Free Idea Friday – Recession Galleries

I heard a while back (about a year ago, because, yes, I am about that far behind on some of the things I’ve been meaning to blog about) that Intermedia Arts, a local arts group/space/organization, was closing it’s gallery and laying off all of it’s full time staff because they, and the arts in general, were being hit particularly hard by the recession, and it was the only way to stay afloat.  From their website, it looks like they’re back in their space and hosting things again (admittedly I haven’t followed it all that closely), but I would tend to imagine selling art and managing galleries still isn’t exactly a booming enterprise as the moment, and that both artists and galleries are probably still squeezed pretty tightly.

Another fairly visible symptom of the recession that I’ve noticed is that there are lots more empty store fronts than usual.  Businesses close, and they leave their spaces empty, and it takes a bit longer for property owners to find someone else to rent the space.

So, putting two and two together, there are empty store fronts that look vacant and depressing, seem to be magnets for graffiti, and which are drawing no rent, and you have galleries closing and artists with no places (or less visible places at least) to sell their work or get it in front of people.  So, the free idea for this week is to set up some sort of organization / program to connect property owners and artist to display works in the front windows of empty store fronts until the space gets rented again.

Here’s a few reasons why I think this particular match up would work well for everyone.  First from the artists’ perspective:

  • Your work is put in a place people are used to looking at to buy things and it gets it in front of people who may not generally go to galleries.  It’s not only a sales outlet, it’s advertising.
  • In this idea, there wouldn’t be any active curator working at the store, just a locked store front with art in the windows and number to call if you wanted to buy something, or an email address, so the fees/commissions would be notably less than you would usually pay to galleries.  Also with the cheaper space and more of, there would be potential for many more artists to get exposure than usual.

From the property owner’s perspective:

  • Though the rent may be notably less than if you had an actual tenant / business, it’s some income.  If the group that organizes this is set up as a charitable organization, you may be able to write off some of the difference for reduced rent (not sure about that part, but I would imagine).
  • It keeps people looking at your space, noticing it, and thinking of it as a place where people sell stuff.  Again, basically free advertising.
  • Reduced graffiti.  This one takes slightly more explaining.  From what I’ve seen, totally empty / basically abandoned store fronts get tagged pretty quickly.  Ones with “For Rent” signs get it slightly more slowly, but not much.  Murals almost never get tagged.  My guess is that this is because most people who tag and do graffiti on other people’s property think of themselves as artists (I think of them as jackasses, but that’s a topic for another day), and/or they have some resentment against corporations and/or they see it as much more justifiable to tag something that’s just a blank space than something that’s already decorated in some artful way.  So, my guess is that while abandoned looking store fronts get tagged in a hurry (making the property look worse, incurring costs for clean up, and making it harder to find a new tenant, because who wants to rent a place that looks like it gets tagged all the time / is in a rough neighborhood), ones that have art in the front of them, especially art from local, community artists, would get tagged much, much less.

Additional benefits / reasons these groups should love each other:

  • Artist looking for a place to show their work will probably be much more flexible in lease dates.  If the property finds a tenant while there’s art in the windows, the art can be moved out and the new tenant in on basically no notice at all, especially if one art organization manages this for lots of artists and lots of spaces.  In effect the property owners don’t have to worry about losing any potential tenants.
  • Without anyone being at the storefront on a regular basis, you might think theft would be a problem. However, I would have a hard time imagining it being too big of a problem, because unlike commodities such as TVs or cell phones or whatever, art’s pretty unique, and it would be hard to get any money out of reselling it without being detected.  Which means theft isn’t very profitable.  A good chunk of the worth of art is identifying who made it, and doing so is basically turning yourself in. And again, you have the fact that I would think most thieves would think it’s more justifiable to steal from a large corporation / store / chain than from a local artist who may well be just as financially hard up as they are.  Plus, if you rotate things through fairly often (once a week maybe, which would still be practically no labor cost), the space will still seem active.  Plus, if people get used to looking at it to see what’s new, people will look more, and probably report a broken window or other damage pretty quickly (another bonus for the property owner – casual strangers watching out for your store).  You could also have a very simple / cheap (maybe even fake for the deterrent factor) security camera pointed at the front window.
  • The other obvious use along these lines would be advertising, but there’s lots of reasons this is better.  Basically this part ties back to the graffiti argument.  The only things that get vandalized faster than abandoned store fronts are Bebe ads.  Put some ads in an empty store front and it will look like a 3 year old playing with MS Paint in about 5 minutes.  The property owner might make a couple of bucks off the ads, but they’ll have a much higher liability for having to clean up graffiti later.  Beyond that, who wants to advertise their product in an empty store front?  Doesn’t really give the impression that most advertisers  want to get across about their product.  And, again, people tend to (at least consciously) tune out ads and/or purposely ignore them, where as art that’s new on a weekly basis would draw attention (I think).

