“Getting by in Boston” Turns 1

posted by on 2015.06.09, under art, culture, politics, Uncategorized
From the "How we get by" event. Left to right: Tim Devin, Andi Sutton, Heather Kapplow, Dirk Adams, Dave Ortega, Melinda Cross, Gregory Jenkins, Emily Garfield. Not pictured: Coelynn McIninch, Greg Cook, Jason Pramas, Shea Justice. Photo by Ho Yin Au

From the “How we get by” event. Left to right: Tim Devin, Andi Sutton, Heather Kapplow, Dirk Adams, Dave Ortega, Melinda Cross, Gregory Jenkins, Emily Garfield. Not pictured: Coelynn McIninch, Greg Cook, Jason Pramas, Shea Justice. Photo by Ho Yin Au

Last week marked the first anniversary of Getting by in Boston, or “GBIB” for short. It’s a series of meetings, an online forum, and a handful of related groups—all focused on how creative people (artists, writers, musicians & how) can survive in our famously expensive little Boston. The whole thing is pretty DIY, with different people taking the lead when they want to. And, weirdly enough, it all grew out of a single event that took place last June 4th.

That event, which Jason Pramas, Matt Kaliner, and I put together, was supposed to be a one-off thing. It was called “How we get by,” and featured 10 well-respected artists talking about how they make ends meet, and how they find the time and funds for their artwork. This was breaking some taboos, since creative folks don’t usually talk about how they pay their bills. First, it’s not how they identify themselves; second, there’s this weird notion that successful artists earn their keep from their art, so most people aren’t really upfront about the fact that they work—since it implies they’re not “successful.” So image everyone’s surprise when all but one of the speakers talked about their day jobs and their problems making ends meet. (Here’s an article I wrote about the event for the Mass. Cultural Council, and here’s Edmond Caldwell’s review of it for Big Red and Shiny.)

Over 100 people showed up for the event. There was a lot of energy there, so the next day, Jason, Matt and I set up a discussion group on Facebook called “Getting By In Boston.” After a few weeks, we also started organizing some follow-up meetings. Between the online forum and the in-person meetings, there were a lot of interesting discussions. And even some real-life outcomes.

—-The issues—-

More on the other meetings in a minute. First: what have the GBIB people been talking about? Well, there’s been a lot actually, which makes summarizing it pretty hard. But here are the four biggies:

  1. Community. Folks have been really interested in learning from each other, and figuring out ways to help each other out. There’s also been talk about the need for a greater sense of community among creative people. This surprised me at first, but it makes sense given how fragmented the creative scene really is.
  2. Money. No surprises here. The first event revolved around how few arts-related jobs there are, and how hard it is to try build a career in any given creative field—and how much work people are doing for free in the hopes of establishing a reputation that will lead to these things. This led to discussions about how little money there is in the local creative system in general, and how expensive it is to live around here—which is the reason so many talented people leave. Some solutions: coops, and sharing resources.
  3. Political situation of creative folks. One big thing that I was glad to see come up is the need for creative folks to band together and fight for what they need. There were lots of discussions about arts funding, zoning as it relates to us creatives, and social issues such as racial divides. For example, when I was getting ideas together for this post, Greg Cook told me that “Getting By helped clarify feelings I’d long had about the inequality (financial, gender, racial, sexual, age, geographic, etc.,) that so dominates the creative worlds—but perhaps previously I didn’t have the right words for.”
  4. Physical space. The high cost of living is the number one issue facing everyone who lives around here, not just us creative people. But the way this plays out for us is there aren’t many venues for producing and showing work, and the ones that do exist don’t last a long time. Just like our apartments. An online poll I put together last year showed that space was at the top of GBIB’s list of concerns; and posts by people looking for space, or announcing a space is closing are pretty common on the FB page. Rising rents force us to move around, which makes us complicit in gentrification—another topic that’s gotten a lot of play.

(There’s no way I could do justice to the whole discussion, so if you’re interested in learning more, take a look at the FB discussion group.)

