As the saying goes, still waters run deep, and the inactivity on the Vital 5 website is no reflection of the work being done behind the scenes. Certainly there are a lot of Vital 5, AFWFA and PDL projects that have not been archived here, but an apology is not what is prompting this post.
I have felt for years that Seattle is in need of a formidable, accessible, sustainable contemporary art center. There have been brief flashes of brilliance, pushes for an institution we can call home, but the models we (as a city) have employed, are no longer applicable to the world we live in. Gone are the days that we can rely on NEA grants or consistent public funding. And simple survival of an institution – while no small feat of its own – is not enough to inspire, to challenge and program the type of exhibitions and events that our creative class is capable of executing.
For the last nine months, I have set to task with a greater thirst for this contemporary art center, asking the questions of what it would look like, who it would serve, where it would be located, how it would be financed, and identifying, specifically who and what our creative capital is. It has been a busy time, and now, nine months later, I believe that those questions have been addressed and answered in a most interesting way.
The idea and interest that permeated through all of these questions and conversations is the that of exporting our cultural capital. The Pacific Northwest harbors some of the smartest artists, thinkers and visionaries in the world. It is by far the one resource of our region that eclipses all others – we birth ideas like a rabbit farm, original, smart and relevant. We work hard for small rewards. And in most cases, we do it for the right reasons. So when I talk about a contemporary art center, I view it as the cultural depot to create, foster, produce and export creative content to a global community. Not to another gallery in New York or London, but to the greater populous – the majority, not minority of our society.
As an art center that broadcasts it’s creative content, I am firm in my belief that film is the most efficient and effective way to export our art and ideas. Whether it is two minute YouTube clips or a full length feature documentary, film is an incredibly powerful way to reach “the mass of men.” And I think that is what an art center should strive for – the mass of men – not the nod and approval of academia, of other curators and dealers and benefactors, but popular culture. There is no reason why sports teams and Hollywood actors and politicians should own that wide spectrum of cultural consumption, while painting and sculpture and installations and performance target and vie for the smallest sliver of the pie. To do so signifies one of two things – 1)- that artists do not have something relevant to say to the majority and/or 2)- that the majority is not smart enough to understand the complexities of self expression.
Vital 5 productions has drafted a blueprint for a contemporary art center. It is designed as a for-profit, twenty-year project – producing and exporting Pacific Northwest arts and culture in a multiplicity of ways to an international audience. The most fundamental difference between our model and other existing art centers is that our art center is in fact a movie set. The art center is the stage, the artists and patrons and exhibitions are the content and the operating capital does not invest in the center, but the documentary films that emerge from the center. The project is called Walden Three, and is by all measures an experimental hybrid between film and institution.
We will post the entirety of the Walden Three business plan on the Vital 5 website for your review and consideration. It can also be found online by joining the Walden Three group on Facebook. It is too much information and too many details to outline here, but we have a script that would forever change the artistic heritage of our region, have set our sights on a physical set location – a six story building in downtown Seattle, directly across the street from the Seattle Art Museum and former home of the Lusty Lady, and are all together serious about our template. There is more to follow and much more to read, but that is the thrust of our attention these days, and with enough conversation, optimism and support, I do believe it holds the capacity to create a golden era. And I want to live in, and contribute to such a time. Don’t you?