Lately I’ve taken issue with the title of “Artist.”
After spending the five years as an undergraduate fine art student I’ve come to constantly question the title I once held near and dear. These past few years have been great in terms of getting Grand Rapidians excited about art, but I have come to believe the manner in which many local event organizers, fundraisers, institutions and even artists have presented their work has created an increasingly restrictive image for how art functions as well as the role and value of artists for the community.
Like many of my peers I get giddy as a kid on Christmas morning at all the possibilities regarding what art could be in Grand Rapids. But too often I think we settle for the same shows – changing only the date, time, name, DJ and location. It is great to see people get excited about going to see art, buy art and put it up in their homes, but that single model of art as commodity everybody seems to be so goo-goo gah-gah over, I believe has hit many a dead ends. Because the conversations surrounding contemporary art originate from the previous century, much of the dialogue has gotten too comfortable within the business of buying/selling art, making things redundant.
In recent years, I’ve found myself going to exhibitions with high expectations, anticipating being blown away by new images and ideas, but instead am left with a longing for more. I think that because its so easy to jump on the Richard Florida bandwagon when persuading the business community to throw artists a bone, Grand Rapids has begun to perpetuate a system where artists and curators are hesitant to veer away from their bread n’ butter. I understand artists have bills to pay and institutions have money to raise, I just wish more experimentation was happening where creative practices within visual art crossed into spaces outside of the white cube while appropriating other disciplines.
In my opinion, the most interesting projects are not happening in the galleries but in more public arenas. Since the beginnings of postmodernism more than fifty years ago, much of the technology and know how required to create and present culture to the world has become so much more accessible thanks to user resources like Photoshop, Bandcamp, Etsy, Facebook, and, Youtube. Incorporating these resources projects like the Kickstarter, Sunday Soup, Barefoot Victory Gardens, Bartertown, GR Creative Youth Center, and Until Love is Equal are not only effectively using methods commonly used within an art practice but also applying them to everyday life providing creative alternatives for a wide audience to engage.
Submitted by: Mike Wolf