Gene Elder at the HAPPY Foundation archives, photo by Justin Parr.
Chris Forbrich photo by Chuck Kerr
Intro Note by Sarah Fisch:
Gene Elder is a conceptual artist and the archivist at the HAPPY Foundation. His interview series, "View of Reality From a Chartreuse Couch", has featured various art-world figures and has run in Voices of Art Magazine and elsewhere. You can read more about Gene in this story, and see another blog post by Gene here.
Chris Forbrich is runnning for City Council, District 1. You can read more about him in this story.
(ART) Chartreuse Couch w/ Chris Forbrich
View Of Reality From A Chartreuse Couch
My Own Private Idaho by Gene Elde______________________r
Interview with Chris Forbrich
Candidate for District One, San Antonio City Council
Questions from: Margaret King Stanley, Bill Sibley, Naomi Shihab, Joan Grona and David Rubin.
Gene: Chris!!! Thanks for coming and letting me ask you art questions. Several important people have sat right there where you are and survived. You can sign your name to the couch when we finish.
Chris: Thanks for having me Gene. I have heard this is a famous sofa. It is so great to get to visit today.
Gene: Yes, it is! Ok, first things first. You have a degree in something. What?
Chris: I have a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Information Systems from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Gene: Well, that sounds impressive. I'm sure people have run for City Council with less. I want to ask you some questions to educate our audience as much as help you get the artists' vote. So lets begin with the Hotel, Motel, Dotel Tax. How much about that do you understand at this point?
Chris: I have been doing my homework on this! The Hotel Occupancy Tax is a state law that allows county & municipal governments to collect a tax on hotel rentals based on price. The revenue that comes from this tax must be used for tourism. Based on San Antonio ’s Council-Manager form of government, there are some specific allocations that must be made for the Convention Center and visitor’s center of the city. Another common use of funding is for art. The intention of the funding for the arts is to encourage visitors to visit the city to experience the art community and their works. Many of the local artists live and create right here in District 1.
Gene: As well as District 1 has the majority of art institutions.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Oh I hear the phone already. Let me get that. Hi Margaret! It's Margaret King Stanley. She works with education with the Opera Guild. She would like to speak with you.
Margaret: Hi Gene. Hi Chris. I am pleased to know that you are committed to the arts. I do work with the Opera Guild and I am glad to say that the Guild recently welcomed over 1700 students in area schools to an opera performance at the Lila Cockrell Theatre. We provided teachers' guides and CDs of the opera in advance. The students were so attentive you could almost hear a pin drop at the three hour performance. Who knows, one of those attending may decide to be the next star of opera or Broadway. Do you agree that these activities are important for our children? And will you support such endeavors as a councilman?
Chris: Hi Margaret! This is a great program. Last night, while visiting with neighbors at Monte Vista's Third Thursday, several ladies were discussing this very event with me. Exposing children to the arts early on will help them have a better appreciation of artists, culture and creativity. Our school system has a strong focus on practical skills to prepare students for college and a career, but run short on funds to give the students a real understanding. As a councilman, I would fully support this and many other programs related to the arts.
Margaret: We believe the Guild's introduction to opera for these students is vital in their education and their future. Some of the kids had never been to a big theatre or heard a big orchestra before.
Chris: I totally agree. Opera, along with theater, sculpting, music, painting and other mediums for artistic expression are so important. Through middle school and high school, I was a violinist with my school's orchestra. The experience made a profound impact on my view of art. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to take a class on painting. Through these classes, I had first hand experience of what they meant and how talented those that perform them really are. Thank you for working with these children and making a difference in their lives.
Margaret: And Gene I would like to add this for people to think about. Today more and more scientists are proving how important the arts are to “brain power.” I understand that AT&T has stated that they “look for artists” to hire because creative types are the people who are needed to "fill the 21st century jobs." In March, 2008 the Dana Consortium showed that students of the arts outperform their non-arts peers on SAT tests.
Gene: GO ARTISTS!!! GET 'EM, GET'EM!!! GET THAT BALL!!
Margaret: Yes, and recently, I heard Dr. Robert Duron, Superintendent of SAISD, say that he believes arts education drives academic achievement. So you are thinking in the right direction.
Gene: Thank you Margaret for calling. You always have great ideas to offer.... Well, while we are on the subject of education, I just want to say that I do believe in Intelligent Design, and the more intelligent the design the more I worship it. I just don't believe it should be taught in science class. They should be teaching it where it belongs, in art class. Which makes me want to ask; "Why doesn't every one of our schools have an art class?" Talk amongst yourselves.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: I see we have Bill Sibley on the line. Hello Bill. You have a question for Chris?
Bill: Yes, Hi Chris. According to a recent New York Times article, states like Michigan are aggressively pursuing film productions by offering up to 42% incentive returns on production costs. How might we stimulate a similar economic package here in San Antonio to (once again) lure back those out-of-state film companies to come here and spend their money?
