Wired to Never, Ever Come Down

"It is the function of art to renew our perception." -Anais Nin

Ah. I sit down so often and start new blogs, then just get frustrated and wonder if they will amount to anything. So I'm deciding not to do that this time. Blogging is tough for me. There are so many parts of my life that are intricately entwined, that I often think I have to edit certain things out that are irrelevant to the gallery for your sake, but I'm just not going to worry this time. Forgive me this once.

If you know me, you know that I'm not really one for small talk. I may stray off topic, but I like my topics to have some meat to them, and I tend to say what's on my mind. I don't make this claim as a braggart, or to give the impression that I'm a loose canon, I just believe our hours are numbered, so why waste them? But for some reason, I've been biting my tongue for some time now, and I've decided to stop.

videoclip, altered, JAlmy
A friend of mine recently posted videos on my facebook page from back in the day, when I was 21 or so, and performed with an industrial band down in good ol' New Beige (or New Bedford in case you're just now tuning in.) I got nostalgic for the good old days when on a Thursday night I could go down to the basement of Gallery X to Johnny's place and listen to bands rehearsing and sit and write some poetry, or catch up on local politics, then go back to a friends' house and get in an impromptu painting or history lesson, or to another friend's house and get some feedback on a few photographs or a presentation I had been working on for an exhibition. There were places to go, people to see, a community being turned upside down and shaken, a community being freed of stuffy conventions and rusty ideas.

The identity of the community which had been suffering for so long was just beginning to change at this time, with the arts, the artists and art activists at its helm.

I realize now, it's not my youth I'm missing- it's the community of artists, thinkers and tinkerers who were willing and ready to create, share, give feedback, encouragement, whatever you needed. It was like an unending well of intellectually creative stimulation and community driven activism, and I miss it and the people like a lost limb. 

Where are the rest of my fellow insomniacs who are driven to create, paint, dance without regard, wake up each morning ready to blaze, and make some noise in their community because their bones hurt and their stomachs ache if they don't?
That sort of creative engine was what I had hoped to find in Lynn. I am now slowly stumbling upon such people. When I say slowly, I mean slowly. I have been living here for nine years now and I keep meeting people as they pop their heads out from behind this organization or that group, or someone's recommendation of , "Oh, you should meet so-and-so!" Maybe I'm too impatient, but let's connect the dots a little faster so we can get things moving here. None of us are getting any younger.

Now, I'm not talking about the artists who I interact with at TLGUTS. I've met a ton of people through the gallery who are amazingly intellectually curious and stimulating people. I strive to do all I can to encourage and help support the gallery artists, many of whom I now call "friend", (you know who you are), but very few of whom are local. This call out is for my neighbors. The hidden gems I haven't yet met. Come out come out wherever you are.

I thought when coming to Lynn, that LynnArts would become more like a Gallery X, or a AS220, with classes, and a burgeoning community of people who want to see the arts alive in Lynn, but in reality it's more like a place for artists to rent space to work or show work. It's a building that needs people. Buildings don't build community. People build community. People connecting in meaningful ways build community. People who live with meaning build community by changing what's not working and develop new ways of connecting.

These connections, these changes in perception, need to happen on a large scale, throughout Lynn and the North Shore, to build this community. 

A building is just a place people visit, an institution, unless those involved put their own touch to it; only then does it become a home for the arts. LynnArts needs more people involved who are not only trying to rebuild the economy of the downtown, but those looking to breath some life into the community by challenging perceptions of this community's identity, and by offering opportunities for people to challenge themselves.  That's what I hope TLGUTS becomes for this community. It's not only a gallery, its a place where people can meet off hours and connect and work and  thrive collectively, on numerous levels.

So where are you, my people? I've met some of you over at SPEAK UP, some of you here at TLGUTS, some of you upstairs in the LynnArts galleries, and my friend Alicia brought me over to Walnut Street Cafe where Don White is sparking up another coffee house type event on Sunday nights. Some of you are over at Turbine. Some of you I've met out on the street, or in community meetings.

