Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hey! Its the best collaborative art project ever!!!!!!!!!!

There is a big question mark in downtown Missoula right now. And with Macy’s leaving, economic uncertainty is on everyone’s mind. According to the Missoulian, John Engan has received proposals that could expand the role of art and culture in our city. In fact, a Cultural Plan is called for in the Missoula Greater Downtown Master Plan . This includes a Performing Arts Center and a Cultural District. Much of this is yet to be defined. That is where our window of opportunity resides. It might take a couple hours for you catch up on current policies, and spend a little bit of creative energy responding. But we need to articulate concrete plans and demand usable policies from our City Council and local organizations. This Cultural Plan can be the groundwork for true community arts and cultural advancement-- not to mention economic stimulus. (Read about Cultural Plans elsewhere)

As artists we’re really familiar with economic uncertainty. Many of us respond by collaborating to share resources. Sometimes we find success, but thus far our arts community still voices concern over fragmentation. Every arts group I interact with wishes for more unified support of the arts, cross - pollination between organizations, better community access.

We want to bring the arts to mainstream culture because we believe its transformative and brain-enhancing powers make children into better learners, promote civic engagement, and stimulate the economy. Just as importantly, we want to keep our talented artists and creative professionals (ahem…ourselves!) in Missoula, so we don’t give up and move to Portland. Plus, like many other small cities in the US and Europe, we recognize the value of collaboration over competition, and understand the economic value of multi-use spaces.

My dear, amazing artists, revolutionaries, and visionaries, I think there’s a new direction we can go with this desire. But it’s time to cross some friend-group lines. And, especially, some generation gaps. We can make far more productive use of our energy than writing business plans, grant proposals, seeking 501c3 status, and scraping together rent. Okay those things are important tasks, too. But, if we want to see something change in our arts and culture atmosphere, we must mobilize in a grassroots manner and be more effective, more vocal in the right places, with the right amount of research and evidence behind us. For example, I propose a bunch of us pitch in to bring some experienced cultural planners to Missoula to help us do this. But first more of us need to get up to speed on Missoula’s goals thus far.

Imagine if there were policies that protected a Cultural District so that artists had better (cheaper) access to living and work spaces. What if it couldn’t become gentrified, but remained a cultural hub? Check out what Boston has accomplished through zoning. They made an artist district that really seems to be working. In this way, separate organizations can maintain autonomous vision, individual artists dont have to become non-profit administrators ( if they dont want). Arts ZONING can help the very diverse visions flourish because maybe one arts space isnt the answer for everyone.

Skim this site, as there are a lot of resources...

Also , Linda McCarthy, Director of the Missoula Downtown Association, wrote something great in InBusiness last week: "Next generation of workers wants what Missoula offers"

I ask you to join me in bridging longstanding gaps between organizations and businesses in our town. This work is already happening, which excites me. But more leadership from the "alternative arts" community is needed. If you have felt left out of the process, this means you. We are in a position where our creative capitol has huge economic value, but we have to put down our egos and be willing to cross into strange territory to make a difference. You’re probably right to be turned off by politics, but I am telling you, that political landscape is where our opportunity sits, and we would be wise to get involved.

Here is what you can do right now :

-Read a lot. Read the Downtown Master Plan.

-Read past articles in the Missoulian and Independent, and read all the links I included above.
- I want to hear what you think, or how your area of expertise can inform this subject.

Here are some things we can do together:

1) Form a diverse group of arts and cultural leaders to advocate for changes in the role of arts in Missoula
2) Advocate for the Cultural District that is called for in the Downtown Master Plan.
3) Advocate that commercial and industrial zoning be amended to include Live-Work spaces for artists

If you’re an active artist in Missoula, your involvement is needed at any level, even if meetings are not your thing. Stay tuned on Artmelt as well, I will post more updates here. Also, feel free to comment to this post. Are you already involved ? Can you help me learn more?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mi Chacra (My Land) by Bozeman Flimmaker - Jason Burlage

Jason Burlage, a Bozeman Filmmaker, was kind of enough to send us some info about his Film Mi Chacra, which will debut in Montana for the first time at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival on Friday February 19th at 5:30pm.  So be sure to support a fellow Montanan at one of the Northwest's premiere documentary film festivals.

“This documentary takes you into the real life of Feliciano, his family, his land, his terrible doubts, and his dreams. No stereotypes, just life, beautiful and cruel at the same time.  I love the honesty of Mi Chacra and was touched by the patient and beautiful approach to this Peruvian reality,” said Roberto Forns-Broggi, a native of Peru and Spanish professor at Metro State College of Denver who introduced the film at the Denver Film Festival.

Press Release info after the jump