Really, all you would need to get this going would be one or two people with a phone and the numbers of some local artists (or galleries that have artists they’re turning down) and some local property owners (and those number are already in lots of the store fronts).  The artists get exposure and potential sales, the landlords get at least some rent they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten and get it on a very flexible basis.  I would think there could be very low overhead / middleman costs, especially if a group like Intermedia Arts, or the Walker, or MIA (would seem to fit perfectly with their “Foot in the Door 4” exhibit), or MNartists.org, or Artspace were the ones to set it up, with a relatively low commission being charged on each work sold.

There could definitely be things I’m missing here as I’m neither a property owner nor involved in the business of selling art, but it seems like a win-win for everyone involved to me.  And really, it could be done any time, it just seems like there’s a lot more opportunity and need on both sides of the deal when the economy’s down.

Comments (0) | Tags: , , , , | Written by on Jan 29,2010 |

Parker in Miami – Part 3 – Tailgating and the Orange Bowl

This is a part of the dino saga, if it doesn’t make any sense, read these.

After a good night’s sleep, we got up early to go tailgating.  Okay, not that early, it was an 8:00 PM game, but the point here is we went tailgating, and Parker got things started off right.

Parker enjoying the Breakfast of Champions, with Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark/Sun Life Stadium in the background.

Does anyone else ever wonder if the beer (Land Shark) was named after this really old Saturday Night Live skit, and for that matter, if they had this particular clip in mind when they got naming right for the stadium where the Dolphins play?

No? Just me? Okay, moving on with tailgating then…

Let's see, Hawkeye fans and Hawkeye flags as far as I can see this way, even when standing on the car (it's a rental).

And more Hawkeye fans this way. Behind us was still empty at this point, but eventually also filled up with Hawkeye fans.

A few hours of tailgating later, night falls, and we learn that Parker can apparently hold his beer substantially better than Sinclair.


Yes, Parker was also standing on the car.  Life lesson?  Never buy a used car that was a rental.  Ever.

So, it was getting closer to game time, and we decided to head into Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark/Sun Life Stadium, up the giant spiraling corkscrew ramp, which gives a pretty good view of the tailgating festivities.

A yell of "Go Hawks!" from this height comes back as an echo. In fact, it comes back as an echo from about 40 different location, each echo having a distinct tone and intoxication level. These echos then get echos of their own in a bit of a "Go Hawks" ripple effect. It's a pretty cool physics experiment really.

There were also a couple of tour buses, which also echoed quite well.

Now you may be saying, “Kearn, those last two pictures don’t have Parker in them at all, and tailgating seemed to go by rather quickly.”  Did I mention we were tailgating, and I was drinking?  Good, now that we’ve cleared that up, I’d like to point out that arepas may be the best drunk food ever.  It’s like you took cornbread, but made it into a sort of pancake form, and then once that was cooked, you heated it up on a grill with cheese (um, a kind that’s white, I have no idea which kind) between two of these cornbread pancake things until it was all gooey and warm.  Delicious.  They serve them at Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark/Sun Life Stadium.  Anyway, after that delicious break, we made it into the stadium, and back to Parker.  Luckily we left ourselves plenty of time to get to our seats.

"This is a lot of steps for my tiny legs. Did we have to get seats so high up?"

“To be in the Hawkeye section, yes.  And to be on about the 45 yard line on the Hawkeye side, absolutely.”

"I'm sure they're great seats and all, but I can't see anything!! What's going on down there??"

"The view's no better over here. They're playing on the other half of the field."

"Kearn, can I sit on your shoulders?" "Sure Parker."

