Saturday, August 20, 2005

ART is for everyone! 

"Fifteen or 20 years ago, the idea of Philadelphia as a place to go for quality life would have been laughable to many people, even to Philadelphians."
--a "journalist" from The New York Times

I'm not quoting the "journalist" above to argue her point, which, let me tell you, I could go on for hours telling you just HOW wrong she is! (Ah! I almost wish I hadn't used her quote here, it's painful to look at!)

But the fact is she's talking about the very time I arrived in Philadelphia. Next year it will be 20 years. And Philadelphia was FILLED with artists, jazz, poets, sculptors, let's just say it was wall-to-wall amazement!

You've probably heard others (maybe yourself) say When I Win The Lottery I'm Going To.... Well, I do play the lottery (as faithfully as the next member of my family), and when I win The Big ONE, one of the first things I intend to do is to buy several brownstones downtown and rent the apartments to poor, working class kids for $200/month.

When I first moved to Philadelphia in 1986 my first apartment was on Juniper Street in a converted hotel called The Imperial. I was in apartment 501, and various boyfriends, etc., would always make comments about the blue jeans popular back then. But my rent was only $210 a month, which afforded me the opportunity to have a job that didn't kill me, and I'd come home, write/write/write, then go out with friends.

That time was crucial to my development when I look back on it. Especially going out to see friends. There used to be a bar at the corner of Juniper and South called The Bacchanal, WHAT an amazing place! In fact, I'll just say that I still have yet to find a place in Philly or New York for that matter, with that much going on. Artists of all kinds, philosophers, poets yelling at one another, and so much to listen to and learn. It's where I first met Gil Ott. It's also where I first met my boyfriend Angel, who was standing very still at the time while a young woman wrapped his naked body in plaster strips for a sculpture.

This is not going to turn into a long trip down memory lane, I'm just trying to point out that the affordability of the city back then allowed me to be part of it, coming from a poor family in the middle of the rural routes of Pennsylvania. And it was luck that I could afford it, being it was the time that it was.

There are a few people I work with today who came to Philadelphia for the very same things I came for, but I'm sad to say they can't get it. Not that it's not there for them, but that they literally canNOT get it because they're working three jobs JUST to pay the rent. They're the exhausted poor.

That very same $210 a month apartment I mentioned earlier is now $850. That's MADNESS!

It's fine for youth with money already in hand, they don't have these problems of course. But who knows how much genius is being wasted on greedy landlords.

Let me say that my friend Nicole McEwan is a landlord who goes out of her way to make space affordable for artists, and in fact encourages artists to take up residence with her. It makes me happy to know she's there, and that there must be others like her.

Recently I was telling a friend about my plan to buy brownstones when I win it BIG, and she said that I should just let them live there for free. To be honest, it helped having some kind of job, but like I said, not a job that was going to drain me of my spirit. And hey, $200 a month is pretty fucking okay. And will free up lots and lots of time to write, or paint, or whatever they need to be doing. (Besides, I've already decided that the $200 includes all utilities)

Instead of hating the rich --something I spend too much time doing as it is-- I want to talk out loud about my plans for winning the lottery. NOT just because I believe I'm going to win it, but also to maybe encourage those who already have money to see what NEEDS to be done to give time and space for those less fortunate who want to develop talents we all need in this world. We really do NEED everyone's creative potential right now.

If this world is going to change for the better it can only be done with a creative collective. And frankly, we NEED poor kids in there making art with everyone else, because we NEED those who are going to help keep a different focus on the world for everyone. Diversity in class as much as race, as much as anything else.


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