Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Tragedy of the Commons (Part 1)

"Hey all you paint-by-numbers-Picassos! Why don't you quit your minor-key moaning and disappear altogether? You're blocking my parking spot in front of the gym!"
-Dan MacDonald*

You shouldn't waste any energy getting incensed about it, but Dan MacDonald's snipe at ArtWalk just seems like more evidence that we are either living in a post common-good era, or that Art Walk should move to Friday night. Let's scrap ArtWalk altogether, McDonald says, because it inconveniences me, one man, for 15 minutes, one night a month. Jeez Louise, I say.

Read all about it in today's A.M. Stir (p. E-2) of the Florida Times Union. Quoth MacDonald:

"Art Walk has to go.
OK, maybe that is a little harsh, but it's what I think while driving around downtown for 15 minutes trying to find a parking space at 5 p.m. every first Wednesday of the month.
Art Walk avails artists and musicians a chance to show off their talents and brings people into the downtown core. Nice objective (even if most of the talent is, in my opinion, made up of too many minor-key moaners and paint-by-the-numbers Picassos). However, something needs to be worked out to make the many parking meters that are off-limits from 4 to 6 p.m. available on Art Walk day.
I'm a person who uses downtown nearly every weekday after 5 p.m. to either work out at the gym or socialize with friends. Art Walk and the lack of parking is a pain for us "regulars."

People being drawn into downtown because of art is a GOOD thing, Mac!
In my opinion you're a Mad-Libs-Ernie Pyle.



madeleine said...

If Dan lives close enough to Downtown to work out there, then maybe he should hop on a bike...I bet he'd always find a parking spot then.

Sadly Dan's attitude is reflective, I believe, of a Jacksonville ethos. That is: auto-centric, self-serving, and lazy.

It’s pretty ironic though, Dan complains of looking for a parking spot to hit up the gym. Perhaps a longer walk to and from his car isn’t such a bad thing for a food writer.

Jaime Verde said...

A hardy har, har!

The ethos is everywhere. The individual, private "I want!" over the reflective, conscious "We need."

His comments did appear in an opinion page, so we shouldn't get too mad, but the ethos his comments reflect is infuriating.

madeleine said...

Either way, those are the kind of thoughts you have in private, might share with friends, but don't use the city's (arguably) most-read resource to sound off about.

It doesn't just reinforce Jacksonville's image as a mall-walking, Sonic-burger chomping, Miller-light swilling makes him sound like a rube.

Jaime Verde said...

Agreed. With folks like him representing such a large portion of the population, it's a wonder Art Walk even exists.

jim draper said...

So you have got to be kidding me, the food writer
is named Dan MacDonald? Had no idea.
Does that strike anyone else as ironic?
Maybe I am just seeing way too much in this.
Where would anyone work out downtown?
Some days I wake up on strange planets.
There is an interesting little bowling green
at the back of the new library. Why would we
not start a lawn bowling league? I don't know
how to play, but it couldn't be any harder than
Fries with that?

zac said...

Cool, Jacksonville art got some play in local media.

kelly said...


It's almost as absurd as folio's sports writer criticizing Douglas Anderson's--yes, that's the sports writer--wait for it-- DA's Brain Brawl team and its minor technical difficulties.

Byron said...

I didn't read it. Sorry. I need to get that article and the new Folio. Man there seems to be a lot of media coverage lately for the arts.

I heard there was a good piece in he Folio about how artists are leaving Jacksonville in droves. Did anyone read that?

I saw Shelton the author today on the street, he walks everywhere, and asked him about it.

He said they'd probably all be back.

Which makes perfect sense. Aren't a lot of us here because of family connections? Would we be here if we could cut those strings? Would we be here if we didn't care if our parents grew old by themselves with no one to take care of them?

I've talked to a few artists lately who are in their thirties who are in the same predicament I'm in. Not the biggest fan of Jacksonville but happen to have family here.

And while I'm here I'm just trying to make the best of it. Aren't you? Interested if others are going through similar situations. Definitely wouldn't have to be reserved for thirty somethings. Especially since folks are living forever now.

I could see if a lot of us waited for our parents to bite the bullet we'd be here way into our sixties, if not seventies with the way modern science is working these days.

God dang modern science :)

Shit wouldn't it be great if it was a city we were all proud to live in. Imagine. An arts district. A Contemporary Arts Center. A quality MFA program. An emerging art scene that has gotten regional recognition. A Jacksonville biennial. What else? The Art Walk is a great start.

Mark Creegan said...

Interestingly, other cities are experiencing the same issues.

Did you notice that the guy's actual gripe is with the parking meter situation? I dont think even he realizes that is the problem. Or maybe getting rid of artwalk would be easier than creating downtown parking situation that made sense?

You know we live in a society where my wife teaches art to children by pushing a cart around to each classroom for 30 minute lessons every 3 weeks or so. Do we need to wonder why a local food writer would grow up thinking art aint worth spendng 10 extra minutes ONE FREAKING DAY A MONTH?

SharlaTV said...

a little girl looking at one of my mixed media works told me that her mother had told her I wasn't a real artist, that because I used images from magazines ... I was cheating. The family had recently moved here from up north. This kind of ignorance is everywhere. but yes, I find Jacksonville worrisome.

Jaime Verde said...

Mark hit on it- while the writer probably sees himself as just another outraged citizen speaking out in this cruel world of parking headaches, his words reveal the true problem, of which he's totally oblivious.

MacDonald's image of the role of artists in society (he was targeting ARTISTS specifically, not art generally) has been successfully (de)formed by consumer culture- most notably by the ideology of privatization. Private want over public need. Artists aren't public intellectuals, they're entertainers like actors or sports stars, to be chosen privately and consumed only when their talents are able to compete in the same arena as entertainment or sports.

