Three art beat musings: twitter alert, city elections and being overqualified for your dream job

Wake-up call -> Artists need to register their names on twitter – and hang on during the upcoming visual information storm

New features being rolled out on twitter in the next few weeks that rein in some of the tremendous third-party success into twitter’s own core services – namely the ability to watch photos and view photos. Now, twitter has been under-valued and under-utilized by Canadians in general including as arts marketing to a very suspicious and stodgy art establishment. That has changed a bit with places like the Art Gallery of Ontario and a slew of emerging art bloggers utilizing social media very effectively and finding a hungry and emerging channel for art news. But these core improvements of twitter for visuals is not to be underestimated as a very powerful platform within a mind-boggling huge and savvy audience.  If you are a creative type and have not already, then go and open an account on twitter so you can register your name and help protect your online identity. I don’t care what you think of twitter – you still need to manage your social reputation and lay claim to the intellectual frontier landscape that is your name on the internet. Being an artist or cultural personality of any sort means you have to be serious about your name on the most popular social networks, and unless you are Oprah then services are not going to care if someone “took” your name or not.

We promise art for some, and little Canadian flags for others

There is a candidate running in my ward who is probably going to win. On his brochures he promises to “promote arts, culture + recreation” and listed underneath, presumably as the key action points to accomplish said promise, is to “develop a parks + playgrounds plan”, “renew our neighbourhoods” and “represent all ward three residents.”

Though this sounds perfectly well-intentioned and thoughtful, I regret to inform you dear reader that this in actual fact epitomizes the very essence of the most evil, repressive and condescending attitude that is, and has been for a hundred years, tearing apart the very fabric of meaningful culture in our society. His talk of jobs is at the top of his list but his mention of arts is near the bottom and lumped into the same category as installing more garbage receptacles in parks. This approach echoes the dangerous latent kindergarten training and zealously defended perception that art is 1) about filling up all the white space on a cheap ass piece of paper 2) best designated for an hour in an after-school programs near newly installed garbage cans and 3) must be water-soluble.  But art is not leisure, nor is it entertainment. Art in a community is not a sunday paintings hanging in a cheap rental space. Art is art and it brings serious people and serious money.  Serious arts investment brings serious jobs and serious revenue and benefits to any community. I’ve ranted before about the power of artists to renew communities currently in states of urban decay but most politicians and the people who vote for them seem to think arts is a frivolous and symbolic hobby that comes in last when planning and budgeting. I know I for one am tired of politicians who pretend to support the arts but actually seem to loathe other adults who have chosen it as a career.

Overqualified for a gallery job – sucks in a flattering manner*

As some of you know, the gallery I was working at for the last year on Queen Street West is now gone. Sad as the model we were developing was really starting to click but would only work within that address and space. I was very lucky to find myself programming and marketing an independent contemporary gallery in Toronto’s art district, even if I did not have the chance to see my schedule come to fruition and I was working solely for a percentage of the business…

Anyways, the building the gallery was in is being demolished for condos (remember my mention of artists as the solution to urban decay?) so I have been job hunting for the last month and a bit. I told myself I would concentrate all of attentions and cover letter writing energies on applying for “dream jobs” for the first month and then go back to my usual safe area of being a web designer if nothing from my arts job hunt came up. I applied for all kinds of appealing jobs at universities, municipalities, museums and galleries over the last month and the only response I got back was from the owner of a very high-profile commercial contemporary gallery who told me “you are way too over-qualified for this position and I am saving you from getting bored sitting in the gallery all day.”

WOW. All of my life I feel like I have been gathering skills and experience to be an irrefutable piece of any power gallery. I have worked at many galleries, public and independent small projects, but never actually got a gig at an established commercial gallery that would pay me reasonably to do gallery things for them. I learned to write press releases, make websites, design print advertisements. I got a University art degree because I was specifically told it would greatly increase my chances of getting employed by a gallery. I even learned about installing proper lighting, painting walls, how to repair drywall and construct walls and I even learned how to read a freaking hygrometer – for freak’s sake! A hygrometer! Endless gallery committee meetings, hundreds of hours of volunteering and even running my own galleries, events and studio co-ops so I would be “better prepared” to “simulate conditions” to prepare to work in a “real gallery” (and how to use quotations more effectively as well). The crowning achievement of my industry to become a gallery worker was to make an art blog that listed art shows so I could comment on them to clearly demonstrate my awareness and understanding. All these years of effort and sacrifice have currently resulted in one email from the heart of Toronto’s contemporary art establishment informing me politely that I have now worked my ass off and out of a whole job description.

And now here I sit almost 40 and over-qualified for the dream job I have been preparing for all my life. The sad part is that, upon reflection, he is probably right that I would now probably get bored fast sitting in a gallery all day. That’s ok, now that I realize that I now realize working on my online magazines and producing studio work to go into those galleries is going to be a much more rewarding experience.

* got a job interview with a leading arts magazine here to run their website and email marketing. wish me luck!

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