There's been a lot of chatter on The Internets™ regarding the recent Cultural Alliance Forum, the listening session and the 2-day Creative Community Summit/MKE Kre8 Kamp. The Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) listserv has been all abuzz with notes and commentary from both attendees and non-attendees, including Milwaukee area art mainstays Pegi Taylor (here and here), Peter Goldberg (here, here, here and here), Mike Brenner (here), Rex Winsome (a.k.a. Ben Turk--here), and MARN's own Melissa Dorn Richards (here and here).
Never to be overlooked or underestimated, Artsy Schmartsy (a.k.a. Jonathan West), who attended both the Cultural Alliance Forum and the 2-day Creative Community Summit/MKE Kre8 Kamp--god love him--has offered up some up-close-and-personal insights and reaction to what went down at the summit. He's sounding very optimistic at the moment and he'll continue to post further musings.
As for myself, well I have to be honest, and when the truth bug hits me look out 'cause you may be standing in the line of projectile verbiage fire. That being said, I will do my utmost to relate my opinions with an eye on what's fair and, for the most part, keep my guts on mute.
What I witnessed through the Creative Community Summit/MKE Kre8 Kamp live blog was both heartening and disturbing. From my perspective, it was filled with far too many corporate types and not enough artists. While I believe that every single person there was and is good intentioned and truly does want to make positive changes in how the arts and cultural community of the Milwaukee 7 Region thinks and works, it is extremely hard to believe that such changes will be made when those who possess the most flexible minds and progressive ideas were not in attendance.
All those at the summit made commitments to work toward solutions and to connect with and include artists of all kinds in the process. Though no blood was drawn, each made binding promises, but everyone over the age of twelve knows that promises--whether intentionally or not--are often broken. I do have true sympathy for those who work in large, bureaucratic organizations and institutions for they will have the hardest time living up to the commitments they have made, and I wish them all the best in their endeavors.
So what is a reasonable response? For those of us who are independent artists and small arts/cultural orgs, it would seem that, so far, there has been little presented that addresses us directly. Some reaching out has occurred, of that there is no doubt, but if those at the summit have a plan of action, then what are we to do until their plan begins to act? Assuming, of course, that actually happens. Are we to simply wait for them to call upon us? That hardly seems likely or appropriate.
Before we can come to a reasoned response, we must first define who we are. As independents, we are not a single organism, acting and speaking as one only on rare occasions. Each of us is a free individual and we have a responsibility to ourselves as much as to the community. Time and energy are our most precious commodities and they should not be given away lightly.
So then, as we have control over our own destinies, it is up to each one of us to make the decision to either engage the Cultural Alliance--and any other entities that emerge from these meetings--head-on or to go our own way to continue on with our work.
Those who choose not to engage the Cultural Alliance and others should understand that your voice is needed, so don't stop talking, never stop thinking and always be mindful that your contributions have real value.
For those who do choose to engage the Cultural Alliance and others, it is imperative that you speak up and participate to the best of your ability, letting the truth be known about how your independent art, life and mind work so an understanding and appreciation can begin to grow. This, like so many things in life, is an unending task, guaranteed to bring misunderstandings and frustrations, but, as the old adage goes, just because a job is hard doesn't mean it can't be done.
This is the choice laid before you. What say ye, good people? Yah or Nay.