Action/reaction to a-a-art

I’m getting some interesting feedback to my January article in Tofino Time magazine, titled Art of the Soapbox (read it here). It’s a tongue-in-cheek but pointed critique of the Tofino art scene — a circle that, like many insular groups everywhere, tends to thrive on self-congratulation, mutual support, and denial. That’s my rough take, anyway; others differ.

People took it more seriously that i’d expected, and i had more email responses than i’ve ever had to a Tofino Time article. Only half a dozen or so, but for Tofino that’s a lot.

Artists in most places, but particularly here, often work in isolation, and a good discussion about the worth and quality of local art will hopefully provide a little tonic stimulation.

The following were posted with permission. Comments are also welcome on this post.


Date: Jan. 4
From: A—
Hi Greg.
Last night I was at The Common Loaf and as I sat down by myself to eat I grabbed a Tofino Time mag. Put the mag down, and looked up as I pulled off my coat and noticed an oil painting above a window. A purple-ish sunset over a beach. And I thought to myself Geez, is that all there ever fucking is around here for paintings? Tired of it.
Then I read your piece and had a good chuckle. Thanks. Hope no one throws anything larger than a brussel sprout however….
A —


Subject: B—’s challenge!
Date: Jan. 18
From: B—
B—‘s message is personal and not to be reproduced here. However, s/he brings up a very salient point about the West Coast art scene. To paraphrase:
There is room for growth here, but there is no structured outlet for it. My fellow artists are courageous people who, I feel, need an outlet for their ‘descriptions.’  I think a lot of us provide to the established venues — galleries, cafés, etc. — and the venues all want what sells. And they think Frank Island sells, so Frank Island gets painted and photographed … over and over.


Subject: A-a-art??????????
Date: Jan. 18
From: C—
Hello Greg,
My name is C— and I’m responding to your “art of the soapbox” in the Tofino Time. We don’t know each other which is probably a good thing, even though you seem to have everyone in town pegged. I actually don’t know anything about you besides what you look like, that you are an apparent writer and also quite the critic.
I had no idea we had such an authority on art and music living amongst us in this misty little town of ours. I don’t completely disagree with you about the art scene in Tofino and I like your idea of “challenging” the art community here, but your pompous delivery was disgusting. The fact that you singled out and tried to humiliate individuals by using there first name is as shameless as it gets, it’s actually fucked up. I’m guessing you might of been drunk while writing the article and that Adam and Baku just don’t give a shit anymore.
Either way, you were trying to single out and make examples of people who are honestly trying to make a living from there art instead of following the mainstream. You may not like X–‘s art, fair enough, some people might not like Abe Lincoln beards. What I see is a bitter older man living in a town full of younger people trying to incorporate art into there lives one way or another, the older, “wiser” man obviously doesn’t approve and needs some attention, whether positive or negative.
I think personal taste is what keeps art and everything else in this world interesting. Well I would love to see what you bring to the table “sweetheart” besides shitting all over it. I might add that you will find your genius theory on too many guitars is unfortunately common throughout North America. Nice work on stirring the pot but I think you missed the mark completely.
Sincerely,
C—

PARTIAL RESPONSE: Far from “not giving a shit,” Adam and Baku are very cognisant of what they publish in Tofino Time, and of how much the magazine both mirrors Tofino to itself and presents the town to the larger world. My piece would never have made it into a high-season issue, i feel certain, and i would not have submitted it. In the depths of winter, though, Tofino Time becomes “our” magazine. My kudos to the two of them for having the nerve to publish something controversial in a town that usually shies away from such.


Subject: artist rant
Date: Jan. 18
From: D—
Um, who the hell is X—, and since when did you care what people think? And since when did this person speak for “Tofino artists” en masse? NO, I haven’t heard anything. If I had, wouldn’t that mean you are doing something right?


Subject: To Greg: Love E—
Date: Jan. 20
From: E—
E—’s email was long and personal and heartfelt. It was good to hear from a passionate young Tofino artist, one who loves what s/he does and pursues it boldly. E— took my “attack” personally, for which i am sorry — it was not intended as such against anybody. And for the record: i am not even close to giving up on him/her.


Subject: tofino time
Date: Jan. 20
From: F—
Great piece of writing Greg! Shake it up.


My new anthem

Alarm clocks kill dreamsHere’s a fine song by Vancouver singer/songwriter Jeremy Fisher, a banjo-and-voice ditty called Built to Last. It comes to you courtesy of worklessparty.org, website of the Work Less Party, which sounds like a bunch of slackers but actually makes a good case for reducing unemployment and environmental damage by lowering the number of hours we are expected to work, here in North America. The case is laid out (in scattershot fashion) in books by the party’s founder, Conrad Schmidt. I’ve read the first, with the lovely title Workers of the World, Relax.

Places like Denmark, i’m told, have all but eliminated unemployment by going to a four-day work week. At first they had all the predictable worries about higher business costs and falling GDP, but reportedly the people love it. I know a lot of friends who would gladly take the cut in pay for a higher quality of life.

I liked Built to Last enough that i checked out Jeremy’ MySpace page. It has several more songs, plus some artful animation videos featuring the likes of Mel Gibson (co-starring with Jeremy in the unreleased film Passion of the Easter Bunny) and an inside scoop on the infamous Billy Bob Thorton meltdown with Jian Gomeshi on Q. Multi-talented guy!

Tiny house = affordable house

Given Tofino’s longtime agonizing over our affordable housing crisis — played out for years as summer staffing shortages, now escalating to the threat of school closure — it’s interesting that tiny houses have not been looked at as part of the solution.

As far as i know, there’s a minimum square footage requirement on habitations in the district. (Can anybody confirm that?) Which, combined with the price of land on the West Coast, pretty much guarantees that truly affordable housing cannot be achieved within the free market paradigm. Hence the resulting contortions of the Tofino Housing Corporation, now five years and some $300,000 into its mandate (per this Westerly News article), with groundbreaking for the first units now set to start early in 2010.

I see it as a “rung” effect: For an affordable-housing strategy to be effective, you can’t just build a handful of units and fill them up, because then everything comes to a stop and the affordable housing issues reappear. Affordable housing has to be seen as the introductory rung on the accommodation ladder. The idea is that, once people have built up some equity in the affordable house, they can use that to move up to market housing, thereby freeing up their affordable unit to enable others to hop onto the ladder.

But with entry-level market condos starting at $265,000, and houses at $349,000 (figures from realtor.ca), it seems that most Tofitians — with a 2006 median income of $22,696, per the community facts page from BC Stats — will find even the lowest of existing rungs out of reach.

I’m not being critical here, just pointing out that the system the THC is working within does not lend itself to quick solutions. It does lend itself to ghettoized affordable housing, clumped  together in one area, and not spread out through the village (which strikes me as a superior approach).

Tiny houses have evolved into a well developed field of  design, and can be eminently liveable for one or two people. There are a slew of websites devoted to the subject. One of the best is TinyHouseDesign.com. From that site, here are the free plans for an 8′ x 16′ Tiny Solar House (4.9 Meg PDF download) — a 128-square-foot gem that (the plans say) could be built for $4-8,000 US. That would go a long way toward getting some people, at least, off the money-pit of renting and onto the escalator of ownership.

More sites: TheTinyLife.com …  SmallLivingJournal.com