I'm looking for the heartbeat now. Where is the heartbeat of the arts community? We are spread out all over the place, which is great, but let's meet in the middle. I'll be at Arts After Hours on Thursday night. I'm at the gallery a few nights a week and on Saturdays. Seek me out. If you can't come, drop me a line. Send smoke signals. I'll do my best to get out to your gig.

Lynn needs to rise again from the ashes, my friends. It's time.Get involved.

...feeding from the common sound 
throwing words round and round, 
wired to never, ever come down,
with my pride in my pocket
and my voice still so soft it
can take any shape that I need it to be ...

-J Almy


Arts After Hours

On August 12th, I'm throwing a backyard bash with Corey Jackson and Seth Albaum right behind the gallery in the Lynn Museum park.  That's this Thursday, so mark it down.

Daniel Arcand
For the past few years, LynnArts, the Chamber of Commerce, the Lynn Item and others put together programming called "Third Thursdays" in downtown Lynn. I loved Third Thursdays, but they weren't really about art. There were pizza tasting events, dog parades, road races, haunted houses, etc. Don't get me wrong, my family attended almost all of them, and we loved going, but they weren't about art, save for the band that usually ended up playing in the background with few listening, and the dancers who performed during the international festival event. The only people who really put a heavy focus on art was RAW, each time opening up for children to create a piece or draw out on the street with chalk (one of my favorite things to do at Third Thursday events).

Michiko Imai
Finally, the program flopped with the partners going back to their respective corners, each picking their favorite event, and doing it on their own. The problem I have with this is that whether or not Third Thursdays was successful for the institutions, it was successful in many other regards. The events brought people out to the street to engage with each other in a meaningful way. They brought people downtown to see the new developments and to see that the neighborhood had changed, encouraging people to come back and take part in the heart of their community. It also pushed out those people who would like to see it turn back to ten years ago when everything was boarded up and people could go about their illicit business like no body's business.

When Third Thursdays went away, so did many of the families who had just started returning to the downtown. The commentators in the local paper started posting things like "Lynn isn't an artsy-fartsy town" or "nothing good goes on in downtown Lynn at night."  Arts After Hours is our response to the naysayers, and also a step away from the the reliance on local institutions which are financially stunted from the recession to join in on the atmosphere of creativity, celebration, and livelihood that is popping up all over the city between exhibitions, studio spaces, coffee houses, concerts, movie nights, etc. Lynn is, indeed, an artsy-fartsy CITY, we just haven't really been too loud about it.

Sean Lobdell
So, Lynn Artists Voices Alliance was formed to see what could be done, and from that, Arts After Hours was born.

We all went back and forth between calling the event Artsy-Fartsy and After Hours. I think we made a pretty good decision, but we need your artsy-fartsy self down to Central Square this Thursday to join the rebellion against the naysayers who would have us pretend that Lynn is going to stay just the way their lazy butts have liked it all these years.

When someone draws a line in the sand, it's in all of our natures to cross it, well, at least it is in mine and I'm pretty sure Seth and Corey's as well. They say Lynn is a dormant city because all they can see from where they are standing is the swell; the real storm has been building and the first waves are only just now starting to come to shore... We're ready to ride the waves, are you?

So, this Thursday night we have a bunch of artists coming to show you a sampling of their work, we have a couple of bands, and a fire performance art group. You'll have to go check out the website to get all of the names and info: http://www.artsafterhours.com. My favorite wine bar will also be serving up some of their stash, but it's the good stuff, peeps. We'll also have finger foods and some non-alcohol beverages.

Rumor has it that the next Arts After hours event is going to be pretty bad ass too, with some major twists on what you're used to. So show up and give us a reason to keep going, that's all we're getting out of this, is reasons, so keep them coming. Half of the proceeds are going to the Lynn Museum, for letting us use their space, and the other half is going towards the next event.

Bring your lawn chairs, bring your backyard fun and games, and bring your friends!

More about the artists coming soon.