"Ahh, much better!!! Thanks Kearn!! Go Defense!!!!

"Come on Defense!! Stop them!!!!"

Now, you may notice that between those two pictures, Georgia Tech went about 40 yards on offense.  This was basically the only time this happened during the game.  This was also basically the only time Parker was watching.  Now, I tend to not be too superstitious, but this was enough to make me convince Parker to stay in my pocket for the rest of the game, thus the lack of more game pictures with him.  Once it was safe again, he came came out to watch some more.

"Yaaaaayyyyy!! Hawks win!!! Go Hawks!!! Or should I say 2010 Orange Bowl Champions!!!!"


Parker in Miami – Part 2 – Lincoln Road and the Quest for a Drink

This is a part of the larger dino saga, if it doesn’t make any sense, read these.

After our time on the beach, Parker and I decided to explore the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in South Beach.  We were a little slow getting there, as Parker decided to stop for a snack.


And of course the bushes are always greener on the other side of the pedestrian walk way, so, we had to try those too.

"You know, this place kind of reminds me a little of Jurassic Park. What's that? There's a movie called Jurassic Park, too? How odd, that was the name of my kindergarten. They had great play pens, and a really nice science lab, too. What's that? No, no people at all. Why do you ask?"

I let Parker take all the time he want eating those bushes.  “Aren’t plants delicious Parker?”

"Why, yes, they are quite good. And here's a nice trendy little snack bar they left out, too. But I'm getting stuffed."

“Phew, good.”

“What’s that Kearn?”

“Oh, nothing.”

"Let's go exploring! It looks like there's all kinds of shops and restaurants and stuff here."

"Hmmm, this place looks a little too, oh, what's the word, posh for my tastes."

"Look, swim suits! Those would have been nice to have on the beach."

"And it looks like they're about half off. Plus there's a sale! Oh, wait, they're not half off, it's just that..."

South Beach – where even the mannequins have implants.

"Now this is my kind of store!!"

Let it be noted that the store Parker is posing in front of in this picture was selling Hawkeye gear.  And only Hawkeye gear.  No general sports merchandise.  Just Iowa Hawkeye clothes and memorabilia, and nothing else.  In Miami.  There was absolutely no Georgia Tech (the other team in the Orange Bowl) stuff, or any other store like it selling Georgia Tech stuff.  And it wasn’t a sports store that just rotates through whatever team is visiting for whatever game – it was an empty store front on Saturday, it was a full fledged Hawkeye store on Monday.  Apparently word gets out about how well our fans travel.

We had walked a ways, so Parker grabbed another snack.

"Really does remind me of Jurassic Park a bit."

“And you’re sure you’re okay with just eating plants, right Parker?”

"Well, now that you mention it, and I see that Duck Boat there, I could really go for... something to drink."

“Oh, good.  I mean, I think we can find you something to drink.  How about that fountain over there?”

"Yeah, that looks good, it even has a bubbler to drink out of!"

"Hmmm, it smells kind of... gross though. I wonder if there are any other places to find a drink around here?"

"Excuse me Mr Fishy, would you know of where I could find a drink around here?" "Why yes, I know all sorts of places. After all, I drink like a..., well, I don't know what I drink like, but I drink a lot. My favorite spot is just down there on the left." "Thanks Mr Fishy!"

"Hmmm, I can see why he likes it so much, but it smells a little funny just like the last one. Maybe I should ask someone a little more classy..."

"Excuse me my fine gentleman, could I trouble you to direct me to an establishment serving only the finest, most high quality, non-smelly drinks?"

"How much you looking to spend?" "Um, I don't have any money actually." "Well then you can go stick your head in a fire hydrant for all I care."

"Hmmm, I don't see where you turn it on. Maybe I should ask someone else."

"Excuse me Mr Giraffe. I'm really thirsty and was wondering if you would know where I can get a drink?" "Oh, why yes little one. There's actually three places along this block that serve giraffes. The first two are a little hit or miss, but you can't go wrong at the third one." "Thank you Mr Giraffe!!"

"Hmm, the Score Doggy Bar looks fancy and trendy, but there's cigarette butts floating in it. I think I'll try the other places."

