Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Will It Take?

From right, photographer Gary Reese, owner of Plaza Gallery (223 S. Water St.), describes a photograph from his exhibit "State of Change" to Valan Mallory, 5, Aliysa Mallory, 11, and Sausha Goaves, 8, during Third Thursday Arts Walk. Photo credit: Richard Brian

We have hopes. We have dreams. We have aspirations. We have a surplus of artwork.

We need funding. We need foot traffic. We need sales. We need a successful business model.

Downtown Henderson is merely one of hundreds, possibly thousands, of small communities with the desire to one day (soon) be a cultural leader but, currently, severely lacking in the budgetary fortitude, direction, and brand stewardship. Or so it would seem.

The overall air about the community right now is a direct reflection of that of the country—one of doom and gloom, irreversible downward trending, and often severe disappointment, with the occasional fleeting bright spot. In the face of an impossibly bleak revitalization landscape, what is one to do?

As a member of said community—one who volunteers his time, much like many of his fellow constituents—I will be the first to tell you that this turn of tides will not be brought to fruition by the city or the artists or the patrons or any one single arts organization alone. And, frankly, the community is not going to build itself. As much as that pains me to say and stings to hear, we've all got to play our part and not simply rely on the city and grants to carry the load. We must find our strengths and play to them and, for starters, get involved. All of you. All of us. Me, included.

The truth of it is, painting is not my day job. For many of us, it is not our day job. Yet, somehow, we find and often make time to do it. We pay our dues to belong to any number of local organizations, then we sit back and wait for the people to pour in. Therein lies the rub. No people. No pouring in.

If we want to see a drastic turnaround, it must begin with us. We must band together and continue to push. Not only that, we must come out and show support for ourselves; for one another. It's simply not enough to create the product then expect people to come and find it. Especially in times like these, we must remind people in and around our respective communities that the product is there to be had. Not only that, we must believe in and create enough allure around the product that, even now, it will draw people in. And, to take it even a step further, we must make sure the product is worthy of peoples' time, energy, and...ah,

We must strive to maintain a certain level of quality for the product and ensure that we don't falter. As I reminded some friends of mine lately, nothing will kill a bad product more quickly and effectively than good advertising. While art may be subjective, we must be our harshest critics, and continue to be discerning. Each of us and the city as well is responsible for making good on our promises. If we promise young, fresh, hip, cutting edge, we must deliver on it. Otherwise, we will suffer a swift and painful backlash. We can promise anything, so long as we can back it up. For some, the city has promised growth and redevelopment. The economy has shown that this is not presently viable or sustainable. Hard to argue with that. Regardless, artists and business owners alike have invested in this promise and right now it's costing people rent, time, and in some cases their livelihoods.

As a member of the local art community for the past two years, I have seen change, much of it for the worse. Where there is passion, there is a deficiency of organization. Where there is talent, there is an abundance of apathy. Everybody knows the situation is bleak. The last thing we need is any more armchair quarterbacks or Debbie Downers standing on the sidelines preaching woe is me.

We are artists. We are a creative bunch. We are resourceful and resilient. Now, we must take all of those things and find a way to flourish in spite of our given set of circumstances rather than meet our demise at the hands of them.

Necessity is the mother of all invention. This site was created just shy of over one month ago because it was agreed upon that the Henderson art community, the HAA specifically, could stand to be a bit, if not a heap, more contemporary. One little blog will not a resurgence make but, honestly, it sure beats the alternative. Speaking the truth and shaking things up may ruffle a few feathers but if that's what it takes to begin to pull the nose up, that's what we do, all in the name of progress.

There's an article in today's Las Vegas Sun with interviews of Henderson's own Gary Reese, Susanne Reese, and Fred Sigman that inspired this post and, in many ways, echoes these sentiments. Read it here and, each and every one of you, get your wheels turning, show up at the next general meeting, and, for the love of art, get involved.

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