Last Wednesday January 18th, 2012 MMAP participated in a brainstorming session organized by the San Francisco Arts Commission, calling for a broader community of art initiatives and cultural producers located in Mid-Market neighborhood of San Francisco.
The meeting aimed at consolidating existing art community, performing as an intellectual platform for exchange of various strategies and perspectives to further advance, or ‘culturally renovate’ the image of this, today, undervalued but historically culturally intensive area of the city. The discussion space provided by this meeting was extremely relevant as it allowed professional but rather informal communication between these cultural agents, which was not framed by their existing programming but, nevertheless, unified by common location and its heritage. It also welcomed presentations of new projects: MMAP student initiative was one of those and it was accepted with great interest and support.
The immediate results of the brainstorming process revealed several approaches to the neighborhood. Two major ones could be described as an event-based approach, where the arts would be utilized to create a pulsatile network of diverse temporary public events versus long-term programming strategies that aim at creating public spaces, installing urban furniture, or forming a habit of a general public to come to the neighborhood on annually recurring occasions. Other solutions would focus on possible collaboration between art organizations and existing educational, commercial and even environmental establishments to create both intriguing and sustainable projects able to serve the community on multiple levels.
Although this meeting was very inspiring for all of us, it was symptomatic to the general situation of the ‘Mid-Market discussion’. Only few residents made it to the meeting – either due to limited distribution of the information about the event, or due to lack of interest among residents, or whatever the reason might be which inhibits greater involvement of the actual community of those living and working in the neighborhood. In other words, many of the arts organizations were speaking for the residents, with little reaction to these proposals from the residents. Also, the notion of the community itself was constantly shifting from the Mid-Market various populations to the cultural organizations situated in or devoted to Mid-Market. It felt that this shift was necessary to justify the commitment of these organizations to the area that they therefore identified themselves with; yet it does not necessarily mean that the Mid-Market communities would be willing to identify themselves with arts in general and with ‘Mid-Market Arts District’-kind proposals in particular. All that makes one be more realistic about the complicated current process of functional and psychological integration of the arts into the neighborhood.