In one of my most recent posts, I wrote about the international graffiti and urban arts festival Under Pressure, and about the pressure that it and many other music festivals have been under with the economic downturn. Cultural initiatives that depended upon bigger, corporate-type sponsors have been feeling the pinch, some festivals just disappearing. While there is community and cultural value embedded in these festivals, by hitching their sails to finance that has disembedded and severely stunted that community’s ability to deliver that value. There was a good chance that Under Pressure wouldn’t make it this year.
Community to the rescue – community of practice that is. Across the region, and beyond provincial borders, grassroots arts organizations have come together to support this gathering. Parties in Toronto to save a festival in Quebec? Why not? As the digital media networks broke down geographical boundaries with respect to the access to cultural interaction and accumulation, cultural affinities are spanning unexpected geographies presenting new opportunities for collaboration.
This is certainly true in the world of DJing and promoting. If an artist is passing through a dense cluster of cities it’s to the benefit of promoters to share costs with respect to travel, or to share the cost of a national booking fee. The Quebec City-Windsor corridor with its clustering of university towns and cities alike is already replete with cost-sharing and collaboration at the grassroots level, but there is room for a big boom there.
Groups like the Grassroots Youth Collaborative in Toronto have begun coalescing the efforts and power of this growing sector. Recently I came across a very interesting paper out of the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center about grassroots scenes and the role that they play in the creative economy ecosystem that was really prescient as well. What lessons can we learn from these informal youth networks as they support each other through financial crisis?
And now, as always, some music.