1. 10 years of Arbitrary Art Grants
    December 2, 2012 by Walden3


    Winner of the Arbitrary Art Grant for Performance Art – Garrett Hobba

    One of the most important aspects of Walden 3, and preconditions of a healthy cultural community is the pursuit of inclusiveness. There are way too many people in the world that believe that art is for the rich, for the young, for people who study it, or wear odd clothing, or live in the city. Sure that may sound funny to you, but it is true. Over the years I’ve heard all sorts of excuses why people don’t go to galleries or museums or paint or try and make something of their own.

    “I’m too old.”

    “I don’t know how.”

    “I have kids.”

    The list goes on and on, and all of these excuses I find absurd and shocking. Art is nothing more than a way to communicate to strangers and process our own ideas about the world. I say that all people are artists and some people roll their eyes. And I view that as either snobbery or insecurity – or both, it’s hard to tell. But I truly believe that anyone with a voice, anyone that can hold onto a pen or imagine or feel anything is an artist of some degree. Sure you may not be able to paint like Caravaggio or sing like Aretha Franklin, but that does not mean you don’t have a heart or an opinion or a desire to be understood. The success of contemporary art (on a level Thoreau would call ‘the mass of men’) depends on art being inclusive, accessible and, to some degree, pleasurable.

    Founded in 2000 by Vital 5 Productions, Arbitrary Art Grants were designed to fortify the arts community, reinforce the ideology that all people are artists, and serve as catalysts to create large-scale group projects and performances. The grants stand as testaments that $500.00 can inspire a community to participate and create art without judgment or competition.

    When drafting the budget for Walden Three, there was a little bit of resistance to include Arbitrary Art Grants in the budget. Sure they were only $500.00 a pop, but the plan called for one a month for the next ten years. 120 total. $60,000.00 thrown right out the window. But it was a line item I fought for. It was advertising. It was public outreach. It was fun. And 60k really didn’t seem like a lot of money in the big picture.

    But what exactly is an Arbitrary Art Grant? At W3, we announce the grant on the first of the month and disperse $500.00 cash to the “winning” artist on the last Friday of that same month. Over and over again, for 10 years. The above picture was an Arbitrary Art Grant in Performance Art. We gave $500.00 to one person actively protesting performance art in front of On the Boards – Seattle’s incredible and acclaimed institution that hosts the regions best performance art. Fifty or so people showed up carrying signs and bullhorns protesting and waving their signs and chanting slogans about how bad performance art was – all in front of the opening of a new performance art festival. I was two blocks away staring through a telescope that had earlier in the day been locked down on one particular dot against the buildings facade. And the idea was, whomever was standing in the sights of my telescope at 7:00 pm, would be declared the winner.

    For the next decade, we will be handing out $500.00 on the last Friday of the month to someone participating in dance or music, sculpture or architecture or photography or singing or any number of things. We conceive very strange and creative tasks and challenges (one sculpture grant required artists to build a sculpture inside a shopping cart, using items only pulled from the grocery store it was in) and find very odd ways to pick a winner (guns and leaf blowers and ping pong ball river races come to mind). And sure, some people might call them stupid or unfair or giving arts money to the wrong people, but I entirely disagree. We have never given a dollar to someone that didn’t deserve it, and the simple magic of seeing, or participating in an Arbitrary Art Grant is the best proof that the money is not wasted. $60,000.00 seems like a very small price to pay to inspire a city for a decade.

    An entry for the Arbitrary Art Grant in Sculpture, by Sage Viniconis