“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.

A wrap-up of Sarah’s Time with Rise at ICI

 

Here are a few more photos and info about what Rise Industries was up to on Day 6-7 of the ICI Residency. Today, Friday, is the final install day for the exhibition, and Jeremy, Michele, Mike, and John are still at ICI, but I’ve returned to Boston, and already miss it!

These two photos above,  are from the filmstrip The Air About Us; a 1959 filmstrip for grammar school students, about a range of ideas relating to air and air pressure. The slides are beautifully photographed, oddly diagrammatic and some with the same awkward humor you see in those above. The filmstrip, which I watched without audio, has a wierd tonal contrast between pedagogy and poetry, science and spirituality.  It’s an experimental text and image work in itself.

I discovered what I thought was the empty filmstrip canister on my first day at ICI. A photo of the title on top of the canister  is featured in exhibition. But, because it’s such a short filmstrip, it was actually clinging so close to the sides of its canister that  I really thought the canister was empty. The last day I was there, I happened to open the canister again and realized the film had been there all along…

The Air About Us , the phrase alone  relates to the work we did during the residency. The air about us could be the representation of  distance using two dimensions; the uncanny quality of our 3d stereographic portraits. The air about us could be the cultural distance that travel photography can put between the subject and photographer. Or, it could be about misrepresentations of sizes and distances of continents in global projection maps.  It could also be about the contrast of closeness and distance we encounter in video chatting. Also, the air about us, is about us; Rise Industries. It’s about our personal relationships and histories and the roles we organically adopt within the collaborative, and challenges we face as we make art as a collaborative with members on opposite coasts and more than one continent. Working with Rise at ICI was a fantastic experience and I want to thank Rise and ICI, so very much!

Michele Jaquis, Jeremy Quinn, and Sarah Rushford in the ICI Lab

 

Me video chatting with Boris Margolin in Boston, showing him around ICI. Time clock and multi-time zone punch card piece at the right.

John Kim and Michele Jaquis discussing conversion techniques for Pacific Standard Time to Metric Standard Time.

Recording a drum set made out of balloons

posted by on 2011.06.05, under music, performance, Sound Design, Uncategorized

I just finished a 2 week recording project with balloon artist Addi Somekh.  He has traveled the world making balloon hats for people of all walks of life, and recently starred in the reality TV show The Unpoppables.  The purpose of this project was to develop the balloon drum set as a viable, recordable musical instrument, and to create a collection of balloon drum loops and samples.  We had several drummers come to play it and offer their input as the kit took a new shape and sound of it’s own. The clip here features George Bernardo playing the balloon drum set as I accompany him with an original composition on piano and synth.

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

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.

Grief On The Backseat

posted by on 2010.10.17, under Uncategorized

Electronic Sound Trio ‘Green Dad’ Reunites for the first time in nearly 5 years.  The group is strictly improvisatory.  We use laptops, instruments, found sounds, synthesized speech.  The goal is to make noise that is inquisitive.

Michael Feldman, Eric Beam, Jason Talton

Hear the Complete Set…

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.

4th of July Sonic Snafu

posted by on 2010.08.16, under Uncategorized

7.4.10  Ever wonder what happens when you put a few Rise Industries members together with a bunch of other sonically inclined friends and cram them in a small room with a bunch of musical toys and microphones….?  Listen on!  Beware, this is un-edited material.  But for the patient linear listeners or the determined skip-aheaders alike, there’s surely to be found some cool moments and perhaps even a few ‘gems’!

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!

“The history of Somerville, 2010-2100″ is now online!

posted by on 2010.02.17, under art, news, public art, Uncategorized
The first version of the website and book for “The history of Somerville , 2010-2100″ project is now online!
 
To download a free PDF of the book, click here. To view the project’s website, click here.
 
“The history of Somerville , 2010-2100″ is a community art project that is exploring what the future might be like. Both the book and the website present what we’ve found by talking to Somerville community members about the future. In the book and website, you’ll also find official government plans, think tank vision statements, and various ideas and concerns about the future from various other sources.
 
The Timeline section presents this material as a single timeline. In the Predictions Archive section, you’ll find the actual predictions that community members made.
 
We’ll be collecting predictions until the end of the year. If you’d like to make a prediction, please email Tim at future.of.somerville@gmail.com . All participants will receive full credit for their images, concepts, stories, and data. All material received by Dec. 31, 2010 will appear on the project’s website and in the final version of the book.
 
This project is organized by Tim Devin, and is sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council. The project is also on Facebook here.

pagetop


R