Saving Flint Through Art

As a resident of downtown Flint for over five years now and I am always curious when I hear about ways to fix, save, or enliven Flint. Especially when it involves the arts. Now, I live downtown, the area of the city that is getting the most attention right now, for good or ill. To me, it is for good as the heart of this city is the heart of this county and we need it thriving. I can appreciate the concern that the outlying areas of the city are being neglected in the process but hope that once the city center turns around the attention will be turned elsewhere. We shall see, I suppose.

But, back to what I wanted to talk about.

Downtown Flint is a place finding its face. A place finding its identity. One way to really do that is through the arts. I have been very active in the local arts scene since 2005 and have done what I can to add to the scene, such as it is. There has been talk over the last few years about bringing out of town artists here and letting them set up shop and have the run of downtown so they can create art events and showcase their art. Pretty neat. It is always neat when people want to come to town and take part in the arts community. This city has been beaten up, by itself more than anyone else, for so long that we need all the help we can get.

But…

What concerns me when I read about bringing in outside artists and focusing on these people is that it is taking what little spotlight is here away from the artists that are living and working here. I love the idea of artists coming here and working with our artists and taking part in the established events here and maybe inspiring and creating new ones but I think the focus needs to stay on our artists here. There are few opportunities for unestablished and young artists in Flint and we need to support and encourage those artists, not focus on visiting artists. Too often we let our talent leave the city because we don’t encourage or champion them and we need to change that. We cannot spend money on people to come here and do these things that we don’t let the local artists do themselves. Don’t give people from out of town advantages and spotlight that you won’t give to your own. That is crazy. We need to get artists and crafters and anyone who will come here to take part in OUR events, to take part in OUR scene and to help us create OUR arts community but to do it the other way around is counter productive and mad. It is kind of like inviting company over if you are not willing to clean your place up first. We need to support and encourage what we have then bring in outside influences and inspirations to cheer us on and inspire us to keep evolving the arts here. We are so anxious in Flint to look for outside help, and outside money that we are forgetting that we have the ability to help ourselves. If we are willing to work together and to open our spaces and minds to the artists we have then maybe we can stop the talent loss we have been experiencing for so long. And the thing here to remember too is that it takes no money to support the artists we have here. It takes space, it takes trust, and it takes vision. None of which cost a dollar.

The easiest thing to forget in times of need is that the only way to really be helped is to start by helping yourself.

c

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