(EDITORIAL NOTE: A step in the right direction was made yesterday morning, when Film Incentive Enhancement Bill HB 873, filed on January 29, 2009 by Representative Dawnna Dukes, was passed by the Texas House of Representatives. It must still go through the Senate — Sarah Fisch)
Chris: Hi Bill! What a great question. Bringing the film industry back to San Antonio is a great idea to stimulate the local economy and provide creative outlets here in town. There have been several commercial films that were shot here in San Antonio and it is a shame that more are not. San Antonio is so versatile. With many vacant buildings around town, the city should look at creating a partnership with landowners of vacant properties to provide some workspace for film producers. There are a number of things we can do for the film industry in San Antonio from public and private resources.
Gene: As you may know, Bill is a writer and has several film scripts to his name. I have an idea for you to help with your campaign. I picked up this brochure from the library about the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This is the One City One Book program they do every year. What you need to do is carry a stack of these around with you and pass them out while you campaign. That is a way to make your run for City Council more interesting. That is one of the things I would do when I ran for Mayor on the Party Party Ticket, the artists' political ticket. That was in 1979. Maybe you could be a Party Party candidate.
Chris: These days, party politics are not allowed in city government, but I do want everyone to know that I am the pro arts candidate.
Gene: Well, it's not like it's a real political party. GIRRRRRRL!?
Well, moving right along.
Chris: Gene, what do you think attracts the arts community to San Antonio?
Gene: Sex. And money. And Mexican food. The same as everybody else. Now, you attended Luminaria. What was your opinion of that?
Chris: I think Luminaria is an innovative event for San Antonio. Walking through the different exhibits and performances showed the volume of creative flair that San Antonio has. The crowds, from all over San Antonio, were able to experience our art community’s possibilities for all of its glory. Bill FitzGibbons’ work with light really started a movement in the city and one that I hope continues for many years.
Gene: You pick a topic. What event did you like this year?
Chris: There are so many presentations throughout the year. I enjoyed the On Fred Off Fred tour and the recent photo exhibit at the Joan Grona Gallery. I am hoping this weekend to see the Classic Theater's production of Twelfth Night at Jump Start Theater. I have heard promising reviews. Another event that I would encourage, and have been talking to residents in the Alta Vista Neighborhood about, is having an annual Acoustic Music Festival in San Pedro Park. San Pedro Park is our oldest park. Alta Vista neighbors want creative uses for the park and have suggested this festival.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Hi Naomi. It's Naomi Shihab Nye, our favorite poet.
Naomi: I would like to know your honest thoughts about Main Plaza?
Chris: I think that Main Plaza was revitalized with the best of intentions. My issue is that the project creates traffic congestion, wheelchair accessibility problems, going grossly over budget, and it isn’t very green.
Gene: And you have an art statement. We need to know about that.
Chris: Absolutely. I want people to know that I am serious about the arts here in San Antonio. Just this last week, I issued a statement regarding my position on the arts. The statement, which is posted on my website at http://www.chrisforbrich.com , asks those that agree with my stance to email us their names and we will add their names to the platform. We have had an overwhelming number of responses regarding the statement.
Gene: Well, add my name. And about controversy in the arts. Every so often someone does something that upsets certain religious groups. And they start attacking the funding source. How would you handle a sticky situation like that?
Chris: Art can be controversial and I would never want to have the government tell an artist what is or isn’t appropriate. I do think though, that allocating art monies to neighborhood projects, festivals and community events is a good way to make sure that all points of view on a controversial piece are open and discussed. Interpreting the artist’s intent is part of the fun of it.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Hi Joan. It's Joan Grona with a question.
Joan: As you know, I have a contemporary art gallery at the Blue Star Art Complex. When tourists visit the gallery their complaint is that they could not get information on where they could find “Art” in San Antonio. They inquire at the hotels and the information center across from the Alamo. Can something be done about this?
Chris: Thanks for bringing that to my attention Joan. Concerns like these need to be addressed. I don’t know the answer right off hand, but I appreciate you making me aware of the issue. The first thing I would do is speak with the people at hotels and the visitors’ center and see what can be done.
Gene: Thanks Joan and I will see you at First Thursday. I do an art performance piece at her gallery openings where I pretend I'm a bartender and pour wine for her guests.
phone (RING RING RING)
Gene: Hi David! It's David Rubin with a question. David is the art curator for SAMA.
David: Currently, San Antonio is one of the few cities in the U.S. where the creative class (artists, poets, musicians, etc.) can afford to live and work. It used to be that way in San Francisco, but then the dot com-ers took over, rents went up, and the artists were priced out and had to leave. What will you do to prevent that from happening in San Antonio?
Chris: David, you are right, that is a real problem. Not only for the artists but for many people who are getting priced out of their neighborhoods. This will have to be a group effort. It has to do with real estate prices and taxes and I am open for any good suggestions. Artists need to take control of their lives as well as rely on others to provide opportunities. I would think the best place to start is to see what other cities have done and how those solutions fit San Antonio's needs.
Gene: Yeah! Artists are people too! Thanks David. I recommend the Richard Florida book, Who's Your City. And thank you Chris for adding your karma to the Chartreuse Couch and I'm sure all artists will be glad to know you will be our new councilman. I always let my guest have the last question. So you ask me something.
Chris: Gene, are you ready for a New Day for District 1?
Gene: I have been ready for a new day since day one.
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