I'm not trying to piss anyone off by writing this---I'm really not. But it's an issue that has irritated me for a while now, and having discussed it with others, I've found I'm not alone in my irritation. Memphis is a great city, at least I think so. Yeah, we've had a shitty mayor for 18 years straight, a crime rate through the roof, high infant mortality and murder rates and the absolute worst drivers in the country, but the arts scene, albeit small is strong and usually cohesive.
Perhaps its the fact we don't have a big booming art scene like the metropolises of the East Coast that has spurred on so many locals and undergrounds to strive tirelessly to get things happening in this city--like Live From Memphis, or Indie Memphis, or Odessa, or Five In One. In a lot of ways, it's an uphill battle. Since Rozelle Artists Guild starting in 2006, it's always been a struggle to do something cool enough for people to pay for that doesn't solely revolve around alcohol. You oftentimes end up having to trick your audience into showing up. You're constantly fighting for people to give a shit or give a dollar, and more often than not, we all end up being each other's support group. I mean, if the guys from Marshall Arts and Material and the Brooks and MCA didn't come out to our fundraisers, who the fuck would?
So in a city with an art scene entirely interdependent, why would anyone grow an ego about what they're doing as compared to anybody else's creative efforts? Why would anyone think the seeds they're planting are any more important than the others being sown all over Memphis? I'm not going to get all middle school and name names, but I've heard some disappointing encounters between art gallery/organization owners butting heads and refusing collaboration. We do not have the luxury of being picky. If we, as this hodge-podge group of artists & art advocates, really want to see our collective goal of art flourishing in Memphis, everyone should be chomping at the bit to get another party into what they're doing.
Now, I'm obviously of the opinion that all the art orgs--MCA, MBMA, LFM, RAG, VINI, Material, Odessa, Marshall Arts, PHM, ArtsMemphis, NOMM, Pink Palace, AMUM, etc.---are after the same bigger picture endgoal, but I also respect everyone has their own individual subgoals. The Brooks & MCA are looking to engage international artists with an older, more sophisticated, more financially generous demographic, while people like VINI & RAG are aiming more for the younger, amateur, post-grad art kid crowd. Whether it's Cabernet Sauvignon in a Riedel or Pabst Blue Ribbon in a Solo, we're all respectively contributing to a nice well-rounded arts community, but we've got our own agendas.
And like I've already mentioned, not everyone is up for collaboration and cooperation. That's fine. To each his own. I was personally very supportive of the talks of a collective arts entity for the city that were happening at Material several months back, and equally as disappointed to see them bear no fruit for lack of agreement between all the reps. What I'm saying is, it's okay that some are open to joining forces, and others aren't, but it seems there isn't always the courtesy of respect either.
We are all so eager to draw the rest of Memphis into our events (although I'd like to think we all appreciate the interdependent proxy art crowd that show up to most of them), but we've got to make it easier for the rest to show up. No one between all these awesome arts entities is going to agree on a standard means of attracting outsiders--and rightly that we shouldn't. The diversity is what makes our tiny bubble so interesting. But can't we all at least have the courtesy to check each other's calendars?
Look at this weekend. We have the kick-off weekend of Indie Memphis' 12th Annual Film Festival (a date which I've had in my iCal for over six months) the same weekend as National Ornamental Metals Museum's Annual Repair Days (also a weekend long event) the same weekend at the Memphis College of Art Reunion the same weekend as the AIGA Design Conference (which can carry no blame as it is a nationally sanctioned event, not a local organizer) the same weekend as Rock O Rama at Odessa---and these are just the events I know of off the top of my head, having been isolated in Cordova recovering from back surgery the past two weeks.
Come on, people. Visual arts, live music, filmmaking, designing---it's the same crowd. I will be at IMFF this weekend as I'll be receiving a paycheck for it, but this is the second year in a row that the Film Festival and Repair Days coincide. I love metalsmithing! I was looking forward to attending this year and soldering some old lady's jewelry box hinge or retinning another copper platter. And the design conference which I will miss approximately all of? I'd love to go. I'm majoring in Design Arts and I have awful taste in fonts. It would have been a lovely educational experience. I'd also love to go schmooze with MCA alum from the 1980's or see my buddy Travis play at Odessa.
But poor planning like this weekend doesn't help anyone, it just splits up the already slim pickins of an audience. Three of my four roommates who would love to hit up IMFF will be at AIGA, because they're designers. Bill Price who probably wouldn't be opposed to hanging out with oldschool MCA students will be at Repair Days, because he's a metalsmither. Why don't we just throw in a couple art openings and a theatre event too?
I'm not blaming any one specific AO here. I don't know who scheduled what first and it's not really the point of this schpiel, but come on, Memphis. We've got to work together, if only just a little bit, at least when it comes to scheduling.
With all that being said, go to at least one of these things this weekend, and if you can, make it to more than one. Everything going on will be amazing and you'll be impressed wherever you go.