Creative Scene-Making

City Paper

On the very same day our State of the Arts issue came out, Mayor $RB hosted her Cultural Town Hall. There were a lot of people interested in talking about issues raised in the paper, especially by Kalima Young’s piece on siloing. But, due to all the obligatory ass-kissing that comes at the beginning of such events and a longish lecture on “creative place-making,” the period for questioning was exceptionally short. 

A couple of interesting things arose, however. Evan Moritz, of the Annex Theater, asked about what tools he and the other performance groups hoping to develop 408-414 N. Howard St. had available. The mayor said that if he were asking about tools available for small businesses, she would have a long list, but for small nonprofits, she did not. The city should follow up on this. 

The mayor also praised using empty lots as performance venues in each neighborhood. I wonder if they would be shut down when someone actually tried to perform. 

Another woman, whose name I did not catch, asked about McKeldin Fountain and why, if the city was about “creative place-making,” which was defined as “doing art to change a place,” they were going to tear down the fountain, which is, in some sense, art. 

$RB was befuddled. She asked for clarification. The woman explained. The mayor again asked for clarification. It seemed as if she was prepared to answer Occupy-related questions about removing the public square. But she could not fathom that anyone else actually liked the fountain.

Instead of “creative placemaking,” the plans for the fountain seem a bit more like capitalism’s old-fashioned “Creative Destruction.” (For more info, follow the fountain on Twitter @McKldnFntn.)

I’m not a huge fan of brutalism, but I am painfully aware that every generation is historically shortsighted. 

I was also hoping that the Cultural Town Hall might have been a chance to ask the mayor about DIY spaces. She reaffirmed her belief that art would create “vibrancy” which would bring 10,000 families.  She even talked, positively, about “underground” art. But, I had hoped to ask, why have all the DIY—or underground—spaces been busted? And what does she think about her police department using rap videos as evidence of a crime, instead of art (“Out the Mud?,” Feature, Oct. 15)? 

But, alas, my hopes were again smashed as the Q&A period ended after maybe five or six questions. I hear, though it has not gone up online by press time, that the Mayor sat down to do an interview with erstwhile CP contributor  Cara Ober of BmoreArt, which I take, sort of, as a personal affront. I mean, I’ve been begging and asking her to talk to me about art for months. But, Cara is smart and she is, admittedly, much better behaved than I and so I see why the city would prefer to talk to her. But, that’s why I’m disappointed. The Mayor bypassed another chance for greatness in favor of mediocrity. We could have gone off for a Q&A and it could have gone a little something like this:

 

$RB: So, you’ve been making all of these goddamn songs and stuff. Break out the bowl.

Conflicts of Interest: I’ve got a vaporizer.

$RB: That works . . . Wow, that tastes good. What is that?

CI: I think it’s Jack Herer. It has a pretty low level of existential dread. 

$RB: In this job, there is nothing but a bunch of fucking existential dread. You think your job is hard—I know, three alt-weeklies closed down this week, print is dead, and all that shit. But look at what I have to deal with. A crumbling fucking city. It’s goddamn post-apocalyptic sometime. A police force under federal investigation because these thugs are beating the fuck out of people. What the hell? How do I handle that?

CI: Yeah, what do you think about Detective Hersl’s alleged vendetta against Young Moose? And using ‘Posted’ as evidence? 

$RB: [Singing] “I see him I’m like ‘Dumb Dumb.’ I’m like he living dumb dumb.” I really can connect with that song, you know—pass that shit. So, what can I do? I gotta let the feds and the courts deal with that shit. But, you know, even with the arts and stuff, I try to do good and you’re always fucking with me. You don’t know the end of any political action, and yet you have to act. You hope it comes out right. But a little hope, a little faith, a little good will on your end would help. 

CI: I know what you mean. I tried to address the overwhelming whiteness of our staff and the minute we went to print, I realized I had painted the city as if it were black and white. But see, I can say, I fucked up. I should have addressed the Latino community, the Lumbee community. But y’all, in power, never admit that you fuck up.  It is inevitable, so we will only admire the ones who admit it. 

 

Then we’d go off and have a couple of drinks and talk about silos and DIY spaces and she would become the most famous mayor in America, for a while. 

Instead, there is probably a pretty informative conversation with Cara. Oh well. But, since we’re talking about alternative histories, imagine a world where our past, our present, and our futures collide, so that the founders put the Declaration of Independence up on Facebook. Damien Ober (no relation to Cara), a writer who works for the Syfy Network and is currently writing a script for Robert Downey Jr. (and a buddy of mine), is coming to town on Wednesday, Oct. 22,  to Windup Space to read from his book “Doctor Benjamin Franklin’s Dream America,” which presents the historical deaths of each signatory of the Declaration—I am still always brought to tears by Jefferson and Adams, both dying on July 4, 50 years to the day after signing the document, as they are each writing about the Greek historian Thucydides and about the country they created; fuck—while cross-pollinating that true history with plagues that spread through technology, aliens who trade for all our gold, sea monsters slain by Andrew Jackson, and a Revolutionary War won by George Washington going off the grid. The Degenerettes and The Big Sway will also play, and Ober will be reading between songs in the set of the Barnyard Sharks (my band), who will play live, for the first and only time “Come on Mayor $RB (Won’t You Smoke a Little Weed with Me).” But, in case Detective Hersl is reading, when other members of the band sing backup, it is all pure fiction. 

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