Last week we had a visit from the sailing ships, billed as The Festival of Sail, it should have been an adventure for the family, a unique opportunity for artists and a boon to the community...it was none of these. Instead it was an over-priced, poorly executed, money pit, into which the community poured money, money which could have gone for things which would energize the whole community and not just the fortunate few, the cash elite.
This would be bad enough in a community as small, economically depressed and educationally challenged as ours, but it is unfortunately typical of most of the events in this area.
Let's be frank, there is no future if we do not get the younger folks involved.
Sure the school kids are important but their parents count too. The parents struggling to raise four or five kids on twenty-five thousand a year. Yes, you can make an argument that they should have thought about that before they became a parent, but honestly the process of becoming a parent does not lend itself to time for deep thinking. If we gave it any thought at all before hand we go and buy a BMW. (The cost is about the same as having a child and in five years when you are sick to death of it you can trade it for a Lexus.)
Now maybe the struggling parents have no one to blame, but themselves, but maybe they could use a hand anyway. Just being cash strapped doesn't mean you stop dreaming, hoping, pushing a better life for the kids.
So how do they, trying desperately to keep the lights on, expose their children to things which would open their minds, expand their dreams and make them long for the wider world than just Coos County?
Not with the Tall Gyps charging for parking, then adding a nine dollar admission fee and offering fifty dollar “cruises”.
And if the Tall Gyps were the only villain in the story, it could be overlooked as just a bad moment and we'll move on to better things, but it isn't. Most of the events in the local area which offer a view of vistas wider that the local horizon cost far too much for struggling people to afford. Barbecue Blues and Brews, The Clambake Jazz Festival and The Oregon Coast Music Festival are just a few of the events which economically exclude all, but the cash elite.
As a community artists have an obligation to always seek ways to include all people, but especially those people who may think art is a waste of time. If the classes at the college or at the art museum or at the various gallerys and music venues are too expensive for the least able, then how can we hope to engage the next generation or the generations of working poor who make up so much of this community?
We have no fear the comfortable will support the arts, this community has a rich and long established record of supporting the arts and the cash elite make up a very large part of that and we are most grateful to them for their generous sharing of resources. It is however not enough.
There must be programs, affordable programs, understandable programs, engaging programs for all of the community.
John Beane at So It Goes coffee shop has made a heroic efforts to provide this community with programs which engage all of the community and which can be enjoyed without neglecting the light bill. We should applaud him, support him and encourage him, but it is not enough.
With all of the artists living in Coos Bay and the surrounding cities, there is almost nothing being targeted at the youth market or at the working folks who do not think they have time or understanding enough for some artsy-fartsy crap.
And yes, they do think it is pointless, useless, wasteful CRAP.
And you can never change that if you do not engage them with something they can understand, enjoy and admire.
As an artist we all want to find the lightning and ride that bolt to the unique, unusual, and (modestly) brilliant image we see in our mind. But we could also use that same flash of lightning to make something that the non-artist can find passion and meaning in.
Why is there no annual comic book art show? One look through the Coos Art Museums Biennial Art Exhibit will show you dozens of anime and comic images, but these artists of next year can only show their work every two years and then only as part of a larger show where the traditional often swamps the inspired.
If we, as a community want to grow and replenish the base for arts in our community we must make the best available at prices everyone can afford, at places where everyone can go and in a form that everyone, not just artists and the cash elite can enjoy.
The empty buildings of downtown tell the story of failure to keep the life of the community vital and vibrant.