—-Then there were a whole bunch of meetings—-

Like I mentioned, there was a lot of energy after the first event. But what should happen next? Did people want to move forward and get organized? Or were there existing groups or organizations that we could get involved with? Or both? At the first follow-up meeting, the consensus seemed to be that there were some wonderful organizations working already, but that we should focus on some of our own needs. We met again a few weeks later at Aeronaut (which Jesa Damora helped set up, after our first location fell through at the last minute); over beers, we discussed how we could organize ourselves, and a few people like Jason Pramas and Nancy Anderson pitched specific ideas.

—-So what’s come about of all of this? Meet the GBIB family—-

Mass. Creative Workers at the April 14th rally for living wages in Boston. Jason Pramas is in the center; Loreto Paz Ansaldo is on the right..

Mass. Creative Workers at the April 14th rally for living wages in Boston. Jason Pramas is in the center; Loreto Paz Ansaldo is on the right.

Mass. Creative Workers

One of the ideas we heard about at that third meeting was Jason’s concept of an association to “take action to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions in several creative industries.” A number of GBIB people signed on, and they began meeting regularly, calling themselves the Mass. Creative Workers. Among other things, they marched as part of the April 14 demonstration for fair wages in Boston. Anyone interested can go here for info on upcoming meetings and actions, or email them at masscreativeworkers@openmediaboston.org.

Off the Wall

Nancy Anderson also pitched an idea at the Aeronaut meeting. She was concerned about how hard it is to find a place to show your work, since there are so many artists competing for precious little gallery space. She wanted to match artists looking for places to show their work with businesses with wall space. She’s since partnered with Somerville Open Studios, and is about to go live (stay tuned). Off the Wall is a complete service for both the artists and the businesses: it curates the work, handles arrangements (including selling the art), promotes both the artists and business-partners on social media, and rotates work on a regular basis. You can email her at canis_major@mac.com for details.

The first "how to be an artist and a parent" event. Speaker James Montford is in the center. Speakers not pictured: Paige Wallis and Stacy Thomas-Vickory.

The first “how to be an artist and a parent” event. Speaker James Montford is in the center. Speakers not pictured: Paige Wallis and Stacy Thomas-Vickory.

How to be an artist and a parent?

One theme of the GBIB discussions is how to make ends meet, and still have time for creative work—something parents who are artists or writers or musicians feel pretty deeply. This realization led Greg Cook and me to start a series for creative parents called “How to be an artist and a parent.” We’ve had two events so far, and there’s also an online forum here. The idea is to swap notes on how to juggle our competing interests, how to manage time better, and to maybe find ways to help each other out. If you want to get involved, join the discussion on our Facebook page, or motor on over to our website here. You can read Greg’s summary of our first event here, and my article about the second one here.

Artists and Writer’s Mutual Aid Society

Another concern for GBIB folks seems to be a need for more community, and maybe some helpful motivation along with it. Be Be (aka Brenda Be) organized an event in Somerville last November along these lines, and called it “The Artists and Writers’ Mutual Aid Society.” She is currently reorganizing the idea as a regular series of monthly meetings. In addition to fostering community, this new group will be a place to find collaborators, share advice, and brainstorm. You can get involved by joining the FB group here.

—-The bottom line—-

Peyton, the GBIB mascot.

Peyton, the GBIB mascot.

But besides some discussion meetings, a few new groups, and a whole lot of online chatter, what’s actually been accomplished?

Each creative form has its own niche community in Boston; as a result, people who could be working together not only don’t know each other’s needs—they don’t even know each other’s names. So it was interesting to see GBIB bridge this gap for a number of people. “It started with the visual arts,” fellow organizer Matt Kaliner told me, “but the later meetings did connect with theater a bit, especially after the closing of the Factory Theater.” And once that gap was bridged, people started realizing the challenges they face were related. Matt again: “I was really struck by the similar problems across genres.”

It’s also become a place where people discuss social and political issues. Beyond all of this chatter—and, most likely, because of it—I’ve seen GBIB folks at rallies and open meetings on arts funding, as well as more in-the-weeds things like meetings on Somerville’s new zoning code, and talks on artist-led gentrification.

