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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Biggest "I told you so.": The Bricks Are Falling

We are a few weeks out from the new year and we are already in the midsts of a political SH** storm. The last few months we have sat idly by watching as certain leaders have made a multitude of decisions, or a lack there of that have put Holyoke under the spot light. It seems that it is almost weekly that we are hearing, "Holyoke made national news, again," yet for all the wrong reasons. This week we witnessed the announcement of a City Councilor who is making a drastic revert backwards in his career, stepping down from his seat to go for a Ward 6 chair. He has made claims that he is the only person that could do good for the ward. I disagree.



As a new resident and new community member in Ward 6, I do not want to be told there is a single candidate that will represent us. I do not want to hear that "I am the best, I am the only, I am better than my opponent, I am the only person in the Ward that can do the job." Sadly this self entitled delusion of grandeur is what we are being exposed to. We need choices, we need a set of ears that will be our voice in city hall.

This week has been thee biggest political, "I told you so" that I have ever witnessed. It didn't take a genius or a structural engineer to notice that there is a major issue happening and that in due time the Essex House would collapse if further neglected. Sure, there are standing orders to take it down. There is a contractor in place to due so. Of course there was a sever argument about the cost of doing so. There was even a very unintelligent idea of reversing the courts judgement and forcing the former building owner to take the building back into possession and make them liable for the demolition. Wow! Thats a brilliant idea, eh? I guess it was obvious months ago that the "Watch Dog" had/has plans for backward steps.



Yesterday a large portion of the building collapsed, as predicted, falling onto a neighboring building. Sounds bad right? Well, the worse part, aside from how awful it is that two businesses had to relocated due to the indecisive actions of some, residents had to be evacuated from their homes. For the foreseeable future there is a divide in downtown. I am not just talking about the literal roadblocking, but I also referencing the political divide that is only making things worse. This situation has become more costly, more dangerous, and does not bode well for the city.

Below are a few short clips of some aerial video I shot yesterday at the scene of the partial building collapse. The footage is key in helping the Fire Dept, Structural Engineers, and Contractors to evaluate the severity of the damage and assist them in planning the demolition based on the new damage. 

video


My questions are, as the "fiscal watch dog" what qualifications do you have?, what experience do you have?, what is your financial background as a leader that allows you to be "the only one" who can make financial decisions for the city, even when facts are given to you? How did you arrive at that self described title of "fiscal watch dog?" 




It has become clear that the "fiscal watch dog" does not have the city's and residents best interest in sight. This example of leadership is not conducive to running a city. Holyoke needs change. This change should not come in the form of a leader taking steps backwards from one seat to another to prevent a better choice from succeeding. This is not the kind of leadership we want or need, at least, not the kind of examples I want to vote for anyways.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Time: Panoramic Views

The hands of time no longer turn. If you stand on the corner of Dwight and High st and look up you will see a clock tower that no longer moves. Has time stopped? Is this metaphor indicative of Holyoke at a standstill from change and growth?

While the hand has not struck the bell in a very long time, the clock coming to a stand still is a more recent change. The last time I climbed the steep stairs the sounds of the wind passing through the windows was dancing around the sounds of the tick tock of the gears moving the hands around their circular pattern. I was surprised to see that the clock is no longer functioning.

Peak foliage is ending. A lot of leaves have fallen to the ground. From a distance the trees still have enough to create a colorful texture.

I made these photos today in passing. This was my "lunch  hour."
















Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Say Goodbye: Essex House

The Holyoke skyline, yes there is one visible as you are traveling north on 391, is about to be changed permanently. There are organic changes that cause a cities landscape to change, some for the better, some for the worse. This sad case is a prime example of how an urban landscape can change for the negative. The Essex House is on the chopping block. Like an onion facing the swift blade of a clever, this beautiful, dying building is about to be chopped up, cut to pieces, shipped away. The sounds of the machines tearing, jarring, removing, demolishing the skeleton of an iconic view of the city will mask the sounds, tears, and cries of the history bleeding out onto High St.

I have always enjoyed seeing this building. In 2008/9 when it was given to a developer, it sounded like he was going to make the right changes and bring the building back to life. Had he done so, they real estate possibilities would have shaped, re-shaped, and given downtown a breath of fresh air as new faces began living downtown. Who knows what state High st would be in today. For that matter, what condition downtown would be in as well. Perhaps we would have seen more restaurants, new business, new faces, new friends, new communities members. But we won't be. Instead, we will see a vacant parcel of land. I am a big believer in the theory that vacancy is a readiness to occupy, not a negative things, but a positive, meaning there is space, potential, a new life on old soil.

The following photos of the Essex House are the last ones I will be making. Once the building has been amputated from the skyline I will go out and make some photos to do a compare and contrast. I find it useless to make photos of the chopping up. I will leave that to the media. Share your stories, comments, memories below.





Public Art Ban: Sunset Date

Yesterday on one of my facebook posts, I think from the blog post I wrote yesterday about damaged photo that was given back to me, had a comment asking when the "Public Art Ban" in Holyoke would be over. From what I was told, there is no end date written into it. It would appear, on paper, that the "temporary ban" has a permanent bond, like gesso on a canvas, than we would like. While doing some research, I came across this quote scribbled on a wall, in an alley. I commend the artist for their statement.

