I've left Chicago. I am now in New York.
I really never had the intention to leave wonderful Grand Rapids or at least, if I did, it would have only been temporary.
When I moved to Chicago, I quickly focused my civic pride on the windiest of cities, yet the Grand Rapids affiliation continued to remain on a connective tissue among my social, professional and educational relationships. I realize that this is not at all uncommon, connecting with familiar people when moving to a new city.
While driving from Chicago to New York (14 hours!), I spent time thinking about the development of immigrant communities during the early 20th century and the formation of ghettos based on national identity (i.e. Little Italy, Chinatown, etc) and how it compares to the movement of people in the United States today. For example, while living in Logan Square, I could walk down the street in any direction and quickly arrive at the doorstep of another member of the vast Grand Rapids diaspora. It's obvious that our social fabric still contains remnants of our grandparents, great-grand parents decisions to live in certain places, but what is the commonality that has replaced national identity? On what basis are communities formed in the 21st century? What is it about the Grand Rapids diaspora phenomenon?
In the beginning, G-RAD dot org was conceived with the intention of being both a tool for local residents and expatriates alike (see: hot air balloon). Due to my position as a local resident when starting the G-RAD, I was not able to appreciate the ways the site could function for a post-Grand Rapdian (or hopefully pre-Grand Rapidian! move to Grand Rapids!) audience. This network has yielded important relationships in my life and continues impress me for its ability to remain such a horizontally structured platform for discussion and civic issues. As I continue learning about the ways that communities organize themselves, I've yet to find an organizational structure that allows for the potential transformation of both self and society the way that G-RAD does. One of the ideas that continued to steer the formation of this network from the beginning, was the idea that this site would not exist as an autonomous immaterial entity, but as annotation of our lived experience. It's amazing to be part of building something that continues to evolve and remain relevant and foster a collective production of knowledge and shared identity.
I look forward to seeing how G-RAD evolves as the community of people that utilize it changes and grows and its potential for influencing municipal policies and animating democracy in the city.
What's next? Do we create our own welfare state?
On a separate note, I realized that I am not coming back to Grand Rapids and painfully filled out an interview on the INTERVIEWS! project page.
What are some other options?
In the introduction to The Revolution will not be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, collaboratively written and edited by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Andrea Smith points out many of the complexities concerning non-profit organizations in their ability to perpetuate stasis, absorb resistance or change, and promote the interests of a wealthy contingent through the funding of family foundations and corporate donors. Though INCITES!'s text primarily focuses on organizations with visions of social justice, their critique of available funding models shares many of the same concerns with arts administrators such as Arthurs and Storr.
In addition, INCITE! addresses the ways in which the non-profit industrial complex, "promotes a social movement culture that is non-collaborative, narrowly focused, and competitive." Such competition also affects arts organizations and individual artists, who are obligated to divert both time and energy away from what are traditionally seen as creative processes in order meet financial obligations via the courting and cultivating of state and federal granting agencies, private foundations, wealthy individual donors, etc. This level of competition allows for minimal opportunities for collaboration among likeminded organizations, often competing for the same support.
How then do organizations and artists interested in social and political change move forward? Is an oppositional or autonomous approach the only solution? What can be salvaged from the current state of non-profit organizations? What are the possibilities for a hybrid approach? How can artists offer fresh perspectives on administrative and organizational approaches? What are some other options?
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