Besides these shows of force, this energy has translated into at least one win: a new grant category. At “How we get by,” Heather Kapplow mentioned that the Mass. Cultural Council’s grants program supports a large range of media—but didn’t really address interdisciplinary work. This is important, since interdisciplinary work is arguably some of the most innovative (since it plays with different forms) and the least supported (because it doesn’t fall into existing grant and exhibition categories). After the event, a number of us (Philip Fryer, Andi Sutton, Kathleen Bitetti, Heather and myself) decided to approach the MCC. They were very receptive, and got back later in the summer to say that they’d expanded the sculpture/installation category to include “new genres,” which is specifically designed to provide an option for those working across disciplines.

Which I think is a lot for one year. But then again, I’m biased.

—-What’s going to happen in the next year?—-

The group has been going off in different directions lately, but that seems like a good thing: people are getting down to working on the part of the problem they think is the most important. So if one of the four existing groups appeals to you, get in touch! We’re all pretty open people.

But of course, there are tons of issues that affect us here, so if something’s bothering you beyond those four issues, we hope you’ll bring it up on the forum. Maybe others will agree, and we can get started on it. Let’s make it happen.

 

Special thanks to the folks who let me pick their brains: Brenda Be, Coelynn McIninch, Greg Cook, Heather Kapplow, Jason Pramas, Matt Kaliner, Michael Goodman, MJND, and Nancy Anderson.

Play-Jurisms is this weekend!

posted by on 2011.05.20, under Uncategorized

Curious about how copyright and alternatives impact your creative work? Wondering how other creatives are using or misusing copyright? Want to know how to protect your work from being stolen– or how much of other people’s works you can include in your own?

Play-Jurisms is a 2-day series geared towards creatives. Over the weekend of May 21 and 22, 2011, we’ll have a number of events that address these important, and often confusing issues.

Saturday, May 21:
-130pm. Miguel Danielson, “Copyright Offense and Defense for Artists” (lecture)
-3pm. Sheri Mason, “Recent Trends in Artists Rights” (lecture)
-430pm. Massachusetts Pirate Party, “Culture Should be Shared, Not Monopolized” (lecture)
-(Break)
-7pm. “Sonic Outlaws” (documentary film)

Sunday, May 22:
-2pm. Don Schaefer. “Create, Don’t Appropriate: The Dangers of Misplaced Anger in the War on Corporate Mass Media Culture”
-315pm. “Panel Discussion: Artists Who Appropriate and the Art That They Make” (Alana Kumbier; Danny Mekonnen; Dirk Adams; Vela Phelan)
-430pm. Boston Radical Reference Collective “Workshop”/ “Show-And-Tell Discussion” (open to everyone who wants to talk)
-(break)
-7pm. Gang Clan Mafia (multimedia performance)
-8pm. Factory Seconds (music performance)

Play-Jurisms is organized by David Taber and Tim Devin, and will be held at the Democracy Center near Harvard Square. All events are FREE!

See our website for a full description of events, etc.: http://playjurisms.wordpress.com/
We love getting emails. We’re at: play.jurisms@gmail.comSee More

Photos for the Nave show

posted by on 2011.02.08, under art, exhibition, performance, public art

Here are some photos from the show I had at the Nave Gallery for my “History of Somerville, 2010-2100″ community art project.

At the gallery.

Visitors could add their own predictions to the timeline.

About 40 new predictions were added during the show. In this photo, there are a number of hand-written notes on the wall.

This is the same wall, before the show.

At the reception, futurist Seth Itzkan gave a short talk about thinking about the future-- and then led us on a guided future-visioning exercise.

After futurist Seth Itzkan's talk, we had Future-aoke-- the open mic about the future. About a dozen brave, thoughtful souls got up, and spoke about their ideas and concerns about the future.

...Another Future-aoke speaker...

After Future-aoke, Neil Horsky and Anna Horsky played some music on instruments that haven't even been invented yet.

...and then there was Mingling...

