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  Updated Dec 28, 2016 | By Bob Fugett

    Artist Communities (True Artist Communities)

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"It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient." - James Lynch founder of Fforest Camp


After reading the quote above, maybe you can help me find the next great artist community.

My name is Bob Fugett, and the next great artist community that I am looking for is the place where Mary Endico and I will move to in order to continue the work we have been doing as successful full-time artists for nearly a half century in Sugar Loaf, New York (the last great artist community).


early Endico/Fugett studio and gallery (Fantasy Factory), 1977
Scott's Meadow, Sugar Loaf, NY


Endico/Fugett studio and gallery, 2005
Kings Highway, Sugar Loaf, NY

Here is the overview.

From the end of 2012 into the beginning of 2014, I revived the Sugar Loaf Guild website (which displays every business in the hamlet) and wrote the nine stories here in Bob's Corner which chronicle 37 successful years of Mary Endico and myself working as full-time artists in Sugar Loaf — a success that continues.

However, coming into 2014, I finally had my fill of walking the hamlet trying to encourage other people toward their own success one on one, while at the same time Mary and I poured more than $22,000 of our own personal money into local advertising creating a robust ad campaign, with print ads, t-shirts, and brochures (that we designed and produced ourselves), with the only major result (outside of the business boost) being that Mary and I were routinely attacked, misrepresented, and misunderstood for no apparent reason by our neighbors (though customers loved it and responded accordingly).

I said to myself (and Mary), "Enough is enough, our people have to be out there somewhere, so let's go find them."

My first Google search was for "artist community," and it immediately revealed that things were worse than I imagined ... the term artist community has long since stopped referring to anything about being an actual artist but has instead become the flavor of the day catch phrase for corporate revitalization plans all over the world.

Then I came across the quote below:

"It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient." - James Lynch founder of Fforest Camp

That quote sucked the air out of the room, and I thought, "No way! That is the perfect distillation of my experiences written about in the nine stories, and it comes from a disinterested party far away."

It certainly explained why I was getting so much resistance to the idea that Sugar Loaf continues to have a strong underground of exceptional artists who rarely get attention in the town advertising.

The Sugar Loaf artists have been marginalized (see the quote above) by the people who followed in on their coattails, and it happened while Mary and I were too busy with our own work to notice.

The quote also helped explain why one rather new Sugar Loaf artist took a look at what Mary and I were doing with the Sugar Loaf Guild website, town brochures, and print advertising and spouted, "Good. We will no longer be considered a laughing stock!"

At first, I thought they were talking about their own work, in a community of naysayers who thought their work was beneath them but that the web presence I put together for them would help mitigate their position as an outsider, but when I questioned them about who had said such a stupid thing, they would not respond.

Only later did I realize the artist was not talking about their own position within the hamlet but about Sugar Loaf itself, and the "laughing stock" comment had been repeated to them numerous times by people in adjacent towns.

Unfortunately I also realized those comments were correct, and Sugar Loaf has become a laughing stock due to the influence of advertising and events handled by those who came to town after the true work of building the arts community was done; plus the new people now marginalize those who built Sugar Loaf's hard won reputation for creative and artistic excellence.

The James Lynch quote above explains the situation in Sugar Loaf very well (and is confirmed by my own nine stories), but I had myself missed the depth of the problem because of wannabee newcomers who are doing such a good job of pretending to be artists.

In fact during my year working on the Guild website and initiatives one longtime resident from outside the artist community said to me, "Sugar Loaf has lost its soul."

Many of the original artists are still here but have been marginalized, and that means even the raging success that Mary and I enjoy cannot last here over the long term.

Therefore I posted this page with language that will encourage Internet search engines to bring people here who may be looking for allies in their own artist community struggles, and they will find us waiting to possibly relocate and come help, if they will just let us know where they are.

My own web search for a Sugar Loaf alternative revealed that corporate pretend artist enclaves and trendy strip mall boutiques abound, but any mention of true working artists is only being provided through temporary social media services that do a poor job of maintaining persistent information ... that is to say the information found is never provided in a manner that assures its survival, therefore it makes it unlikely the communities portrayed will have a chance at long term survival themselves.

During previous years of actively searching for the next great artist community (in real life), Mary and I followed every possible lead presented, and we were sorely disappointed to find that what people routinely termed "arts communities" were not even close to being the real thing.

