As the tragedy unfolded, we realized that we'd enjoyed the creative, communal vibe of spaces like Ghost Ship many times before, at art shows, musical performances, and at festival events on the Playa and elsewhere. And while we at KWF weren't directly touched by the tragedy, we felt a strong kinship with those who were.
As we considered this kinship, we thought about the future of creative communities and underground spaces like Ghost Ship. And our emotions turned to resolve.
We see that all forms of art outside the mainstream mass media market represent a rich tapestry of music, sculpture, performance, and exciting, emerging new media. Yet we also see that this "underground" art stands on fragile ground, pressured on all sides by commercial, economic, social, political, and bureaucratic challenges that can marginalize and isolate artistic individuals. This fragility and isolation may at times be painfully apparent on the road towards healing and recovery after Ghost Ship, but it will also represent an opportunity for underground creative communities to be better understood by their neighbors.
The U.S. lags behind most developed nations in public sector support for art projects, artists, and art education. Yet we celebrate a vibrantly capitalized market in mass media music, movies, books, and comics, and the massive revenues they generate. Artists are at the core of this creative money machine, yet the Ghost Ship tragedy shows us that they can be deeply isolated from the abundance it generates. Actor, singer, and artist Danielle Thys puts it best in an appropriately intense essay on Medium, where she points out that in the U.S., "being an artist is staggeringly more difficult than in numerous countries where artists are supported and celebrated as culture makers and shapers."
We at KWF assert that in the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy we must strive to keep an important truth in vivid focus: Our creative communities are treasures to be supported and loved. Without them, a virtuous circle of inspiration and innovation that underpins our society is weakened for all.
With this in mind, KWF has made a donation from our 2017 operating budget to the Oakland Fire Relief Fund organized by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. This donation is sizeable and challenges us to do a little more hustling to make our planned 2017 program goals, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
The Ghost Ship tragedy affects us all.