Archive for March, 2010

Creating spaces for artists

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Recently, some urban planners and politicians have touted nurturing artistic, creative professionals as the means for revitalizing or gentrifying urban areas. However, poorer and less politically powerful locals may eventually be displaced as rents and property values rise. In addition, funding for the arts is still relatively scarce, and art galleries and museums tend to favor star artists with international reputations. Artists thus face several challenges in producing their art – getting resources to do the art, developing relations with supportive colleagues and institutions, and finding places to share their art.

While alternative art venues like Burning Man can help with such issues, community-based collectives are also important to supporting local artistic activities, as argued by Yasmin Ramirez of Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY). Last night, I attended a talk by Ramirez, who discussed the importance of local networks in supporting the arts. She also presented the results of a survey of artists of color who had applied for an arts grant from the Urban Artist Initiative. Her report is available here.

“Author meets critics” session is this Fri., March 19, 1:45-3:15pm in Boston, MA – room location update

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

My first “author meets critics” session is this Fri., March 19, 1:45-3:15pm at the Eastern Sociological Society annual conference at Boston Park Plaza hotel, 50 Park Plaza at Arlington St. Boston, MA 02116. The talk is on the fourth floor in the “Franklin Room.” Critics are David Grazian (UPenn), Carmen Sirianni (Brandeis), and Debra Minkoff (Barnard College). Presider is Robin Leidner (UPenn).

Worm’s eye and bird’s eye perspectives of the metropolis

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

While in graduate school, I took a class with Prof. John Stilgoe. One lesson learned was how a particular perspective alters the experience of the landscape. For example, Spanish explorers experienced the Americas from the vantage point of horseback on land, while French explorers experienced the Americas from the vantage point of canoeing in rivers.

Even today, experiences of metropolis depend upon which point of view is adopted. In Black Rock City, I’ve walked, biked, and commuted by art car. The intrepid have also flown over BRC, or even sky dived and parachuted in. Conventional cities, such as New York City, offer more choice of perspectives. For instance, tourists are drawn to the bird’s eye perspective: the view from the Empire State building or a helicopter ride. (Note: there is a very practical reason why these helicopter rides are so short…think motion sickness.)

My preferred perspective is of the worm’s eye view of walking or inching along. This perspective allows for experiencing the city in a detailed, albeit slower and more manageable, pace. In contrast, public transportation via subway offers a targeted, subterranean experience, complete with rodents. Recently, I tried a new perspective: I rode a bicycle in Central Park, where most vehicles are prohibited. Whirling around the main loop in a vortex of competitive bicyclists, weaving past pedestrians, joggers, roller bladers, and horsedrawn carriages, reduced NYC to a form of hyperstimulated tunnel vision, much like driving or motorcycling. However, bike tours like this, in which roads are temporarily restricted to bicyclists, offer a more informed, leisurely sense of the city.

Finally, I close with one perspective of the city that humans don’t have direct access to, but must be a magnificent experience, even if it involves dive-bombing pigeons and other prey.

New York City's version of the birdfeeder