Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, was an interesting day. It started out like every other day with scanning and sometimes reading of The Post and Couriernewspaper, the Charleston, SC, area’s only daily newspaper. The item of the day which caught my attention was an ad for the new WLCN HD TV 18 station operating out of Summerville, SC. The line was – “now streaming LIVE 24/7 on the internet”. That’s interesting!
While doing daily duty number 2, e-mail, I also checked out this new station found on the internet here (www.wlcntv.com). Sure enough, there was a window on their site that showed streaming video, but I could never get the LIVE links to work. It’s always something with these computers, but that’s another of 1,000 possible blog entries about technology frustrations that I could write. But what I saw was impressive – as an alternative to old local stations. (What does this have to do with anything? In retrospect – they look like they need content providers – this would be a great opportunity for the Charleston Arts Coalition to grab a hold of a TV media opportunity to build an audience for the arts in other media markets.)
Next was a dental appointment. Just a regular visit for cleaning and checkup. No bad news there! What a relief. Those visits can turn into a financial nightmare.
Then it was off to Charleston. But, first I was going to have lunch with my Goddaughter, Zelda, who is a recent graduate of the Savannah School of Art and Design. She studied sequential art – used in animation films, manga, comic books, and in the production of movies. She can also do some illustration work – perhaps for children’s books. Anyone got a paying job opportunity out there? Never hurts to ask.
During lunch I told her where I was going later that day and she asked if she could go. I said I guessed she could, but it might be boring. She was still interested.
Hey, this almost sounds like a Twitter account – I just could never stick to the 147 characters thing. Or, one of those personal journal blogs where you tell everyone what you do every minute of the day.
Where we were headed to was the Creative Town Hall meeting entitled,Nursing Creativity Through the Economic Slump, presented by the Charleston Arts Coalition in partnership with the Tate Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Charleston. The gathering was held at the Wachovia Auditorium in the Beatty Center on Liberty Street in Charleston. One word in description of the facilities – impressive. (Say it like Darth Vader.)
The meeting was open to all Charleston creatives that are interested in exchanging ideas and bringing awareness of the importance of creative business for a thriving and prosperous cultural city. The Coalition would also announce the results of their “Voice of the People” survey and address the main themes and issues noted in the survey as well as have an open forum for discussion. They said you’ll be able to see the results of the survey on the Coalition’s website. Check it out.
What were my impressions of the gathering?
I’m going to be very short for once on a very complicated subject. It could take volumns to write about this meeting, but I won’t – for one thin,g if you’re that interested in what took place there – you should have been there. But, I got the impression that this gathering might not have been that well publicized or – and it’s a big OR – Charleston’s creative types are not that well plugged in to what’s going on.
First, it was a smaller crowd than I expected and it was top heavy – meaning that I saw a lot of people who were heads of their respective organizations, but there were not that many rank and file creative folks.
Second, I didn’t hear anything new that I haven’t heard a number of times before – mostly because some of the featured speakers are the same that have spoken many times before. They all made safe little speeches. Can you blame them? The politics of the arts in Charleston and South Carolina, for that matter, are not bent toward being candid without paying a price. Some people wouldn’t voice an opinion until certain other folks left the room. What does that tell you? And, after spending three hours traveling in my car to come and return from this meeting – why couldn’t some people spend two full hours at this meeting? I’m going to be counting on these folks in the future? I doubt it. And, like at the movie theatre – turn your cell phones off or on vibrate – which is the lesson I’m being told to learn. Mine was off.
Third, I heard people say things that I know from my own experience with them – not to be the case. It’s the old case of listen to what I say – don’t judge me by what I do. Sorry, I’m a do kind of guy – I’m judging.
Fourth, before entering this meeting, folks outside the room encouraged visitors to make comments on a bank of computers, during the meeting pleas were made for people to make comments on the Coalitions blog or website, and the final note of the meeting was for people to make comments, but as of this writing – no comments are flowing in. Not a good sign, but not unusual.
Fifth, about the survey – “Voice of the People”. Only 277 people took it – including me. I say only 277 because it has been said that there are over 5,000 people in the creative industries in the Charleston area. The opportunity to take the survey has been out there for some time, well publicized, but again – I’m not sure how well these creative type are tuned in to what’s going on in the Charleston art community. And, I’m not sure they care about much.
My hat goes off to the Coalition members, the Tate Center for Entrepreneurship, Jessica Solomon Bluestein, president of the Coalition for hosting the meeting and John W. Zinsser of Pacifica Human Communications for being the meeting’s commentator. They did a great job.
What’s my verdict?
Before I go into that, let me tell you about a little slice of the evening. Well into the meeting I wrote something on my note pad to show my Goddaughter after the meeting was over to see what she thought. It was – “Charlestock – 2 hours of love, peace, and collaboration!” – like Woodstock. Her impression was that she just witnessed a lovefest too. Now she’s one of those 5,000 plus artists in the Charleston art community and I don’t think she walked away with a lot of hope. Many times, Charleston’s reputation for being an arts mecca cannot deliver on all it’s made out to be. Charleston is a very small town with a very large art community. Hopefully she’ll find her place.
Back to the verdict. As frustrating as going to one of these meetings is for me – someone who has been in the community for over 34 years and seen way too many efforts come and go – I too saw something different at this meeting – a point voiced by several other members of the audience. I’m impressed with the Coalition’s determination and dedication to their mission – to Create, Unite and Inspire. I’m going to join the Coalition as a Business Sponsor and do as much as I can, but being a regional arts newspaper focused on the visual arts in the Carolinas – there will be limits to my involvement, which is something each member has to deal with. We all have our main jobs and like many in the art community these days – we’re fighting for survival too.
My biggest concerns for the future of this organization and what they will be able to accomplish is the art community at large – the rank and file creative folks. They don’t seem to be engaged and they don’t seem to be realistic at times. When I see in the survey that artists would be willing to pay from $3 – $15 a sq. ft. for space in “downtown” Charleston – when it is more like $40 to $50 a sq, ft. plus add-ons (taxes); when they say they are not willing to go anywhere but downtown Charleston; when they say they also want free and lots of parking – it’s hard to see how any organization can fulfill their dreams. They are just dreams. Have you seen a McDonalds in downtown Charleston? Do you know what the Apple Store is paying to be in downtown Charleston? Let’s get real.
On the point of all these arts groups working together – that’s a tough one – it’s natural for some, and down right unnatural for others. Will it happen – I don’t know. My experience says not, but I’ve always said – I won’t mind being proven wrong. In fact, I’m tired of my natural pessimism turning out to be justified.
Charleston – prove me wrong.
The scariest thing I heard mentioned at the meeting was the existence of another group – the Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts. Oh my.
All in all, a fairly interesting day.