The Portland Surrealist Group in Response to the Cultural Economy Initiative
The Cultural Economy Initiative was developed by Portland Mayor Vera Katz to give assistance to local artists in hopes of luring to Portland what economist Richard Florida has termed the “Creative Class,” a trendy branch of the middle class who will allegedly bring with them economic growth. The following letter to The Organ Review of Arts is our response to that initiative. A somewhat altered version of this letter was published in their September/October issue (#7).
To the Editor:
The recent discussion in the May/June issue of The Organ (#5) addressing Mayor Vera Katz’s new Cultural Economy Initiative and Portland’s creative potential presented a disappointingly limited understanding of creativity. With its overall importance as an instinctual force, creativity exists beyond the notion of talent and those specialists who claim to possess that talent. Creativity is the external manifestation of the unfettered imagination that we all retain.
Essentially, Katz’s new economic scheme is just another assault on the imagination, and an attempt to exploit it for lucrative gains. Financial rather than cultural, Katz’s sole focus is to attract privileged white hipsters and well-groomed bohemians, today’s most enduring consumers, and to transform whatever artistic and revolutionary potential this city has into a fruitless commercial domain.
Rather than focusing on establishing and sustaining an environment in which these lifestyle leeches would want to live, it would make more sense, culturally, to focus on letting the people who are already here create an environment in which they would want to live. If we really want to talk about developing culture we must first talk about destroying restraints. In response to Katz’s plan we propose the following Cultural Recovery Initiative:
1. The abolition of repressive compulsory schooling, which would be replaced by the development of a community emphasis on supporting individuality and creative expression among youth.
2. The abolition of codes that restrict creative expression, such as the ban on murals and graffiti, or the more imposing building codes that render it impossible for people to craft a home or living environment outside of the city’s lifeless standards.
3. The abolition of all codes aimed against the homeless, which would be replaced by the spread of truly inventive groups such as Dignity Village and the various squatter communities.
4. The immediate cancellation of all gentrification plans, especially those directed at the Old Town district.
5. The reclaiming of little used roads and commons throughout the city to be reused as creative, agricultural, recreational, or natural spaces, thus eliminating the supremacy of cars and generating more intimate neighborhoods.
6. The complete socialization of the city’s wealth as a prelude to the negation of work and money, being that the human imagination, bound by capitalism, will never be able to burst into full flower until capitalism and the state lie in smoldering ruins.
The Portland Surrealist Group August 2003