Monday, May 28, 2012

Bogus boundaries for arts district won't help

It says here that Mayor Dwight Jones and Second District Councilman Charles Samuels don't even understand why so many people go out to the galleries for the First Fridays Art Walk.

That ham-handed duo's finesse to do with art was much on display with the recent Art 180 snafu on Monument Avenue. Nonetheless, they’re both hoping there’s a way for some investors, people who've had nothing to do with building up First Fridays, to cash in on the phenomenon that has been steadily transforming a formerly moribund part of Downtown Richmond.

So, as it has been with pouring public funds into the bottomless pit that is CenterStage, this new help-local-arts-and-culture plan emerging from City Hall isn’t so much about art or performance. It’s more about real estate.

Yet, using decree to expand the unofficial Arts District label to cover parts of the city that have little in common with the gallery scene between Belvidere and 2nd will make the official map of the district’s boundaries seem bogus.

It's a stretch to extend it to 7th Street. Taking it all the way from Belvidere to 13th -- with "outcroppings" -- makes the label into wishful thinking propaganda, rather than a faithful description of reality.

If the City of Richmond wants to offer incentives to stimulate growth in various parts of town that’s fine. I’ve no quarrel whatsoever with that concept, in a general sense. But there’s no need to shanghai the name Arts District and render it vague and meaningless.

My guess is that establishing that deliberate falsehood won’t do much to really help Richmond’s arts scene, or its tax base, in the long run.

Hey, I’m all for helping Richmond’s creative class thrive, maybe I could make a buck out of that, but Downtown Richmond surely doesn’t need more phony deals.

What local political candidates ought to do is call for a big confabulation to be assembled this summer, to find ways for Richmond’s government to help bring more success to the existing galleries, clubs and theaters, etc., in Richmond's downtown area. What laws and policies should be changed, or even 86ed? What sort of incentives might really help?

Then some consideration of how to attract more galleries, clubs and theaters to Downtown Richmond would be useful. After all, isn’t it reasonable to assume conventioneers with money in their pockets might want to walk from the Convention Center to a gallery, club or theater?

The reasons you won't hear mayoral or councilmanic candidates drumming up enthusiasm for such a public exchange of ideas to take place this summer are simple: The poseurs among them don't want to hear what would be said. And, even worse, some of them wouldn’t like for the voters to hear it, either.

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