And fringe work is beginning to be funded. “Arts funding has changed,” he said. “MakeWork and Kickstarter are, by their nature, looking for fringe creators. People are looking beyond Chattanooga for where they can sell. Chattanooga is no longer seen as the primary market. It’s home base, from which we sell to other markets.”
Looking ahead, Ludwick thinks the best thing Chattanooga can do for the arts is to stop patting ourselves on the back and keep working. “Brand building rah-rah has its place and time,” he said, “but we can’t be so focused on the PR value of arts, or artists, or any other slice of life in town that we forget to push for deeper and more long-lasting support of the edges, the under-represented, people and ideas who will push us back in healthy ways.”
Most of us stick to the simpler commercial struggle to earn a living. Even innovators and entrepreneurs work the fuzzy edges of what people want (or don’t yet know they want) to create new gears in the economic machine. Artists hang out on the edges of the mainstream or abandon it altogether, trying to discover something new and then reporting back to us.
Occupying this outsider-insider, leader-follower position is hard to pull off and harder to get paid for. But as the young Springsteen sang about looking at the sun, “Mama, that’s where the fun is.”
Rich Bailey writes about the arts and artists each week in The Pulse. A true NoogYorker, he divides his time between Chattanooga and New York City.