Arts League at MARSH: 1st meeting

ORIGINAL POST ON THE MARSH WEBSITE

First Meeting and Potluck: Saturday, November 16, 7pm

@MARSH (Materializing & Activating Radical Social Habitus)
6917 S. Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63111

A “league” is a group assembled in alliance, gathered for mutual support, advocacy, and co-education. The MARSH Arts League will gather artists across disciplines (performance-makers, writers, visual artists), cultural activists, organizers, curators, social arts practitioners, arts educators, and other culture workers to mutually support one another (practically, emotionally, psychologically, economically, etc). This support will be partially enabled by the League’s situated tasks; to organize, manifest, and distribute MARSH resources, including performance and gathering space, exhibition space, licensed kitchen (in conjunction with the food cooperative), and two smaller spaces (potentially archive/library and lounge/greenroom-type space.) The League is formed to navigate capitalist conditions for culture workers and to directly establish alternative interactions and exchanges. “Spark for the Arts” d.b.a MARSH is a not-for-profit and can be used as a fiscal sponsor for projects and programs.

Historically (and now, as survival as a culture worker gets even harder), artisans who work in one medium or discipline (e.g. pottery, burlesque) have formed “guilds” to reduce competition by mutually agreeing on prices/fees for certain products or skills, sharing materials and studio space, and so on, operating a bit like a union of freelancers. Collectives may be less formal, and cooperatives are more formal legal and economic entities. A league, as a specific organizational formation, gathers individuals (and members of other groups, organizations, collectives, guilds) around shared purposes, arrays of practices, and sets of needs. These purposes, practices, and needs are determined by the league’s body of individuals, using a flexible document, or “bylaws.” A first draft of bylaws will be proposed at the first meeting (derived through experience with previous similar projects and other forms of research) and discussed, adapted, and revised by those joining the MARSH Arts League.

SYSTEMIC AND ETHICAL CONCERNS

While many arts organizations accumulate capital and resources for themselves (as an instituted entity) and then dole out “opportunities” through hierarchized, secret selection and/or mafia-style “in the family” procedures that rely on dominant qualification and authorization schemas, (essentially “gatekeeping” who gets to be supported and made visible as an artist, often based on default socio-political stratification) this Arts League will work collectively and transparently to formulate programming, consider proposals, and determine guidelines for equitable recognition and resource-distribution processes, performing these processes as intentional acts of “self institution.”

The League is formally organized to deliberately embed equity, transparency, and plurality into operations. While more “casual” alliances between friends, neighbors, and “natural” collaborators may at first seem easier and more “grassroots,” less demanding of time and energy, such informal alliances tend to become exclusive, non-transparent, and continue to consolidate wealth, privilege, and power along the same race, class, and gender divisions instated by dominant hegemonies (for example, via inherited wealth and other systemic privileges, white cis straight men remain the most likely central holders of property of all sorts, including intellectual property. Thus, even the most “ethically minded” arts institutions largely remain beholden to the aesthetics, opinions, and personalities of such empowered property owners and administrators). Our resistance to “laissez-faire” and “free market” survival-of-the-“fittest” mentalities must be organized formally to swim against such currents, to respect difference, structurally involve dialogue, and conscientiously confront power paradigms (white supremacy, capitalism and class, agism, hetero-patriarchy, education bias, and so on) in the arts and beyond.

Each League member brings different skills, desires, experiences, values, and beliefs to the table and an environment of mutual respect will be not only expected but rather structured into the league structure and its bylaws. While the bylaws are always subject to change and membership is flexible and open, we will need to agree that the form’s primary goal is to enable and amplify the voices, needs, and practices of artists who are interested in (yet most often excluded from) controlling their/our own means of cultural production.

 


Baseline Bylaws and Acknowledgements

  • We gather on the ancestral lands of the Missouria, Otoe, Quapaw, Chicksaw and Osage peoples and acknowledge the contemporary sovereignty of the Osage Nation.
  • We recognize the historic paradigms of migration, oppression, enslavement, and cooperation that contextualize and inform our current and ever-changing ways of life.
  • We take responsibility for our own lives while working to enable and liberate others.
  • We respect the importance of cultural habitus; art, music, language, food, housing, community, and how these lived interactions, practices, and activities construct and are constructed by political, economic, and epistemic paradigms.
  • We value presence, difference, embodied experience, ancestral wisdom, collaboration, tenderness, honesty, and pleasure, working to subvert domination, competition, oppression, coercion, exploitation, and extraction.

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