Warning:Public-Private Communication Breakdown
Warning:This following communique might be seen by some as an act of passive-aggressive behaviour on my part. Such is not my intention nor is this an under-handed attempt to criticize any particular person. I am simply trying to illustrate that communication-breakdown happens and think this is a good example of such breakdown.
Communication is an interesting concept. While being the passive recipient of emails and newsletters and tv and radio is the ultimate in communication for some people, there are those like myself who appreciate a bit of feed-back. Sometimes even a bit is not enough. Perhaps a grunt of assent was sufficient for my neanderthal ancestry. For me, however, communication requires a bit more effort.
Following is one example of communication-breakdown between myself and a paid public servant who did not appear at a public meeting last August although he had assured me he would be there. I finally received an email from him this past week, five months after the meeting. He wrote in his email that he had indeed gone but nobody was there.
What are you supposed to do or say when a public servant tells you that he will gladly do what he can to help you, then when you make a specific request, replies that your request does not fall within his particular area of expertise? What are you supposed to do when he or she does not appear at a meeting he promised to attend? Are you supposed to try to find out what happened? When you reconnect months later and he assures you that he will gladly help you in any way he can, do you actually believe such words are to be taken seriously?
This is only one example of many. How are you supposed to communicate with all those people guarding the portholes of government power in these days of Twitter?
Do you suppose anyone nowadays would appreciate the effort I put into the following (edited version) wordy reply I sent:
Thank you for getting back to me. When you were not at the meeting I was disappointed. I did not knock you off my list, however. My focus changed and I was very busy “seed-spreading” for the Spring Garden of Artists Festival.
Although the attendance at the meeting on that Sunday was very small, we were definitely there about an hour before the meeting which went ahead on schedule and lasted about another hour. I am puzzled. Perhaps you were at the wrong door is all I can think.
As for the the artist festival I have spread the seeds as far and wide as one one person could. What others have done is according to how interested they are in having arts in our community I guess.
The whole idea of what I am trying to do is show that it is up to individuals in the community to try to do what they can within their means and not depend upon government for handouts. I am asking artists to have the courage to put themselves and their work out there in May. It might be a bit like a performer jumping off a stage and hoping someone will be there to catch them. But isn’t that what a supportive community does?
All I am asking of any government agency is take the initiative to do their best to help independent artists feel welcome in their own community. Artists should not be obliged to join some formal government-approved organization or pay membership fees or scrounge for space in which to make and sell their art. Most of all, they should not have to leave their community in order to survive. Artists should be seen as the valuable resource they are and there should be infrastructure already in place.
I have already spoken to you and asked about vacant space in the city. I can think of several places and I’m sure there are others that might be made available to independent local artists and possibly visiting artists at least during May. That might be a good place for government to start. Rather than tearing down buildings they might consider offering space to artists for at least that month.
What I have discovered is that almost everybody I speak to is waiting around for someone in government to do something for them. I have no such expectations personally and am looking for nothing for myself. Such support was hardly there for me in the past and I don’t expect things to change at this late date in my life. However, I do hope that those in positions of power in Bathurst will wake up before it is too late and yet another generation of artists has moved away or given up completely.
I am still having an artist festival in May. Anybody who is interested is invited to become involved. There is no big money, no paying jobs, no sponsors and no luscious contracts. There is just me, a local artist who is inviting the community to become involved in building something out of almost nothing.
Because my husband’s business is closing I have lost one loyal supporter. On the other hand I have been presented with the gift of an art space for the next four months. I am willing to share this space because I see this as an opportunity to try to energize this community into becoming more arts-aware. This space would be the focal point of the arts festival during May. By then the weather will have warmed some, heating costs will be down and I hopefully will be able to remain open more than two days a week.
What you could do, if you are interested and so inclined, is to talk to the local merchants and businesses and ask each of them to actively seek out and find an artist to sponsor during May. That sponsorship might be as simple as displaying an artwork in their window or it could be more as their resources dictate. You might even pass this suggestion to agencies in neighbouring municipalities.
Making such contacts is something I was hoping to do until my husband’s business took a sudden change. Due to our present circumstances, I must focus my energies on my own space and my own art and am now unable to do the outreach I had originally planned.
I will be running the art centre at 212 St. Andrew St. Bathurst, New Brunswick until at least the end of May. The door will be open every Friday and Saturday from 10:00 to 3:00 and people are cordially invited to drop by. I will also have a limited supply of musical accessories to sell, strings, capos, picks, drumsticks, etc. By the end of May I should know how much support Bathurst has for the arts and whether it makes any sense for me to remain here or like so many before me, just move away to an arts-friendly community.
Any artist who wants to sell their work or hold workshops here is invited to come into the St Andrew Street Arts Centre in Bathurst and discuss this with me.
Please feel free to pass this letter on to anyone you think who might be interested in reading it.