|Anonymous, stenciled graffiti|
In spite of the surreal shuddering pom-poms and cheerleading recently read elsewhere, the boots-on-the-ground reality is that 2011 has not been a good year economically for the local arts scene in the area, particularly in St. Pete. Buyers have been scarce. Those galleries that appear to be blooming are doing so thinly disguised as party venues. Their main source of revenues is not art, but selling admission and then alcoholic drinks, food etc. to the party goers. One of them is also a co-op, meaning they rent wallspace to artists to make money. I clearly understand the appeal of gallery openings and arts parties. People feel the energy that emanates from art and creative people. It renews them, makes them feel better, if not more whole again. They're willing to pay for this, and that is low-hanging fruit for many. It is spreading as a business model. Or those that have an opening, with a high admission cost party, then are open subsequently only on"request". Call and try to arrange a viewing some time.
Several art spaces have failed and vanished in 2011, some along the 600 block. From private conversations with others, I can say more are hanging by a thread. Some of them are venerable institutions. This is economic Darwinism, I know, but it would be sad to have the survivors a few years from now mostly be those that are throwing the biggest/best parties. We are headed for where museums have been for some time: Art-entainment.
In the midst of this, people who love and are genuinely interested in the survival of the arts scene in a recognizable form are swiftly plotting mergers behind the scenes between strange bedfellows where one is in need of intensive care and the other a model of financial health (due to party/events). As these plans gel, you will read about them here. Through the fog, there are mirage-like blueprints for a new Arts District, and apparently investors as well. D-a-r-i-n-g. There are galleries, mostly non-profits, or those with other means of support, that are doing well, or at least holding their own -- without turning into party venues.
2012 is going to be nothing if not a suspenseful year: A thrill ride with an unclear destination. One with the lives of many who have put a lot on the line out of their love of art. Traditions hang in the balance. Some of our beloved spaces, too.
There are so many events and the three mainstream corporate media in the area do 1-2 reviews each a week. Whatever I don't do is simply lost. What makes it onto Art Taco will exist as long as Google lives, and will be web-archived for the future. Whatever else this blog is, it soon dawned on me that it is also a history of the arts here.
I want to thank so many people... the artists, gallerists and many others who have generously supported what I do with their time, transparency, answering endless questions, incuding many I had not thought to ask, posing for pictures, educating me, showing me things, helping with esoterica, and voluntarily becoming part of this process. We share this passion and understanding. Without you, there would be nothing to write, and I am grateful. A special note of thanks to those who guest-blogged here in 2011, and a note to everyone else that this space is open to guest blogs.
To the thousands of wonderful Art Taco readers who are spread out around the world: Your comments and visits spur me on, the feedback helps me stay on track or jump off as needed. Many of your suggestions and ideas, as you know, have made it right into the blog. You catch my mistakes and correct me lovingly. Thank you.
Last but not least, my beloveds and personal friends, who sometimes unknowingly, do a lot of the unseen heavy lifting. You know who you are.
Though I am swamped with more work than time, there are surprises in store for 2012. Stray Tuned.
I wish all of you a 2012 full of love and wonders.
Ps. You may be sitting there, your face illuminated like a saint's in a medieval painting by the computer screen, thinking what can *I* do? There are many things, but the main one is: Commit to buying a couple of works of art in 2012, commensurate with your earnings and budget. Give your child $10-20 to buy one of their own. That feeling of well-being you get when you visit a gallery can be yours year-round in your own home and office. You can pass it on to your kids, visitors and friends. Bring them to galleries, too. Talk with the gallerists and artists, talk about prices, as well as the art itself.
Stop being a spectator and participate. No one else can take your place.