Friday, February 22, 2013

Transforming Neighborhoods into Artist Enclaves

On Wednesday night, after my trip to Girls' Club Gallery, my spouse and I were talking about the artists moving into that neighborhood in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and we wondered how we could help our own neighborhood move towards becoming an artists' enclave.

On Thursday morning, I read this story in The Washington Post about Micah Greenberg, a man who has transformed his loft apartment in Washington D.C. into a veritable center for a variety of arts:

"According to Amy Saidman, artistic director of the storytelling group SpeakeasyDC, Greenberg has found a sweet spot between entertainment and socializing.

'The shows are a mix of taking what you love about going to a show and what you love about being at a party, and putting them together,' Saidman said."

Of course, Greenberg once had a 6 figure salary at NPR.  He left that job to devote himself to his art center of an apartment.

I wonder about the zoning and code enforcement folks.  Are they really OK with what he's doing?

I think about my own neighborhood, a working class kind of neighborhood, the kind that's been hard hit by the housing bubble.  But it's only a mile away from the Hollywood Arts Park and the trendy-ish downtown area.  Hollywood has more of an arts scene in some ways than downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

Could I buy foreclosed houses and rent them out to artists?  Could I thus surround myself with the kind of community I'd like to live in?

But do I really want to be the landlord to artists?

Maybe I wouldn't have to use my own money.  Could there be grants that would help me do what I want to do?  Or have those kind of grants dried up too?

Astute readers may ask, "Hey, don't you have an advanced degree in British literature?  Can't you see the creative groups that you've studied as cautionary tales?"

Why yes, you're right.  I've always wished for a Bloomsbury group to call my own.  I've always longed for a Lake District in my back yard.

And yes, I know how those groups ended.  Yet I like to think that somehow I could do it differently, that I could succeed where others have failed.

It might be easier to pull off if I had a huge plot of land that I could control.  Or would it be easier to pull off if I had less control, if somehow I attracted artsy folks to my neighborhood, but wasn't the landlord?

I've had an almost lifelong interest in intentional communities, in what makes them work and what destroys them.

I know that many communities have been destroyed by simple issues, like who will clean the toilets.  I look to monastic communities as examples of communities that have survived across centuries.  I know that it helps communities to survive if they have an overarching larger vision, whether that be one that's God-drenched or a vision of a new direction in poetry.

But what it means for our neighborhoods devastated by a housing bubble that's collapsed--that I do not yet know.

1 comment:

Chum said...

This is more detail than you want, probably, but my department is involved in a similar project. Just to let you know--it is possible.