Tuesday, September 22, 2009
We Out N'at.
The Brew House has a sordid history. It started as a squatter's paradise. For some it remained just that thirty years down the road. The squatters were threatened with being thrown out long ago, but (Adam and Eve, pay attention to this part) they dawned some innovation and responsibility and won the rights to the building and the right to stay there.
The Hienz Foundation endowed the BH Association with funding for public programming like the Black Sheep Puppet Festival for a good while. Strife erupted, of course, among personalities and egos, but a sense of common purpose was thinly maintained. Good and not so good people came and went, music and events, art and endurance.
Brew House membership entailed volunteer hours (10 to 12 a month) so as to endure the troubled waters, maintain the building, keep the mission of public service vital, and stave off the highly financed, hungry and envious eyes of developers who sought to reign down upon these generations of degenerates and squatters with expulsion. Compromise was later mulled over with any development group that could work with the BH to see commercial space co-exist with the living and working spaces of dozens of artists.
Year 2000: The building is being brought up to code (albeit slowly). Members come and go. Sometimes grudgingly. Sometimes involuntarily. There are detractors and there are contributors. Just as in any group effort. By now the Southside of Pittsburgh has run it's cycle of decades of neglect by the city. It's been bottled, neglected and aged well enough so that yuppies start to see the DIY efforts of many innovators as quaint and hip. Developers buy up cheap lots. How is the U.S. different than 16th century England again? Please, do remind me. No property, fuck off.
At any rate, September 2009 rolls up and presents the the BH with a letter of eviction from the head of the head of the head of Pittsburgh housing. "It don't go no higher" as some downtrodden BH members put it. Two weeks and you're out. We opted to scramble to complete the list of small code violations whilst the contractors whom the BH Association had already hired to finish the wiring and sprinklers were doing just that.
And to no apparent avail. After the final inspection by a small army of officials we were patted on the head for effort and told to get out. So, one more move for my studio in Pittsburgh. I picked up a moving truck at 7 am, finished moving my necessary belongings to the new space by 4 pm, drank, and was set up and ready to work in two days time.
So... what's noteworthy here? A lot of uncomfortable coincidences surround this event, not the least of which is the fact that it corresponded perfectly with the G20 Summit. Yuck. But, I honestly doubt that it had much to do with that. In the thick of things there were wildly mixed messages from people in the know: From "It is absolutely hopeless. Move out now." To "You'll be fine. We're in great shape and there is strong hope!" But I've seen a number of BH longtime members move out very recently. Others would be conveniently gone for professional reasons.
After final analysis we suddenly have hope again. The head of the head of the head himself is supposed to be in the building today. Well, how convenient. This smells like a slash and burn operation now. A ruse. But there is no more 'we' anymore. I'm done. I care infinitely more about making good work than serving the community through most any association. Besides, once you pry up the floorboards you find that that wonderland has the same bedraggled crew turning the wheels as most other organizations. Big promises.
Pulling up anchors in Pittsburgh is a big priority. Sure, your problems follow you, but they tend to fester and take root more firmly in certain places.
So, I'm realigning. I'm renewing the open invitation for risk and chance.