Room for everyone

My sort of mantra for the last few years, mostly privately, has been, “There’s room for everyone.” I say this to myself when I’m being unnecessarily critical or dismissive of someone’s artistic ability, and I say it aloud when I sense a discussion is leaning in favor of exclusivity or elitism.

Case in point: Not long ago there was some discussion about who should live at the WAV and who should not. More than one artist suggested that only “important” artists, people with a recognized body of work who are constantly producing should be able to live within this experimental, affordable housing complex for creatives which the city partially financed.

I couldn’t help but recoil. Who defines importance? As far as I can remember, during the rigorous meetings that preceded ground breaking for the WAV, it was determined that the subjectivity of such things would make it nearly impossible to create criteria for application approval, therefore attitude trumped “talent”  when it came to deciding who would make the cut and who would not. A desire to live to some extent communally, to ride out the challenges of such a social live/work arrangement would be more important than an individual’s perceived talent.  In other words, regardless of your medium, your experience or your potential for bringing national attention to our fair city, you will be considered for this affordable housing project if your life’s work is arts-centered.  Whether your focus is installation, music, textiles, poetry, plein aire  or toothpick sculpture–there is room for you.  And not only at the WAV, but in this world.

Last night I was watching one of those hideous talent programs on television, and an old couple got on stage and sang a standard love song from the crooning era (the title escapes me), and despite their lack of technical ability it was beautiful.  It made me smile to know these two traveled who knows how far, and endured who knows how many evil eyes from Hollywood types, just to get on that stage and sing in public because they love singing. This made me feel as good as seeing Coldplay perform or listening to Marcia de la O read a poem or a piece of art I recently saw at Sylvia White Gallery.

There’s room for everyone–to express, to create, to discover.

I may find as much beauty in a fall leaf wafting past me or the graffiti in my alley as I do in a Kandinsky. I value my old Black Flag fliers drawn by Raymond Pettibon the same as the painting that hangs over my bed.  Anyone courageous enough to step on a stage, face a blank canvas, page or wall,  and then place the result on display, is praiseworthy and not any less relevant than those who perform in stadiums or whose work hangs in prestigious galleries.

Let’s remember in our fervor to champion localism or a certain aspect of the music scene or innovative projects like the WAV—there’s room for everyone!

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