Writing Archive

The End

Miami Art Exchange, April 4, 2003

This is a quick note to pay respect to Onajide Shabaka, who is stepping down as editor of MiamiArtExchange.com. Jide lasted as long as I did - fourteen months. I'm sorry to see him go with no replacement lined up, but I know how it feels when your sense of duty to the community and your pride in fulfilling it is outstripped by the realization that you're busting your tail for free.

I founded the website in October of 2000 to fulfill a need brought up in that historical meeting at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery the previous July - that there ought to be more writing about the visual arts in Miami. What has become clear since then is that the MAEx, the organization as well as the website, was predicated on the existence of an art-community esprit that exists only in the presence of Bernice Steinbaum. Otherwise, getting artists together to cooperate and work for the common good is like trying to get feral cats to put on a water ballet.

So Bernice is tired, Jide is tired, I'm still not rested up from my tenure, and the MAEx is running out of people who will keep it going if it hasn't already. People have criticized the organization for not having a clear mission, but there was a pile of unrelated problems to solve, ranging from a lack of art writing in town to a lack of affordable health insurance for artists, that probably could have been addressed given enough manpower. The site had room for a lot more functionality, but Jide could hardly have implemented it by himself, for no pay.

Movie people need each other to make their art, and they organize. Likewise for theater people and dance people. Even poets organize, because they need publications to get their work around. But an artist can slip into his studio/broom closet, shut the door, make art, and tell the world to go jump off a pier. Hence, artists have no innate community spirit. So be it. The advancement of the local visual arts will be left to highly motivated individuals: powerhouse gallerists like Bernice Steinbaum; self-starting curators like Elizabeth Hall and Nina Arias; brave, underfunded alternative space-mongers like the people of Box; can-do print-publishers like the people of Circular, talented folks on their own tangent like Jide; and nutheads who are willing to put up their own websites to get their word out. That has it's own charm, in its way, as a kind of meritocracy where the hardest workers have the greatest impact on the future. But the next time you're dissatisfied with the state of the Miami art world, ask yourself what you, personally, are doing to change it. Communal effort has been shown not to work, and with it went the opportunity for communal blame.

Word count: 469

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