"This one has almost no water in it, and it's too far down for me to reach. I hope Mr Giraffe was right about the third place."

So we kept walking down to the end of the block, until finally we found…

"Ahhh, Dom Perignon, now this is more like it!!!"

"Mr Giraffe has good taste, I could get used to this!"

After Parker had his fill, we decided to head back to the hotel and relax for a while.  We wanted to be well rested for tailgating the next day, so we decided to turn in early.  I tucked Parker into his little dino bunk…

"Good night Kearn." "Good night Parker."

And we slept with dreams of Hawkeye bowl wins in our heads.

Comments (0) | Tags: , , , , , | Written by on Jan 27,2010 |

Parker in Miami – Part 1 – The Beach

If you haven’t read them before, the previous episodes of the dino saga will help make this make slightly more sense.  Not lots of sense, just more than it would otherwise.

In this episode / series, Parker goes to the Orange Bowl in Miami to see the Hawkeyes play.  My going along is part of why there was that couple week long lull of no posting – planning the trip, going down, being there a few days, coming back, getting my feet back on the ground, not to mention Christmas, New Years, some things shifting at work, and just generally having needed a bit of a break.  At any rate, I’m back now.

Also, I’m breaking this episode into 3 parts (this is the first, as the title would indicate) because:

  1. There are lots of pictures.
  2. There are basically 3 distinct stories.
  3. These posts take for freaking ever to make, so I want to stretch it out a little bit and make the effort for each a little more manageable.

The third segment is a little short for reasons I’ll explain in that post, so that one’s more like half a post compared to the other two.  As a bonus though, there will also be one non-Parker, non-dino post of Miami stuff after the third as well.  So, really, it like 2 and 2 half post about Miami.  So, anyway, let’s get started, shall we…

As it turns out, Nessie has an in with the BCS people and helped them decide that Iowa should go to the Orange Bowl in Miami so she could see Parker, instead of sending Iowa to the Fiesta Bowl.  Apparently Nessie doesn’t do well in the desert, being a lake creature and all, and it turns out that Plesiosaurs have a surprisingly large say in the BCS selection process.  Who knew?

So, when we heard that Iowa was headed to Miami, Parker decided that we needed to go.  Sinclair stayed behind to hibernate.  Because dinosaurs hibernate, I guess.  That or he’s just lazy and still moping about not being able to find Minne.  Who knows?  He has his moments of being a rather surly fellow, but I think mostly it’s just the cold and dark weather getting to him, cold blooded and all.

So, Parker and I got our tickets and flew down to Miami a couple of days before the game.  The TSA is surprisingly permissive with dinosaurs.  Apparently they’re a well connected bunch.  Anyway, as soon as we got to the Miami airport, we decided we should go find the hotel, settle in a little bit, and then go see what South Beach has to offer.  Without thinking, I had let Parker do some of the planning, like the car…

Parker rolls in style.

Also, it turns out Parker packs like a Druish Princess.

"Ah, I see my bags have arrived. Are you sure we packed my industrial strength hair dryer? Because I can't live with out it."

And he fit in pretty well in the hotel lobby while they were taking the bags up, too.

The dinosaur matches the pillows!

Once we got up to our room, Parker decided to check out the view.

"I can see the ocean! We should go see if we can find Nessie!!!"

"Let's go, let's go, let's go!!!"

As you can see, I pack slightly lighter than Parker, but I still had room for swim trunks and sandals, so, we headed to the beach, at top dinosaur speed, to see if we could find Nessie.

"Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!" (Parker does his best Pamela Anderson running on the beach impression.)

"Excuse me Mr Seagull, have you seen the Loch Ness Monster anywhere around here lately?"

"Sorry bud, I don't really fly out to sea any more. I just hang out on the beach and eat trash from all the tourists. You might try asking at the lifeguard station though." "Okay, thanks!"

"Excuse me Mr Lifeguard, have you seen the Loch Ness Monster around here lately?"

"Yeah, I see her now and then. She's been hanging out down here for the last couple of months on vacation. Let me take a look through my trusty rusty telescope to see if she's around."

"I think I see her out there, a little ways off to the right of that ship. I'll signal to her for you."

The lifeguard flashed a mirror a few times in Morse code to signal to Nessie for us.

"Thanks Mr Lifeguard!"

"Hiiii Paaarrkkeerrr!!!! Sorry I can't swim in any further, I'm too big and I'd get stuck!"

"That's okay, I'll swim out to you."

"Whoa, that wave caught me off guard."

"I'll get a running start this time, and time it so I don't hit a wave."

"AAAAHHHHHH, I timed it wrong!!!"



"Even the foam's bigger than me!"

"Run away!!"

"You kids are crazy, the wave out there have to be ten, no, twenty feet tall!!"

"Sorry Nessie, the waves are too big for me! I can't make it out to you."

"That's okay Parker. Have fun on the beach!! There's lots to do there for someone your size. And send me a post card when you get back to Minneapolis."

After we sat on the beach chairs for a while and tried to talk with Nessie as best we could from that distance, Parker got a little restless and wanted to play.

"I'm gonna make a sand castle!!"

Two hours later…

"All done! Isn't it awesome!?!"

“Hmmm, Parker, would you like to play on a little bigger sand castle?  I think I see one over there you might like, and it doesn’t look like anyone else is playing on it right now.”

“Sure, where?”

“Right over there…”

“Wow!!!” … running….

"This. Is. Awesome."

"There she blows! - there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill!"

“Oh, you know what else we should do? …”

"I love the beach."

"I'm awful dirty after getting buried in the sand. I could sure use a shower."

"Ahhhh!!! Can't you see I'm naked!!!!"

"Get out, get out, GET OUT!!! Can't a guy get a little privacy?!?!"

Parker was a little miffed at me after that, so I put the camera away for a while.

As a side note, how often do you see a post with references to Space Balls, Moby Dick, Baywatch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Monty Python, and an obscure Sesame Street record all in the same place?

Comments (1) | Tags: , , , , , , , | Written by on Jan 26,2010 |

Free Range Kids

I’ve been collecting links for this one for a while, though admittedly I still haven’t really come up with any particularly cohesive argument about it, more just presenting it as something to think about.  The idea/argument/trend/anti-trend is what’s referred to as Free Range Kids.  Basically it’s  the counter to the current trend towards “in the world we live in, you just can’t be too careful, especially when it comes to kids”.  Free Range Kids would tend to say that it’s probably okay if you let your kids go outside and play without an adult hovering over them or gps enabled tracking bracelets strapped around their ankles.  As many others have said it better, here’s a few links:

  • Lenore Skenazy, the woman who sort of kicked off the movement/firestorm, introducing it in her own words here.  She also had a blog here.
  • Here‘s a more lengthy interview with her on Salon.com (via Boing Boing)
  • A more local take with a few links to other stories.

The comment sections (where applicable) tend to be interesting for the mix of adults fondly remembering wandering and exploring as a kid, and cynics assuring anyone that doesn’t hover over their child that the child will end up dead or a heroin addict.  They tend to get pretty fierce, even by internet standards.  A few more articles for the sake of the comment sections here, here, and here.

Discussions of free range kids tends to draw to the surface quite a few pretty hot button issues/debates, such as:

  • It takes a village to raise a child vs stranger danger.
  • At what point is society allowed to step in and tell someone how to raise their children?
  • How marketing and the news media / cable / cop dramas affect our view of society and how we interact with it.
  • The sliding scale of how okay people are with letting children roam vs the size of the city / percent of nearby neighbors that the parent knows.
  • The affect of two parents working outside the home, and therefore there being less adults at home during the day as a default safety net.
  • How being very protective of children both responds to and creates a culture of distrust / lack of community / suspicion of everyone / (stretching a bit) a culture of fear and isolation.
  • Have you ever walked past a playground and glanced over and smiled at the joy of children at play?  Have you gotten a dirty/suspicious look from a parent on the playground for doing so?
  • Keeping children young and helpless forever so parents can always be important.

There also seems to be some parallels in here for that other major freedom vs safety debate of our times – terrorism.  How much should we modify our lives and how many freedoms should we give up to try to foil the terrorists / pedophiles?  How does the media affect our perceptions of these threats?  How much should the parents / government always be the ones to make decisions for what’s best and safest?  How much does one lead into the other, with the government replacing parents as an authority figure that can tell us what’s safe?

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