"If you build it, they will come."
So say some of us. Others haven't the vision, belief, risk tolerance, or funds these days to go out on a limb and take a chance on anything less than a sure bet.
"Show me that they're coming, and we'll think about building it. Again, we said we'll think about it."
Today, that seems to be more the approach than the former, especially when art and a place to develop and nurture it are in question. But this economy will not be here forever and change is inevitable. Necessity, being the mother of all invention, will at some point kick in. When all of us artists discover a common need, as we very well may be doing right here, right now, we will begin to find ways—innovative ways—to reestablish our toe-hold, flourish, and leave our mark. And, on the bright side, development is beginning to take place. The desired renaissance will not happen overnight, of course, but a movement is afoot and things are underway. That's the first step toward progress.
In the meantime, while we have the time (yes, for better or worse, right now many of us have lots of time) let's turn our attention to other successful art communities that have built, over time, exactly what we aspire to and look to them for inspiration. Santa Fe. San Miguel. SOHO. DUMBO. Williamsburg. P-town. Martha's Vineyard. They may not all have artist's lofts but they each have a perspective, an appreciation, boundless energy, and will to succeed. Maybe sometimes that's all it takes. All of this may sound a bit simplified and optimistic but half the battle is figuring out ways to keep the troops motivated, so try to stay with me.
A friend asked just yesterday "How do you get people to visit your blog?" Not this blog, but any blog. The answer: "I'm not quite sure." There's a lot of back-end configuring and search engine optimization that one could employ to maximize hits, stickiness, new acquires, and all that business. Honestly, who has the time? For now, I'm sticking with good old-fashioned word of mouth and, not even a week in, it seems to be doing not great, not awful, but okay.
It's a lot like standing in front of a blank canvas. There's a grand, daunting expectation (almost an obligation) to make something out of nothing. Sometimes this pressure is external but it can just as easily come from within. Either way, few things are more intimidating. But once you apply the first stroke, then the second, and third, somehow something that was nothing just seconds before begins to take shape. Suddenly, you can see it. Amazing, isn't it?
So, for the sake of our collective sanity and to the benefit of the art community here and anywhere else, let's think of ourselves as a blank canvas. First, a website, or a blog, or a show, or an arts walk. Then two. Then ten. Then a gallery. Then a row of galleries. Then a whole block. Then the affordable live-work spaces and the open studios. We apply layers. Step back. Admire what we've done but still find ways to improve upon it; still go out of our way to make it better, not because we have to but because we want to. Because we love to. Because we can.
Just like that, what had never been just a short while before is, in an instant, on its way to becoming something bigger and better than we ever could have imagined.
If we build it, will they come?
My friends, together, we're building. Slowly, surely, you, we, they are coming.