Recovering From the Suburban Shit Hole

It was an unproductive low-impact kind of day. After a late breakfast at Eddie’s Taco House I made my way to some hotel at 1604 and 281 (and why anyone would willing travel to such a suburban shit hole — let along live there — is beyond my comprehension (that is where my imaginative prowess breaks down). Anyway, this is one of the locations chosen by OCA (the San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs) to hold their community outreach workshops where they explain to interested artists and arts organization a new initiative of theirs. CAAP, or the Community Arts Access Program, has been created to replace the Neighborhood Cultural Initiative (something like that — and I would never dump on that now retired program, because Ramon, Deborah, and I benefited from it back in 2005).

The Drury Plaza Hotel is a sad structure. Maybe a year old. It’s one of those buildings so popular in Texas’ edge cities, built out of aluminum, styrofoam, and industrial stucco. It’s an eyesore now, but wait five years and it will be an unkempt eyesore, as those disposable materials with which it was constructed begin to give way. (And, really, most of the new growth hotels in downtown San Antonio are in the same boat. If only I had the money to purchase them, I’d buy them and set the wrecking balls loose up them.) I do know I’m digressing. But one last dig. While we were in the meeting room (I believe it was room 103), I had to suffer an hour and a half with two semi-recessed ballasted lights in the ceiling flicking, out of synch, every two to seven seconds. I sure hope OCA didn’t dish out any money for this dreary Drury venue.

I’m done.

The presentation was run by Frank Villani. Frank’s cool. He’s smart and funny, and very sharp. He’s a good man to have on the side of the arts. I’ve met with him on several occasions, but I’m never sure if he remembers who I am.

The CAAP sounds like a good idea. The concept is for OCA to petition San Antonio artists and art & cultural organizations to submit proposals to be listed on a city arts roster. This is similar to what we here in Texas have on a state level (until those god damn Republicans pull the funding for the arts in Texas … just as they pull funding for education (these fiscal conservative tea party assholes won’t be happy until the general US population’s cultural and technical literacy is akin to that of Somalia).

I’ve worked with Humanities Texas and their roster of experts for an event I produced. I was able to find a sponsor to get the needed matching funds to bring in a guest speaker.

This is how CAAP works. There is a sliding scale of the percentage which OCA will pay the artist. The organization who wants the artist (or group) to preform or present needs to find a way to come up with the balance. So, this is basically an incentive program. But here’s the weird and wonderful thing. Okay. Say you are an artist who passes through the vetting process. Let’s say you’re a performance artist who wants to reach out to kids. You create a story-telling style. You offer several stories. Video examples are posted on the CAAP website. A school calls CAAP. They’ve seen that you will come out with your guitarist for 500 bucks. They pay 250, and CAAP pays 250 (and don’t quote me on the breakdown, because it’s not always half and half) — and, here’s the great thing: of that 500 dollars, it all goes to the storyteller (hopefully she (or he) throws some to the guitarist). But you see that this can be quite empowering for the artists in town. Yeah, I’m sure there are already people thinking of how this is just a divisive crock, but, me? I’m using the next five weeks or so until the submission deadline to figure out how I might present myself as a wonderful artist, educator, facilitator, for this new venture of OCA.

And let me say this about the San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs. If you are an artist in San Antonio and you feel that OCA doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you, well, what are you doing about it? As a filmmaker with little in the way of a CV — I don’t have a Masters and I don’t often screen at festivals — I have managed to work with OCA in such a manner that I worked on a group project (Dia de los Artistas) which was heavily funded by OCA; I attended a professional development conference as a member of NALIP, and OCA paid a good chunk of that; OCA sponsored me for their annual Creative Capital weekend retreat; I was one of the judges for the first annual Neighborhood Film Project, co-sponsored by OCA and the San Antonio Film Commission; and for three years I have sat on the Luminaria Arts Night in San Antonio steering committee, an annual event heavily funded by OCA.

You said, hey, OCA’s not helping me much! Well, does OCA know who you are? OCA barely knows who I am, but OCA has given so much to me. Oh, and, yeah, I try my best to give back to OCA. Don’t worry. It’s fine. All San Antonio artists and performers are part of my family, my community. And that includes the arts administrators. Sure, there are many of you (artists and bureaucrats) who I don’t really like (many know who you are), but if you’re besieged, I’ll leap in to defend you.

@@@@@

As the sun began to set tonight I realized I really wanted to see an art instillation on the nearby riverwalk extension. I had seen the installation before several times, but only in the daytime. This is a footbridge with sandstone blocks on the sides which have been painted in festive colors. But the paint has been mixed with a luminous agent. They been made into glow-in-the-dark bricks. It sounded so cool to me. I love glow-in-the-dark anything! So, tonight, I decided to go out and see it. I wanted to take pictures, so I grabbed my Canon 7D and a tripod. I got there at twilight. No big deal. The bridge is only a quarter mile from my place (but because I still have a cold I feel vindicated that I drove there instead of walked).

As the sun set, I took some pictures of the river. Here’s a slow shutter image.

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And when the sun finally set, I walked back to the glow-in-the-dark bridge.

What the fuck? It was lit by a bright sodium vapor street light on the railroad bridge above. Here’s a shot of the bridge at night, lit by that damn lamp.

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So, what’s the problem? Who allowed this to happen? OCA? PASA? I know we can’t blame the artist. This problem has to be fixed. I know something like this would never have happened on the northern museum extension. The city had better get their shit together. Don’t leave the southside hanging. Kill this light and fix Anne Wallace’s bridge a mile down river.

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