Local artists share their financially irresponsible hopes and dreams.
By the time you read these words, America’s dreaded economic recession will have already entered its umpteenth month, and the skies don’t appear to be clearing. But not unlike Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has been making headlines with his unprecedented low-cost bank loans and interest rate slashing, a number of us here at PW prefer to think of the proverbial glass as half full. Even when it most clearly is not.
It was with just such an adage in mind that we decided to ring up a handful of locals who work in the arts. “Imagine there is no recession,” we told them. “Imagine you have all the financial resources in the world, and no responsibilities to speak of. What would you do with yourself then?”
Or, to put it more simply, we asked them to share their “fuck-it” lists.
“I don’t really have any money saved up, [and I’m not] even expecting to save any, or [to] even have resources (other than faith) and some very like-minded friends. But I’ve always dreamed of the creative ideals of the arts, and in supporting the people who commit to those ideals ahead of stone-cold facts about capitalism, and how ‘expensive’ an arts festival must become. So I [say]: Fuck it! We’ll create our own arts festival with Philly talent. [We’ll] pay for the venues, invite everyone to perform, have donations for drinks, and [we’ll] celebrate performance gloriously with all events kept free (using goodwill as currency). I can’t call getting thousands of folks blissed-out on live cabaret a victory, but it sure beats losing your soul.”
—Scott Johnston, 43 Director of the Late Night Cabaret
“I have whole ideas about the greening of Philadelphia. If I had all the time in the world, I would force everyone to plant 14 trees on each block. Part of Philly’s charm, certainly, is its grittiness. But at a certain point you’re like, ‘Well, grittiness is great, but we need some oxygen!’ And I think I would hurt people who litter. I get so angry about people who litter. I don’t know why; it’s so irrational!”
—Dito van Reigersberg, 36 Co-founder of Pig Iron Theatre Company
“My fuck-it-all is in Scrapple.tv. It’s basically trying to run a pirate Internet/television station in the worst economic crisis since the [Great] Depression. But I am committed to making it work, [and] every dime I make goes back into it. I just received a Pew Fellowship [Grant], and I feel like that already got sucked into the Scrapple.tv hole. But fuck it: I’m either gonna make this ship sail or die trying.”
—Marc Brodzik, 42 Documentary Filmmaker, Founder of Woodshop Films
“Basically, I try to live as beautifully as I can on as little as I can.
I’m very much an adherent of a notion that I call ‘micro-luxury’: It’s basically what happens when a complex mind collides up against a simple pleasure. It doesn’t really take much to keep me interested or entertained. I do have what I call ‘stealth extravagances,’ I guess. If I sell a book or something, I may treat myself to a few custom shirts or maybe a custom suit. But that’s the extent of my extravagances. I tend to live a very modest life so I can be as free as possible.”
—Lord Whimsy, 41 Author of The Affected Provincial’s Companion
“I’ll leave the country for the winter and head to my favorite North Caribbean city: New Orleans. During life between festivals, I’ll conduct pyschogeographical experiments through the tragimagickal streets until the weather gets evilly hot. I know you’re enjoying the breeze of fall right now, but I’ve spent too many winters here. I know that you’ll be bitching about the cold before too long. Winter in Philly? Fuck it.”
—Frank Sherlock, 40 Poet, Author of Over Here
“I already feel like I did my ‘fuck it.’ I mean, who opens a nonprofit in the middle of a recession?! It started as a conversation with the owner of my gallery, Gallery 339. We were talking about where I was going after grad school. And I said, ‘I’ll probably go to New York, because there are resources for photographers that aren’t available in Philadelphia.’
I [used to] take the bus to New York, scan my film, and then come back. It took a whole day, but it was the most affordable way for me to do it. And so the [Gallery 339 owner] challenged me to come up with a plan to solve that. So I started developing this idea to create a place, [the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center], where a community of artists can go and look at each other’s work.”
—Sarah Stolfa, 34 Photographer, Executive Director of PPAC
“I never worry about being responsible! But money is always an issue, which is why I play the lottery every week. So basically, at some point I can say, ‘Fuck it! I won!’
But seriously: If money were no object ... I would work for liberal and progressive causes. I might even run for political office. And I always wanted to go to medical school. I always wanted to be a doctor, perhaps a diagnostician, which to me is like a medical detective. I think in some other life I probably was a doctor!”