“History of Somerville, 2010-2100″ at the Nave this weekend!

posted by on 2011.02.02, under art, exhibition, performance, public art, social practice, urbanism
Hi everyone-
 
Just wanted to let you know about an art show (and performance) at the Nave Gallery this weekend. It’s for my “History of Somerville, 2010-2100″ community art project.
 
Between Feb. 2009 and Dec. 2010, I spoke to residents about what they hoped/feared might happen in the future; collected official governmental and city plans; and think-tank vision statements– and created a history of the future based on what I found.
 
I’ll be presenting this information at the Nave Gallery this Saturday and Sunday. There will be a timeline that you can read– and add predictions to. At the reception, there will be a short talk by futurist Seth Itzkan; theremin music by Adam Schutzman; and something I call “Future-aoke”– where people can step up on the mic for a few minutes, and share their thoughts on the future. Gallery website:
 
HOURS
Saturday, Feb. 5, 1 p.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 6, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Opening reception, Saturday at 6 p.m.
 
The Nave is at 155 Powderhouse Blvd., Somerville.
 
Hope you can make it!

And here’s the future!

posted by on 2011.01.07, under art, news, public art, Uncategorized

As part of the “History of Somerville, 2010-2100″ project, we’ve put together a version of the future based on people’s ideas we collected from Feb. 2009 to Dec. 2010. (This is the final version of the project. New predictions include Somerville merging with Cambridge, Charlestown and parts of Medford to form “Peninsular City” in 2050; Whitey Bulger’s ghost saving Somerville from gentrification and artists; and a Class 4 hurricane named Igor striking town in 2045.)

All of this information about the future is available on our website as a timeline and as a free PDF book.

And… Coming soon:

-a printed version of the book!
-a book reading at the Somerville Public Library!
-an art show at the Nave Gallery!
-Future-aoke!
…stay tuned…

“The history of Somerville, 2010-2100″ is a community art project that explores what the future might be like. It is organized by Tim Devin, and was sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council.

Another newsflash from the future!

posted by on 2010.09.09, under art, politics, public art, Uncategorized, urbanism

It’s been an exciting time for the future! This summer, we had our Future Information table at a number of festivals, and interviewed over 20 people about the future. We’ve included them on the “History of Somerville, 2010-2100” website. Take a look if you get the chance! (Timeline combining all of the predictions is here. Archive of predictions people have sent in is here.)

Here are some of the new facts about the future you might find interesting:

–           In 2036, the Union Square branch of the Green Line is extended down Somerville Ave. to Porter Square .

–           In 2060, the city’s DPW goes bankrupt. Davis Square is overrun by the cows and goats that the city now keeps to clear away garbage and mow the grass.

–           By 2030, Somerville has become a mecca for singletons. They take the place and apartments of the families that are leaving town because of the poor quality of the city’s public schools.

–           By 2100, Somerville has channeled the rising floodwaters into planned waterways. Gondoliering becomes a popular occupation, and a new festival (Gondo Fest) joins the Fluff Fest in residents’ hearts, minds, and calendars.

We’re still collecting predictions! If you’d like to make a prediction, just email Tim at future.of.somerville@gmail.com , or visit the website for more details.

Thanks!

About the project:
“The history of Somerville, 2010-2100″ is a community art project that is exploring what the future might be like. We’ve been talking to current and former residents; gathering official plans; and collecting think-tank vision statements.

This project is organized by Tim Devin, and is sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council.

The Logan Airport sidewalk wander

posted by on 2010.08.18, under architecture, art, politics, public art

Walking near barbed wire and blast walls. Photo by MN.

A single sidewalk connects all of Logan Airport’s terminals with each other, and with the MBTA’s Airport Station. This sidewalk runs past barbed wire, flower beds, busy sliding doors, and walled-up access roads. Millions of people pass it each year, but few ever stop to notice it.

On Saturday, June 19, 2010, about twenty people joined me for a group exploration of this sidewalk, as part of the Common Boston festival. There were a few architects and urban planners along, as well as a man named Mike who’d grown up near the airport in East Boston; a pilot named Patrick who’d written a book about Logan’s history; some people involved in making public space more walker-friendly; and a number of other interested local residents. MassPort’s spokesperson, Kay, was nice enough to join us as well.

