of the artists work here in the building; others show with us frequently; some are established in their careers; others are just starting out. This year they range in age from 9 to 94. It’s a great community event and despite being a lot of work, one of the highlights of my year. I love seeing people become collectors for the first time, and empower themselves to like something, acquire it, and support (and usually meet) the person who made it. And they can take it home that night.
It’s happening this Thursday, October 4, from 5:30-9 PM at ’57 Biscayne Studios, 110 Cherry Street in Pioneer Square.
It’s also a chance for artists to clean out their closets, and show work that doesn’t fit in anywhere else: I’ll have some weird demonstration paintings from classes I’ve taught, some old pattern experiments, an artists’ proof from an etching series (above), and other odd bits. In my studio, I’ll have more recent smaller paintings, watercolor sketches, and some studies that may offer a sneak peak at future paintings.
“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss Money.”
You can’t get through an art opening without having some version of this conversation: Rents are going through the roof as the tech bros take over “our” city, displacing the artists who made it cool in the first place. In this telling, we artists are the inevitable victims of–and bait for–gentrification, unless someone else comes to our rescue. We can’t rescue ourselves because that wouldn’t be very artistic of us.
The romantic stock character of the impractical starving has persisted in the popular consciousness since the Renaissance. It really found its legs in the nineteenth century, with the publication of Henri Murger’s Scenes from the Life of Bohemia, a tale about artists and their struggle to pay the rent, since reprised in many familiar incarnations. Artists themselves internalize the stereotype, however silly, as if we have an investment in being marginal and easily displaced. We’re often rewarded for it, too: The most press I ever received was for being evicted; the amount of ink devoted to art itself is paltry in comparison.
Once you let go of this colorful yet ultimately defeating story of the artist as a victim, it becomes possible to write alternative endings to the gentrification narrative. Artists are actually rich–in educational privilege, political cache and creativity– and could use that wealth to find ways to stay, instead of finding yet another marginal neighborhood to move into. I did. With some of my neighbors from the former 619 Western building, I started ’57 Biscayne studios, and a few years later partnered with a developer to make them a permanent fixture. I’m going to be talking about all of it this Friday at the Bainbridge Art Museum.
I’ll unpack the myth of the “Tortured Artist” as it manifested in the twenty-first-century media coverage of my own studio eviction, tell how some of us wrote a different story, followed by a discussion of what that might mean to the numerous cities and towns facing growth and the displacement of culture. The program is free and open to the public, as part of Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau.