.....Also, do we know each other?
......Real quick, "weed out the BS". Totally, it needed to happen. Just making the point that something radical does not completely translate to BS.
Hedrew: Well said. Congratulations on finding the city hospitable to your mission as an artist. Thank god, many do. But perhaps not the majority. The culture and the businesses dedicated to art here is absolutely one-of-a-kind and welcoming; the city, I mean Perdido st, can be a nightmare (really to anyone, not just artists).
My point is not to blow this one scenario out of proportion; but to really see this an opportunity to re-assess how radical projects, including those involved with art, can not only make a lasting impact but last, period. I believe this is dependent on outspoken community support - not sheer legality. When an institution is legal and making money - say a gallery or artists studio - there are going to be far fewer interferences than if it operates outside of the spectrum of capital. And that's people's legitimate choice if they choose to operate that way. The fringe is what it is, and it can be damn exciting.
Your bad experience with what the ARK developed into is legitimate, too. Any community resource should be welcoming and inclusive, and it sucks that it wasn't, I know it often wasn't. But that doesn't mean it wasn't valuable - cliques happen, especially when it comes to infoshops and other radical projects, and have to be overcome.
I used the term curator for Paul. He was/is a long-time resident of the lofts and served as liaison to the property owner. He also had the task of pulling down the projector screen for workshops or presentations (they happened often). I'm not sure about how officially he represents the ARK, but I know in the past he's always had the last word about how things operate at 511.
Out of curiosity, when was the ARK established? What was, generally speaking, the original vision? I don't know the history, and I'm sure it's worth hearing.
Also: absolutely we should encourage diversity and solidarity with the community. You don't think these are important values to an anarchist project? Anarchism and infoshops, in one respect, have a lot to do with starting dialogue about progress within the context of a community as opposed to a nation or society at large. The mission is about community and individual empowerment - about building connections and envisioning ways create a joyful, functioning, egalitarian and constantly progressing environment to live in. Not: destroying society, planing exciting protests or finding ways to fuck the man while looking cool.
Anarchism isn't a political platform trying to win support - it's sort of an alternative way of observing the way life happens while encouraging awareness, humanity, democracy and accountability on a community wide level. Not everyone agrees with the concept, not even fellow anarchists! But that's not to say just because a community resource or book collective is radical means it must be detached from the community and completely un-worthwhile.
I agree with you: let's move on and build something better, and do it right (legally). I just believe this is a good opportunity for dialogue about how those sponsored by the city, and by individual communities, deal with artists, the subcultural, and the politically radical.
Just to disclose: I'm not a member/volunteer of the Iron Rail or Plan B and never have been. I'm from the city and a homeowner, nurse, writer, musician and anarchist. My wife is a visual artist. And we're damn proud of New Orleans.
To Hedrew again: it's not just the Iron Rail and Plan B being closed. Paul, the ARK's curator, has been explicit about this being the absolute end of the institution. "511 Marigny will be condos..."
I believe focusing on the fact that Iron Rail has, in your opinion, usurped the original purpose of the ARK (not saying that's an unreasonable argument), and therefore overlooking the ugliness of the city and police, the injustice of this situation, means overlooking the fact this is a special challenge to many of our city's artists and radicals. There is, to be clear, a common degree of crossover between the two. The IR collective did not weasel its way into the space, after all.
Absolutely the Iron Rail can move, and will. As will Plan B. And absolutely the city tolerated these collective's existences for some time. The question posed to collaborators now is, what's stopping something similar from happening again? There are ways beyond permit issues the city and police can employ to interfere with a business, even (perhaps especially) a non-profit. Code enforcement is not executed democratically here. Thus: can a stable space be established in a city notoriously and bureaucratically unfriendly to artists, musicians, writers, organizers, activists (and apparently librarians?) Can organizations promote real change and provide genuine resources if always in flux?
This is a time to look at some real issues about how our city works, in spite of opinions! The Collective has stood behind artists, residents, school children, college students and the recovering people of New Orleans in real and often heartfelt ways....it may be a small and fringe organization but we can't as a community turn our back on the people who opened their doors as the first library available in the city after Katrina. We also can't underestimate what the closing of the ARK, an institution with close to historical precedent, a place known about and discussed around the nation as a model of a community sponsored artists' resource in a hurting city, means to the people trying to perform their life's work here.
To Hedrew: I don't understand the relevance of the Doerr family or business in this matter. Please elaborate.
Whatever your opinion of the various collectives established within the ARK or the contingency of people aligned with it, it is a fact that the non-profits affected by the actions of the 5th district - who performed a disgustingly illegal "eviction" - existed philosophically and actively as supporters of the New Orleans community at large. The Iron Rail is not exclusively an arts organization. It is also not a political organization, but a resource with a mission involving, but not limited to, improving literacy and public awareness.
Please, recognize that the Iron Rail or ARK has been stripped from the community as a backlash of certain vengeful figures in the NOPD and City Hall. The ARK or its affiliates were not responsible for property destruction during Eris. I believe some authorities knew not how to react to that event effectively and legally, so they took what they could and thereby robbed our community of an inherently positive, not-for-profit and locally-driven element of our cultural framework.
As an aside, there are a plethora of businesses in this city which function outside of the skewed bureaucratic scheme of city hall, including some well established places I've personally been employed at. It's part of our history, and simply how a good bit of business works here. The house I own is still zoned light industrial after pestering Perdido st. for months (there's been a house here since 1929, and briefly a corner store in the 70's). Certain things are at the whim of city hall to tolerate. This reprimand absolutely does not represent legitimate concerns of the city. This is repression.
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