An Open Invitation to the Anchorage Museum

I recently went on a tear about the Anchorage Museum refusing to publish the images of the work submitted but rejected by the selected juror. The question was quite rightly put to me, “Why should the Museum make those images available publicly?” Below are my initial thoughts on the matter.

In a place like Alaska art can light up he dark days of winter and and reflect the exhilaration of our summers and it does artist and art viewer immense emotional good to share that experience, and as many have argued (including the Alaska State Council on the Arts,  the Arts are good for the economy.

But sharing one’s work is just not that easy in Alaska. Dozens and dozens of Alaska artists are desperate to have the public see their work and have no outlet for showing it.  Even those who are lucky enough to have a gallery agree to carry their work re limited in their reach.

And that is not the worst part. The worst part is that despite the existence of ASCA, there is no place where Alaskan artists can publicly exhibit their work to a public that is hungry to see what Alaskans can do. This is especially the case if an artist does not produce “Native” art or “Alaskana”.

Yet in soliciting submissions for Alaskan in EFF and All-Alaska yearly, the Anchorage Museum receives hundreds of images of work being produced by Alaskans every year. Work for which the artists are only asking acknowledgement.

Every year I ask the Museum about making those images public, and every year the Museum comes up with another lame reason to refuse my request. Every artist understands the caprice inherent in a juried show (especially where there is only one juror) but when such shows are at such a premium because they are so few, it is simply inexcusable that the submitted work is not made available to the public for viewing.

This year the excuse is particularly lame;  the Museum doesn’t have the staff to accomplish this.  I immediately piped up that I wold be happy to take that on but was essentially ignored. Moreover, I am sure that others would be just as glad to volunteer to take on the burden that the Museum believes is so heavy. I think it might take all of a day (and that only because it is my guess that the Museum has yet to enter the 21st Century vis-a-vis their handling of the images, lol.)

No,  I am not advocating that the Museum manange the shows in any way differently than they have been, save that they make the images of the work that was rejected available for public review online. Whatever the argument for this kind of juried show, I am not disputing the Museums efforts to go forward with what it  wants to do, whether or not it has anything to do with art, the public or anything else. I am simply suggesting that if the Museum is going to encourage hundreds of Alaskan to submit their art, then the public should be entitled to see what is not selected. Whether that reflects somehow on what the Museum does or doesn’t do or impacts what the Museum might do in future is some other issue for some other person.

The Museum should not be promoting the skewed tastes of this or that juror; it should be celebrating the breadth and depth of Alaska’s creativity and productivity. If juried show accomplishes that, so much the better, but many artists have already given up submitting work to such exhibitions in that there is no rhyme nor reason in selection, as has been acknowledged with respect to juried shows across the nation.

It would be nice if Alaska for once was the exception in the arts, and promoted its artists, as opposed to discouraging them.


Thank You, Mr. President

This was written for NPR’s Three Minute Fiction as an historical exercise.  I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you, Mr. President

I stood looking down at Momma’s grave. At the end she’d said she’d seen a white light. “Providence come to take me to the Lord:”, she’d said. Then she smiled like a spring day and was gone. Seemed to me that every time Providence showed up, something terrible be a happening….. Looking up I seen Sheriff drive up and wave me over. Providence seemed to me to be most persistent this May of 1932.

As I walked over to the Sheriff’s car I thought about all the stories Momma told me. ‘Bout how we were mostly Cherokee from a place far to the East of Missouri and how we survived a death march. How we came to be slaves then freed. But the end of every story were the same; Providence had seen us through. She’d said my doubts bout Providence would lay her low one day.

“How old are you, boy?”, the Sheriff asked, driving t’ Smith’s. Momma and I sharecropped there, and worked his farm too.

“12 Sunday, sir.”

“Boy, Smith and the others are selling out. Money’s in the bank, none of you colored own the land yonder and you need to clear out. No trouble now. Get your things and move on.”

We’d only gone a few dozen yards but I knew there weren’t nothing to go back for.

“Stop the car Sheriff, I’m getting out.”

The Sheriff let me off in front of the Bank, and just as he drove off a rush of folk coming running through the doors of the Bank. The first one run right into me and knocked me clear over and I landed on my face in the dirt. I seen them tear down the street and the Sheriff round and tear after them, with most of the town after him. Getting to my feet I realized I’d fallen on a small canvas bag. Inside was full of green paper I’d never seen before. I got to my feet a bit dizzy and made my way back to the colored church.

The Pastor’s wife screamed, “Oh bloody terror!” and fainted away. Old Jake, the handyman, told me to sit myself down. He seen to the Pastor’s wife and run off to get the Pastor.

Jake and the Pastor got to cleaning me up and it was then they seen the bag. “What you got there, boy?”, Jake barked. I’d near forgot that I had it and the story come tumbling out. Jake told me to sit and rest awhile and he and Pastor Wright went to talking quiet like and left the room.

Pastor and Mrs. Wright drove Jake and me to Joplin that very day. Jake had worked the trains and had family in Chicago, and he would take me to them. We boarded the colored car, there was some shouting and with the Pastor and his wife waving good-bye, the train gave a lurch and we were on our way. I watched out the window as everything I’d ever known disappeared behind us.

And here I was. Jake snored next to me as old men do. He said the bag of 100 new 20s was a “windfall”, but Momma knew what it really was. I felt in my pocket for the one bill Jake let me hold on to, and looking around to see if any one was watching, I snuck another look. I read the name on the bill, ANDREW JACKSON. and smiled.

“Thank you, Momma. Thank you, Providence. And thank YOU, Mister President…..

A Republican Epiphany

Sometimes, especially I suppose when we are annoyed with a specific problem, what should appear obvious to us is hidden by our very focus; we have simply dialed out what benefit we might obtain from Occam’s Razor and forgotten our Holmes. And that is how I twisted in trying to explain the zealousness of GOP proponents who are of traditional minority ethnicity and race.

Suddenly I realized that what we had here was a subscription to the concept of a societal lottery.  No matter that only 1 in a million will be able to make it up the economic ladder,  the promise of America is only that you have that one in a million chance, and that is supposed to provide contentment to the masses, and just as in the case of the Lotto,  the balance of the population is supposed to feed the kitty so that someone, in scraping the cream off the dear financial tithes of the poor for themselves, can fund that  one in a million opportunity.

This is the siren call offered by Mia Love and the other high priests of the GOP Promise, to be contrasted with the pains and perils imposed by the Democratic party in its attempt to shackle the poor in an eternal state of being redistributees,  slaves to their own penury. In the dsytopic vision of the GOP, hope has been slain and promise drawn and quartered by the supposedly helping hand of the left, a hand which appears velvet but imparts the iron of a failed fascist society. Lions and tigers and bears!

Love et al can’t rationally expect anyone to buy the concept that everyone in the US can rise (though they are willing to accept the devotion of the silly and the true believers.)  So they offer up the Lottery System of the US (undoubtedly to be found in the US Constitution,  but I will have to get back to you on that) to replace the historic concept of the roll of government in the US, the American System. The GOP will give you the same hope that you get from the Lotto, and that should be enough for anyone.