When the consumer trumps the citizen, as is so clearly illustrated by McDonald's flippant remarks, civilization crumbles.

Talk to folks from those big cities with successful art nights, and parking gripes will echo throughout the land. That's what happens when you try to draw people into urban centers that don't have Wal-Mart sized parking lots. They were built as multi-use cities, not single-use shopping boxes. But not every city has these problems.

Knoxville Tennessee's wildly successful First Friday art events are supported by the city to the point where the city built a badly needed parking garage downtown, which is open FREE TO THE PUBLIC during First Friday events. As a result, the art night is gaining in popularity even with suburbanites who have never even been downtown.

But wait a minute- doesn't Jacksonville have a plethora of parking garages? Are any of them open free to the public? Er...? Not only would that probably not work on Wednesday at 5, but find me a parking company or garage owner who would entertain for a second the idea of making something... gulp... FREE for the sake of the public good. Or find me support on the city council for offering incentives to parking garage owners who might be able to do this... again, it's private profit over civic commons.

MacDonald shows the poisonous side of privatization ideology when he advertises that not only does his personal parking convenience trump his city's thirst for culture at large, but that the creators of that culture, the artists (to use his words, the Talent) aren't worth supporting because- what, they can't compete with mass entertainment?

Extending his logic has me recommending he stay at home, order a Bowflex online, and watch America's Got Talent instead of appreciating his city's local art and culture!

Pedestrian Projects said...

i am sure Downtown vision has thought about or tried to wrangle some parking for the

Jaime Verde said...

Not sure about Downtown Vision, but I'll bet they have tried. I'm curious what the outcome of their efforts was. Anyone know? A free open garage would help the situation.

Byron said...

I know my comment was totally off subject to this post but do any of you feel me on any of that?

Are there a large part of us here because we have family obligations?

I know I'm not the only one.

Definitely hope when I'm old and need someone to look after me I live in a city I'm proud to live in for the arts and culture so my kids won't mind moving back to take care of me.

Maybe it will be Jacksonville?

Byron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaime Verde said...

I'll admit that I CAME here in large part because all my wife's family lives here. I wish to stay here, though, because I feel like there are a lot of opportunities here for me. Will I stay here forever? I don't know.

jim draper said...

I have friends who live in a lot of other places and are working artist and they are tired of where they are,
from downtown NYC to Chicago to Paris. No artist anywhere who survives on his(her) work make a living from the place they live.
Last I heard there were 60,000
painters living in NYC. Quality of life is the issue, and EDUCATION
for your children (grand in my case)
is the big issue. The magnet program is good here, but the
other schools are left behind.
That is the key to it all.
I think. But other than that, it takes a village....and we all have to work together on issues such as venues.

Byron said...


No artist anywhere who survives on his(her) work make a living from the place they live.

This is sort of a bold statement. A lot of artists do really well because of location. Similar to any business. Location. Location. Location. I think they say. Just the amount of opportunities that are opened up to you living in the Northeast alone would have to change the whole monopoly game of life. The internet isn't a bad place to play that game too.

I agree with you though on it takes a village.

My question then is:

Are we the village?

I suppose no matter where I am I will be trying to improve it. Maybe it's in the nature of artists in general. I remember living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and being completely pissed because all the hipsters spent more time draining the kegs and smoking kind bud than looking at the art.

I was irate when living in New York? Couldn't believe the quality of work in Chelsea? Now just to have the opportunity to go to Thursday night openings bouncing from show to show would be fantastic. I would be as giddy as a school girl.

It's not like you have to go to shows when living up there, but damn if it's not nice to know that all of that culture is at your fingertips.

I'm supposing then,
We are the village.

And lets turn this mother out. MC Hammer style? For snizel.

Sorry to get down folks. I'm just amazed we have an open forum where folks are actually communicating.

What a change from when I moved back here a few years ago.



jim draper said...

I think that we sad the same thing.
Or not. No doubt to a certain degree
location is important for some reason. The internet has negated borders. An artist can live anywhere. If you are looking at art
sales and the reality of the art market, it is hard to imagine that
any geographical market is going to
totally support any given artist. If
they do, then the artist becomes a
local, beloved, which is really scary.
And yes, I think that we have to consider ourselves the "village"
and force the issue with local powers that be in order to create
some permanent venues. Art walk,
as successful and well-attended as it is, is still
temporal. As far as I can tell,
the Mocajax is the only permanent
art-intended, venue on the strip.
Others, as great as they may be,
such as the Knight building and the
gallery at TSI or Burrito Gallery, are not self-sustaining. We, the villagers, need to challenge status
quo in order to develop some permanent artcenter spaces that
are not going to close in a few
months for lack of funds, interest, or lease. There is an economic quotient to the arts. Just because
a ton of people show up to something it doesn't make it
economically successful. I am a big one for a pass-the-hat kind of thing, or set up as a non-profit and go for it.

Jaime Verde said...

I'm glad that this post has generated a comment thread that has gone this deep. I'll be the first to admit that I sort of thrive on conflict and tend to put a lot of thought towards fighting injustice with ideas rather than actually going out and doing something. Thank you for not shooting the messenger and for taking the ideas in this blog seriously and turning the mad energy into useful energy. As this thread has evidenced, without healthy conversation about ideas, no truly useful plans are likely to come. Thank you all for being grownups and for helping turn random ideas towards a beneficial ideology.

Byron said...


We're on the same page. Definitely.

We're the Village then. I wondered if I would ever find my village.

I love it....



Mark Creegan said...

And i am the village idiot!

Byron said...

No Mark. You are more like the village sage. I'm the idiot for sure. A very passionate idiot though I believe.

jim draper said...

Still think that we should start a village lawn bowling league on that new lawn behind the library.
Or croquet. We could use the homeless as wicketts.