Project 5

As I begin to write this proposal, people are waiting in line on either sides of the country to see two American museum shows which have shattered previous records for attendance. In New York, the Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Met saw the most ever people through its doors for a fashion exhibition, and it also achieved another milestone—it actually translated those numbers into new memberships. In Los Angeles, the Art in the Streets show at MOCA succeeded in not only flooding its Little Tokyo location with first-time museum-goers, it also drew a range of ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds not usually seen within its walls.

In both cases, the huge, expressive crowds allowed the museum experience to spill out into the streets. Not just through a series of chic parties which have become a requirement for most art exhibitions. But as casual meetups and organized gatherings. These ranged from impromptu walking tours to view graffiti in the alleys surrounding MOCA to pop-up fashion shows when people donned their own DIY takes on McQueen fashion and paraded around the Met. Suddenly, the surrounding neighborhoods and public spaces—and the people who used them—became part of the cultural spectacle.

For a new audience of art-seekers, it’s not enough just to head to the nearest institution to see whatever’s on show—they want to be part of a larger, shared, public experience. They want to meet like-minded folks at live events. They want to debate their opinions through their social networks. They want to see art within the greater context of their cities. Arts journalism can play a huge role in not only covering this trend, but in curating some of these experiences to help guide and educate people through these unique cultural happenings.

My proposal, Pacific Standard Time on Transit, will use my expertise as an arts journalist to help Angelenos connect to the biggest art event in L.A. history, connect to their city, and connect to each other.

There are three goals of this project:
1) Help Angelenos learn how to ride public transit to the 60+ PST events
2) Lead daily public field trips on transit to many of the PST shows
3) Produce a series of essays about the adventures which serve as both reviews of the show and provide larger cultural context for the neighborhoods, art, and audiences
4) Make it easy for other people to document and disseminate their #PSTonTransit experiences

Here’s how I plan to do it.

Build a cultural transit guide.
At the beginning of the fellowship, I will publish a detailed guide for taking the bus, subway, light rail, Metrolink or Amtrak to each of the PST shows. This will help people be able to take public transit to all 60+ of the PST shows across the region. I will also be sure to include a place I recommend to eat or drink either at or near the institution where people can go to reflect on the show while still soaking up the local culture.

Organize group expeditions.
For as many days as the fellowship allows, I will organize a public field trip to each of the locations. The trips will leave from a central location (the fellowship office? Union Station?) and we will travel to the exhibition as a group. Each itinerary will include relevant landmarks along the way, as well as a stop at a place to eat or drink near the museum to discuss the show afterwards. This will be a unique chance to not only see the PST shows with a group of fellow art lovers, but it will be an opportunity to see these shows within the context of the neighborhood—as part of the surrounding community, and combined with the history of the actual place where the museum and the art resides.

Cover the events.
For each outing, I will publish a story with lots of photos that will serve not only as a review of the show, but a journey into the neighborhoods and communities that provides a wider narrative about the exhibition. Why is the show there? What connections to the artists have to the place? What impact has this art had on the community? What does it feel like to experience a new (or familiar but overlooked) corner of L.A.? In many cases with PST exhibitions, the show is relevant to the history of the institution itself, and it’s only by traveling close to the ground (not in a car), and interacting with local residents, that the history can truly be uncovered.

Encourage others to share.
In addition, I’ll ask everyone who comes along to write their own posts, take photos and post them to Flickr, Tweet, FB, foursquare check-ins using a hashtag (#PSTonTransit) which will allow them to share their ideas and opinions about the shows and the journeys. All the results can be easily collected in one place. This will allow the field trips to be experienced by more people in the city, and hopefully drum up excitement for other people to attend the shows and use my cultural guides to access them. I’d also want any arts journalist (in the fellowship or not) to volunteer to lead the trips, perhaps having “guest lecturers” who will come along for the day and offer additional context.

A few additional notes.

– I have been wondering if anyone will be able to see all 60+ shows and be able to write about all of them. If time allows, I’d like to achieve that goal—and be able to say I did it all without the help of a car.

– Also, the transit angle also has an interesting tie-in to the period that PST focuses on. Just as the PST period begins, L.A. begins firmly transitioning away from transit, with the dismantling of the Pacific Electric Railway beginning in 1950. It will be interesting to note, across the exhibitions, how the emergence of car culture (manufacturing, plastic, Ed Ruscha’s photography-while-driving) encouraged this kind of art, which would certainly not have been the same had people stuck to their trains and trolleys!