We set out from the MBTA station, and walked about a half mile along a lonely access roads towards the first terminal. Along the way, I gave a brief overview of the airport’s history; Patrick and Kay added a number of details. Kay also passed around internal MassPort maps of the area, which she’d brought along for us to look at. These maps filled in a lot of blank spots for me; when I was doing research for the tour, I was surprised by how many things I couldn’t find out about the airport’s structures.

At the sight of the first pieces of barbed wire, the subject of airport security came up. We talked about blast walls and barbed wire; 9/11; the airport’s history of terrorism, terrorist attempts, and sensational arrests of people who were thought to be terrorists; terrorist watch lists, and the Department of Homeland Security; and the fact that I’d had to provide MassPort with a list of the names of everyone who had signed up for the tour (presumably so that MassPort could do background checks). Opinions on these topics varied.

As we walked, Kay and I told everyone about Logan’s architectural history. Patrick added information about a number of buildings, such as the fact that Terminal E had been extended out, which explained the strange cul-de-sac at the building’s southern end. As a group, we examined and discussed the fenced-off areas for dogs (known as “PetPorts”); the airport’s special trash barrels (known as “bomb barrels”); and the strange open areas in front of the terminals. We also stopped and looked at each terminal building; the consensus was that not many of the buildings seemed designed to be looked at from the street.

Sidewalk talk. Photo by MN.

In front of Terminal B, we discussed 9/11 again, since two of the hijacked planes had flown out of Logan. I also talked briefly about the airport’s rapid expansion in the 60s and 70s into local residential neighborhoods, parks and nature preserves; as well as the resulting community protests (people laying in front of bulldozers, etc.), and the government’s backlash against them (marshals closing off entire residential areas, etc.). Mike, who’d grown up nearby, followed up my historical lecture with a number of more personal details. Kay then told us about the good that MassPort had done for East Boston in the 80s and 90s—such as paying for soundproofing homes and schools, and funding a park or two.

My tour ended at the front of Terminal A. Kay then volunteered to show everyone the third-floor walkway connecting Terminals A and E, which has a great view of the airport and the city. It also overlooks the 9/11 Memorial. We discussed 9/11 again, and then everyone went their separate ways.

The Everyday Exchange at MEME

posted by on 2010.06.24, under art, exhibition, performance

The Everyday Exchange will be at MEME next week!

The Everyday Exchange is a celebration of our daily routines—such as commuting to work, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, making breakfast…

Participants in the Exchange talk to each other about their routines. One person then makes a small present for their friend about these routines, or to be used during these routines. These gifts can be anything from a small artwork, to a poem, to a sound recording.

Visitors to the Exchange’s show at Meme will be able to see examples of past presents. They are also welcome to sit down and talk to Tim Devin about their own routines—and get a small present out of it.

Gallery hours: June 27- July 3rd 1pm to 8pm.
Closing : Saturday July 3rd, 6pm to 10pm

MEME: 55 Norfolk St, Cambridge MA

MEME website here
Exchange website here

MEWS-PARI this weekend!

posted by on 2010.06.02, under performance, public art
On Saturday, June 5, MEWS-PARI (the meaningful encounters with strangers preservation and reenactment initiative) will be doing its story-gathering/street theater thing at the Cambridge River/Figment Boston festival.
 
Since 2007, MEWS-PARI has been collecting people’s stories of their meaningful encounters with strangers. We’ve then been making maps and charts about them; writing dramatizations; creating free books; and reenacting the stories. 
 
At the festival, we’ll have a table with free books and dramatizations. we’ll be tape-recording people’s stories, and reenacting others with anyone who wants to join us.
 
We hope you’ll decide to join us!

German zine show

posted by on 2010.05.07, under Uncategorized

The D21 Gallery in Leipzig is hosting a great show on zines, starting this Friday.

There will be talks, demonstrations and other such goodies. My “i left this here for you to read” project will be in the show. Hooray for Germany!

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