City of Spartanburg, SC, Helps People Be Creative??

Not too long ago I received a press release about a new website in Spartanburg, SC, which announced a new initiative by the City of Spartanburg to showcase the area’s creative community. At least I guess that’s what it was all about.

My first impression was that the site wasn’t that creative itself nor did I find a lot of info about creative issues. There was a blog – which I have learned is typical of government blogs – just a new place to dump press releases.

Here’s what the website posted to describe its mission:

“Welcome to the Spartanburg Creative Energy Website!

Bold . . . innovative . . cutting-edge . . . not words you usually associate with a City-initiated campaign. A community-wide recognition of a creative renaissance that surrounds us.

With the local support of more than 100 Partner organizations that have joined together to harness this energy into a focused campaign that celebrates existing creativity AND encourages continued creativity, especially as it relates to planning and problem-solving – to promote the creative process as one that supports collaborative partnerships and continuous learning.

This website highlights just a few of the many examples of outstanding local creativity in the fields of science, technology, architecture, education and medicine . . . just to name a few.”

That’s how they describe themselves.

While I was recently checking this site out again I came across an example of what they call “celebrating creativity”. There was an entry on the blog about Spartanburg sculptor Doug McAbee and his two sculptures being displayed near the clock tower in downtown Spartanburg. There was a link to an article in the local newspaper about the installation of the sculptures which McAbee was doing with the help – of his wife and parents?

Here’s part of the article, “The city, as part of the Creative Energy campaign, has partnered with Hub-Bub to identify Spartanburg artists to install sculptures or other pieces suitable for displaying outside. The artist is responsible for identifying places on the site to install the art, actual installation, insuring and maintaining the art and restoring the site after the art is removed.”

Wow, with help like that – creative people in Spartanburg will be going crazy with – being creative.

There was no mention of a stipend, usually provided to artists for free public sculpture displays. There were no city workers provided for help with labor. The city wasn’t even going to be responsible for insurance. And after the display is over, McAbee will have to dig up the concrete support (he laid) and restore the grass.

Here’s a quote from the artist from the article, “It’s a heck of a lot of trouble and a heck of a lot of work, but it’s worthwhile,” McAbee said. “It’s the whole reason why crazy artists like me do what we do.”

Oh come on. This is ridiculous. The City of Spartanburg sits back and thinks up creative ways to get artists to provide them cost-free art displays and they even have to partner with another group to do that. Give me a break.

Now down the road this “opportunity” may benefit McAbee. Maybe some individual or corporation will see the work and it will lead to a sale or a commission, but that’s depending on someone at the city making an effort to take a call and pass it on to the artist. I wouldn’t count on that by all the effort they are making. It more likely will lead to another city giving McAbee a call to see if they can get some free sculpture to decorate one of their parks or a town center.

McAbee has done installations of his art in other cities in both North and South Carolina. He’s got some works in the SC State Museum’s 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition – on view through Sept. 7, 2008. But, I can’t imagine he’s gotten less help than he did in Spartanburg. If he did – he is crazy.

I’m not an official spokesman for artists, and I’m not speaking for McAbee, but I would think artists don’t need help like this in being creative. They could use some real help.

I guess in the end, McAbee will be lucky if the City of Spartanburg doesn’t turn around and ask him to make a donation of one of his sculptures to be auctioned off to help fund their new initiative. That would be really creative. Might even win them one of those Verner awards from the SC Arts Commission.

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