Fun & Professional Development – that’s what Kelly Christ, Programming Chair, said about what EAL/LA has to offer at the beginning of the day. And I think that she hit the nail on the head. We even finished the day with some play-doh time!
Mark Allen of Machine Project was the keynote speaker, stating the he wasn’t sure if he had ever been asked to be a keynote speaker before and thanked EAL/LA – I guess this was a bit of “professional development” for all of us! Ha!
His talk brought us through ideas of how art has developed and what that means to Los Angeles, Machine Project, and us as Emerging Art Leaders. Which was, of course, right in line with the theme of the day: Designing Disruption (How Arts Innovators are Shaking up the LA Experience). His theory is that art, over the course of history, has changed to now being a conceptual *thing* that tries to shift the audience’s perception of reality.
A thing. Art is a thing. Let’s be as ambiguous as possible so that we are not pigeon-holed and can be flexible. Yeah!
He advocates little “control” over the audience, developing projects that use all three components of a work of art: the art, the audience, and the idea. Everyone is an active agent in the production of culture; we as arts leaders must connect our audience members together despite their differences – like women who like sewing and men who like robotics.
So, Mark’s talk was an inspiration, and there were a lot of things that resonated with me – especially his “take-aways” at the end. I mean the first one was “Infrastructure is your frenemy” How is that not fun-ny!? It truly set the stage for the Disrupting LA panel. We had an Urban Planner, a Planning Director (for councilman José Huizar)/Adjunct Urban Planning Professor, and a Grants and Community Projects Manager (for Long Beach): James Rojas, Tanner Blackman, and Molly Gardner respectively. Building off of Mark’s ideas of the public being active cultural agents, James, Tanner, and Molly discussed urban planning and public art and their role in the disruption (earlier mentioned as a “shift”) of the public’s [perception of] reality.
James encourages imagination in all of its fantastic and fantastical forms – perhaps the city of Los Angeles should have a Department of Imagination – mentioning that even when people don’t speak the same language (meaning either a dialectical thing such as jargon or a universally accepted and regulated form of communication such as English), they all have an imagination and that is where this connecting of commonalities can occur. He then posed the question: How do vacant lots add value to the community?
Molly jumped in with that one talking about the A LOT initiative in Long Beach. She was refreshingly candid discussing its successes and challenges. And the challenges have been big. Everyone took a hit in 2008; the creative economy was not immune. Now the work is to take advantage of these public spaces (actually one is private) to produce culture that is both positive and disruptive.
Tanner said that planning needs to be more receptive to changes. Let it develop organically. What’s in the “secret sauce” of successful creative areas like the Arts District? He encouraged phenomenology and to co-create it together – why can’t planners and arts orgs be on the same team?
All three encouraged us as artists and arts leaders to push further asking questions, disrupting the status quo, and not be deterred by the red-tape and bureaucracy that is abundant in urban planning. Who knows? Tanner suggested that maybe we could even find something creative in the process of the supposedly stifling infrastructure.
What’s my take-away from the whole thing? That you should have been there. I took rabid notes, but this post is no stand in for the jokes and shared moments with the panelists during the event nor the new friends I made during lunch and afterwards.
Guess, I’ll see you at the next one!
This post was submitted by Nicole Rademacher.