I received an announcement this morning via my News from the Artists Foundation newsletter – a newsletter list well worth signing up for (sign up here) – and which appeals to the me that seems so soapboxy lately. And so I quote and, of course, segue-ishly comment and randomly illustrate:
The story . . .
On January 28, 2008, the Lowell, MA Zoning Board of Appeals denied a special permit to the Western Avenue Lofts project which would have provided 48 perpetually affordable artist-owned live/work spaces in the G-Mill of the Western Avenue Studios Complex.
Zoning Board members argued that the Western Avenue area is too dirty, smelly and noisy to be conducive to creativity. They also declared that artists would not be happy living and working in an industrial area, and that no one would want to be located right next to the Pawtucket Canal.
My friend Jesus disagrees.
And so does his posse, which magically appears in a dinnertime-like fashion when you look at the picture from the side. So there’s a solid basis for argument.
It’s really sweet that the zoning board is concerned about the comfort of artists but I wonder about the reason behind the reason because it is hard to fathom that said reasoning could be so concernedly altruistic. It’s like they are looking out for us, just like how that politically correct group was concerned about the little feelings of the Little Penguins.
Dirty, smelly, noisy spaces have been inhabited by artists for as long as I can remember and since the world did not begin at my birth, this phenomenon possibly predates me. My studio is in a dirty, smelly, noisy canal-side building and mostly it works just fine. Maybe I’d like it more if it were sparkling, bacteria-free, aromatic and silent and on a riviera rather than a canal. But, if you squint after dusk, my canal looks like Venice. And were my studio all squeaky clean, healthy and lovely, I’d not be able to afford it.
Historically, artists buildings tend to ultimately appeal to romantic notions of living the “bohemian” artist lifestyle and then get snazzified and disinfected and a different tax bracket buys in, forcing artists to move to the next undesirable area. In Boston I once toured several downtown “Renovated Artists’ Lofts” with my boss and they started at $650,00 plus $2500/month condo fees with parking spots available for an extra $15,000, and they were antiseptically spectacular and retained none of their former actual artist loft charm. To me they smelled like displaced artists. I moved to Holyoke because my dirty, smelly, noisy studio in Florence alongside the scenic Mill River fell prey to boutiquey, location-driven pricing.
And I really like being next to the canal. I don’t think my canal has a real name but since my studio is in Downho, as opposed to Upho – the more suburban, genteel and better paved part of town, I will call it Downho Riviera de Artistes de Los Dos. On maps the canals are numbered and mine is #2 and Holyoke has a large spanish-speaking population so my canal is so-named to honor all aspects of it.
Disclaimer: I made up all of the above names, trademarks pending, and also proudly made up the most brilliant and fabulous slogan for Holyoke which is under imaginary consideration by the Mayor:
Hoyoke is *Trying*
Originally it was:
Holyoke is **Trying**
but then I realized that possibly only I know that double asterisks means spasterisks and indicates that while you are saying the word in spasterisks you are simultaneously making that annoying quotation marks gesture with your fingers in a frenetic manner.
- Etymology: Middle English frenetik insane, from Anglo-French, from Latin phreneticus, modification of Greek phrenitikos, from phrenitis inflammation of the brain, from phren-, phrēn diaphragm, mind
- Date: 14th century
Anyway – Since moving here from Boston I have really missed being near the ocean and so my canal affords me an alternate waterfront experience. I have a sign on my back door, the one which leads to the door to the garden-side canal:
(The electric log in that picture is electric. I have wanted an electric log ever since I first went to see The Electric Logs at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge years ago. They had an electric log on stage and wore baby blue tuxedos. They were my favorites.)
I love that that sign is really true. I got it at a flea market. I love flea markets. I love coffee and pears, commas, causes and neuroses. Twice a year when they drain the canal one can see all the stolen bicycles and shopping carts as the men in waders walk the muck and fill the trucks with said debris. It’s a sign of hope and change as it happens in Spring and Fall.
Anyway, and we’ll always have anyways, the call to artists in the newsletter continues:
This exhibit is open to any artist who wishes to make a statement about the inspiration to be found in industrial areas, about where artists are happy living and working or about the difficulties that we face in finding affordable, suitable places to live and work. For those who live in New England, we invite you to come, find and use as inspiration, anything within 1/8 mile of the Western Avenue Studios Complex. But it isn’t necessary to come to Lowell – we invite you to find inspiration in your particular industrial area.
During the month of June 2008 the artists at Western Avenue Studios are inviting artists to comment on the Zoning Board members arguments . . . for a full prospectus go to www.dirtysmellynoisy.com
So I think I’ll submit a piece contentedly made of dirty, smelly, noisy things. It sounds like a worthy cause & exhibit. And if you don’t want to participate at least click on the link because they have a stats counter on the site and stats not only indicate interest and possibly support but we like when stats go up. It’s kinda like being heard.