The same City Council that voted to have a municipal position added to the City, "The Creative Economy Coordinator," now has a ban on public art being installed. Tisk Tisk Tisk....



Friday, October 24, 2014

Public Art and Some Political Shit.

Note: It has been a very long time since I have posted anything on this blog. For the better part of the last two years I have been engrained in all my professional work, leaving projects like this to fall behind.

I know what you are going to say, "did he really just say public art?" I did! That is a very sensitive, very HOT topic that is circulating the social media pipelines. Holyoke City Council placed a temporary ban on public art. What a crock, right? I agree. Also in agreement are a bunch of artists. The city council, by accounts of quite a few people should have no business sticking their hands into such matters, considering there is a policy in place and the Holyoke Cultural Council is charged with signing off on public art installation.

Today I decided to express a few things, visually. The following images are from the back of my studio. The windows are tall and I have chosen to exhibit a few photos.  Engage, Community, Art... Community is an illustration that I produced, dedicated to the artists in Holyoke that are being challenged by their practices and desires to engage the community with their art. 

I call this piece, "One Big Metaphor"


 

What I am going to do is provide links to supporting articles about the subject matter, both the ban and another matter involving public art, below. I do not want to go on a tangent about the ban. But I will say this, I think it is ridiculous that a nimby-ist philistine would enact a policy out of personal vengeance. The moment I heard, "public art ban in Holyoke," I smacked my head with such force that I have a welt. As a friend of mine says, 1 step forward, 3 steps back. Holyoke has been dancing back and forth so long that it is in its own way, tripping and falling. Truth of the matter is that Holyoke, up until September was a place of raw inspiration, raw space, raw possibilities. I have been a part of an arts community for quite a few years now, often saying that Holyoke is what New York City used to be like for the artists, but on an obviously smaller scale. Artists have used public space, galleries, private spaces, industrial spaces, to show their work. I have seen entire pieces constructed around the industrial environment that we have here in Holyoke.

The reason for an abrupt self inflicted wound is because of the sheer balls it took to basically say, we dont want art in town. Whether that is the intended message or not, people preceived it that way due to the language that was used. The fact that there is a temporary ban is just nucking futs. It is almost baffling to think about it. Holyoke has an "Arts & Innovation District," A "Creative Economy," so to speak, and a position with the municipal government dedicated to the "creative economy," "The Creative Economy Coordinator." Last year we had a month long exhibition of various projects. "Holyoke Points of View." Ken Burns even came to town, Ken, fucking, Burns. That is a big deal. But fast forward a year and there is an issue with art. Art, as everyone knows, inspires, changes, motivates, and empowers a community. Art, for all intensive purposes has shaped, changed, rebuilt, and built communities. Art has and will always be a vehicle for social change, both good and bad. To place a ban on art is to ban the community from growing, changing, and thriving.

Please take a read through the following links if you are unfamiliar with the topics at hand. Enjoy your weekend...




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vacant Spaces

We know the word vacant to be defined as "open, ready to occupy, space available." But to think in terms of a city, the word vacancy takes on a negative connotation. This is true. A stigma and bias towards vacant spaces creates a negative stereotype in cities such as Holyoke.  To be frank, that is just bullshit.. Yes, the argument that a depilated building that is half fallen in on itself is a problem, is without a doubt a topic that is addressed by city officials, economists, real estate professionals, and anyone that sees that. However, time and time again, I hear things about Holyoke, buildings in Holyoke, and places, where this negativity is continuously propelled into the world, local community, and fosters that stigma. As you pass by in your car, you might not be aware of what is happening on the inside. Fear, ignorance, and uncertainty keep us from paying attention to what is really going on. This kind of thinking is an old form of thinking and prevents the idea that something new is alive, thriving, and happening.

Vacancy can actually have a positive meaning. The possibility of something new, something better, something great, something inhabiting the space. Like a hotel with a room free and open, the vacancy sign swings as an attraction to passing motorists saying, "hey come in and stay here." An empty space means that there is a chance of something creative growing, bringing back to life the space itself, the building, or the surrounding community. It takes the right kind of person to invision a space that will be used for a different purpose, other than what it was built for. The right kind of person that will put back into the space the creativity needed to make it thrive. Below is an example of a space that is vacant. At the moment the shutter reverberated around the white walls, bouncing around the room like the pouring in afternoon light, the space sat alone. Empty and warm, the space is waiting. It is waiting for its new tenant to move in and occupy it. Creativity will flourish and new life will emerge.

To the person passing by looking up, you will see two windows, arched yellow bricks, and a front door that says 80. It is our hope that you will be moved to point where your curiosity sways you into examining more critically what really is here. Sure, we have some vacant buildings. They might out number some other areas, but at least our vacant buildings are beautiful and historical. I for one would rather see an empty mill vs an empty strip mall.

Monday, June 17, 2013

After The Rain...

When the clouds part and the last drops hit the pavement, the sun glistens across the shadowed blacktop. The sky is not clear, but the sun beams through finding patches of asphalt, metal, glass, and concrete to reflect off of. The city glows as a post-evening shower leaves behind wet blades of grass and quickly drying blacktop. The sound of the shutter is dampened by the passing cars splashing water up as they whizz by. The city looks like a ghost town except for a few stranded passengers of the public transit system and the occasional pedestrian avoiding puddles and cars passing by. The city, for a minute looked magical [After The Rain.]