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My submission for Art Creates Community

Mon, Dec 21, 2009

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There’s something about earnest, cheerful, inclusive, well-meaning and uplifting community projects that brings out the Sheridan Whiteside in me.

Sheridan Whiteside was the protagonist of Moss Hart’s and George S. Kaufman’s 1939 comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

Whiteside, who was modeled on the famously acerbic theater critic Alexander Woollcott, had one of the most memorable opening lines in the history of American theater.

“I may vomit,” he said.

In that spirit, here’s an excerpt from the request for proposals for an “inclusive, creative community activity.”

“Art Creates Community is a call to the entire Pikes Peak region to have a direct vote in creating an inclusive, creative community activity in 2010. Bee Vradenburg Foundation and Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado are teaming together to let citizens vote online for one arts project that will be awarded a $10,000 grant…
Ideal projects will be surprising, fun, creative, accessible and inclusive. A project could be a one‐day festival, a series of small events over several dates, the installation of a permanent piece of public art or mural, The project may be an existing event, festival, etc., but applicants must demonstrate what will be new, inclusive and “community building” with the project in 2010.”

I know what will happen.

There will be dozens of feel good proposals, and the sentimental fools who reside in the Pikes Peak region will choose the sappiest one available. Artists and arts organizations, knowing this, will tailor their submissions accordingly.

  • How ‘bout 20,000 rainbow balloons, to be launched by 20,000 schoolchildren, each with a message of peace, love, and the brotherhood/sisterhood of all people??!!
  • Or maybe a great big purple dinosaur that will show up inclusively where you most expect it, making adults smile and children shriek with joy??!!
  • Maybe a big beautiful mural depicting a giant purple dinosaur and thousands if kids on a flower-strewn hillside releasing rainbow balloons with messages of peace, love, joy, inclusion and…oh, never mind!

But enough of curmudgeonly cynicism! Rather than rail at the well-meaning efforts of my betters, here’s my entry,

Project: the Tejon Street Gateway Arch.
Project concept: Downtown lacks a ceremonial, inclusive, and welcoming entry. The proposed sculpture/arch will fill this void with an appropriate structure which will bring our city national and international renown.
Project description: A parabolic arch, soaring over Tejon Street at Platte Avenue, to be constructed of cor-ten steel, a durable, unsightly, and maintenance-free material. On the north side of the arch, an ingenious dual system of illumination will send an appropriate message to travelers at all hours of night and day. By night, gas jets will spell out in letters of fire the same message that glowing red neon tubes will deliver by day: “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

Many will recognize these words which, according to Dante’s Inferno (Canto 3, verse 3) are inscribed on the gates of Hell.

The rainbow balloon folks may not like it, but they’ll have to admit that this entry meets all stated criteria, and then some!

Inclusive? What could be more inclusive than Hell? Like Fannie Mae Duncan’s legendary Cotton Club, everyone’s welcome! The devil doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, age, gender, or sexual orientation-sin, and you’re in!

Accessible? Just read Dante, or the sermons of my great ancestor, Increase Mather, or go to church this Sunday-Hell is only too accessible!

Community Building? A not-so-gentle reminder of the transience of our lives on this mortal plane and the probable consequences of unrestrained partying on the Tejon Street strip should strengthen, not weaken, our regrettably sinful community. And for those of us who fail to mend our ways, it’ll be comforting to find a reminder of home as we begin our journey into eternal torment.

One minor problem does exist, though – the terms of the competition require that entrants be sponsored by, or partner with, a 501c(3) nonprofit.

I’m not sure that any local nonprofit would want to partner with such an infernal project, but I’m trying to get in contact with the head of a well-known international organization. His phone is unlisted, but he called the other day.

“Please allow me to introduce myself,” he said, “Just call me Lucifer – but what’s puzzling me is the nature of your game.”

I tried to explain, but he was uninterested. I asked how I could contact him – he just laughed.

“If you meet me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, have some taste. Use all your well-learned politesse, or I’ll lay your soul to waste.”

As the caretaker of one of the six extant copies of Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon (given to Increase Mather by a man convicted of witchcraft in Salem during the 17th century), I could summon up Mr. Lucifer with ease.

But why bother? You know, I’ll bet that Mr. Lucifer doesn’t even have a 501c(3).

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8 Comments For This Post

  1. atomic elroy Says:

    Ha, I never thought someone could be MORE of an art curmudgeon than I, but you’re on the right track.
    YET WAIT! don’t abandon hope, as I now publicly offer Southern Colorado Alternative Media’s Non profit status. The PDF on the entry only says it must be an “arts non profit”, not 501c-3.
    So you now have a sponsor Mr. Beelzebub.
    (They call me Dr. Faustus).

  2. FactFinder Says:

    Re: “Lucifer doesn’t have a 501(C)3.” Yes, he does. His stage name is Lionel.

    Colorado Springs, 2/3 military, is America’s Beautiful City, has some really “beautiful” offerings for eye candy along the I-25 corridor. The two hands down winners are the Martin Drake Power Plant, followed closely by the city building north of Fontanero along Recreation Way. These two buildings get the nationwide prize for public display of Navy Battleship Colors. (Grey. And then there’s grey. The accent colors are blue grey. Say hey!)

    Now really, wouldn’t the power plant be cool to look at if the smokestacks had barber pole stripping, and the main buildings painted with really beautiful colors? Even colorful dingbats? Art project for the art departments of the local colleges? Just think of the nationwide publicity we could receive for a creative paint job on a power plant.

  3. Amber Cote Says:

    John, I think it would be fabulous to see a proposal from a well-known representative of our local business and journalism community in the mix. Can you imagine the compelling work you and Atomic Elroy will create together?!?! You may have a great shot at this!

    Thanks for divulging our idea of creating a big beautiful mural depicting a giant purple dinosaur and thousands of kids on a flower-strewn hillside releasing rainbow balloons with messages of peace, love, joy, inclusion…

    I guess it’s back to the drawing board for FutureSelf.

  4. Nancy Wilsted Says:

    So, if you’re not going to use the giant purple dinosaur with rainbow balloon bared breasts submission, is it OK if I do?

  5. Dante Dilletante Says:

    It’s actually ‘Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here’. I detest misquotations, even by you, dear John.

  6. John Hazlehurst Says:

    Dante, I beg to differ. Not to get all scholarly here, but here’s the original Italian:
    “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” While both your version and mine have appeared in English translation, I think that mine hews more faithfully to the original-but that’s a matter of opinion and taste. And remember: ‘de gustibus, non disputandum est.’

  7. looloo Says:

    The fact that someone put up 10,000 US Dollars for an art/non-profit project in Colorado Springs seems to have inspired you to think small and unfunny. Hopefully a creative type will tackle something worthy and interesting.

  8. John Hazlehurst Says:

    looloo, it’s precisely because of serious do-gooders like you that I was inspired to offer my modest suggestion. Sorry you don’t like it-but that’s ok. After all, the arts are a deadly serious endeavor-we need as much well-meaning kitsch as possible along our downtown streets, so that downtown can thrive and the rest of us can slink away to the west side, and enjoy an art-free environment.