After reading the James Lynch quote (top of page) I realize that possibly those communities have remained hidden to us because by the time we hear about them, they have already been co-opted by people similar to those who have moved into Sugar Loaf.

A true artist community is specifically different from these co-opted communities (and other run of the mill constructed environments) while Sugar Loaf has always stood as a contrastive example of the real thing, or as I have written elsewhere, "I must mention that Sugar Loaf, NY expresses a rather long standing enduring legacy, but that seems to be because it is a "true artist community" not just another beneficiary of the slap-dash moniker now being applied to every trendy strip mall, plus legions of socially engineered corporate land use developments all over the place, every one of them supported by donor dollars (not commerce), in order to keep the artists under control."

I could elaborate on what is meant by "keep artists under control," but artists inherently understand this and will already be railing against the very thought, and instead of spending their time filling out applications for grants, hopes, and dreams or setting up nonprofit organizations for the express purpose of getting money (profiting), they will be actively involved producing their own culturally significant work that will (by virtue of its intrinsic value) have a significant likelihood of supporting its own existence with no outside intervention.

That is how true artist communities arise and thrive ... albeit typically they begin doing so in the worst of circumstances.

Therefore, no corporate, engineered environment, facade communities need apply.

To review, let me repeat the Lynch quote once more:

"It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient." - James Lynch founder of Fforest Camp

So dear reader, help me find one of these real deal places before it is gone!

Post suggestions in the Forum.

Maybe Mary and I can move there and help it have the long time survivability that Sugar Loaf has enjoyed.


In order to provide a persistent archive of Mary's and my own search criteria, a comment that was posted just after first publication of this page along with my response to it is repeated below :

Connie Rose*

Dear Bob and Mary,

You tell the truth

Most people don't like the truth.

Duh.

And even if they do admit the truth, about their life, and their family and their hopes, and dreams, dreams and foibles, there is the question of: "If I change my way of thinking, was it all for naught?"

Very few could find the strength in themselves, even if they had the talent, to do what you two have accomplished.

So let the dreamers dream, and the haters hate, and the lovers love.

Keep the Forum OPEN.

Stay where you are.

Keep doing the good that you do.
 

* Connie Rose is an enduring master craftsperson in Sugar Loaf, New York, who has worked as an artist in just about every creative studio in the hamlet since the time she was just another one of the kids playing along the streets here more than 40 years ago.
 

Bob's Response

Connie!

You are a person who gets out and about, and you know things and people, so maybe you have a lead on where the next great artist community is happening.

I am pretty sure Burning Man has seen its day, Sundance is played, plus Sturgis has gone the way of Daytona etc, while South Beach only has its moments, but in the old days artists would show up for the (becoming) famous Sugar Loaf shows and everybody would be all chatty and full of information about where the actual workers were who were working on doing their work (though everybody was very envious of those of us here in Sugar Loaf), but as Mary and I found out this year, those days are gone, so we are relying on you to have a thought.

Anything in the air?

The place we are looking for will at the moment look very much like Scott's Meadow does right now today (just as it did way back when), but it will not yet be surrounded by a bunch of useless yuppies who believe they should be earning a full-time wage from a part time effort, along with those who will not even apply their name to their thoughts.

It will be a place nobody has yet heard about, and except for the people who are working there, it will be a place everybody is scared to come to and would never think about starting a business in it, and certainly never want to live there.

It will be without banners and overdone signage.

It will also not look like an easy mark to "make shitloads of money" where the locals couldn't possibly know what they are doing.

It will be a place where you will hear words said about it such as, "What?! Are you crazy? Why would you want to go there to live and start a business? You'll starve."

It will look very much like today's Detroit (but without the skyscrapers, small enough to manage), and in order to suit Mary it will have to be a little warmer than Sugar Loaf.

There will be no leaders, no organizations, no rhyme, no reason, no nonsense.

The people living and working there will appear crazy to the outside world, totally bonkers, rabid about their work, very un-American.

You know, the people there will say things like the first line on Andy’s website (“I love what I do …”), but they will actually mean it.

People who teach there will be giving people the real deal information and skills they have spent years perfecting, not just the "experience."

I understand that Mary and I are somewhat different from regular folks, but that is the point: there used to be lots of us here, and I am sure there are lots of us someplace else at this very moment.

So if you catch wind of that place, please tell us before it is ruined; we have had enough of this bullshit soulless laughing stock of a Sugar Loaf (paraphrased from Winship's words with a nod to Luft Gardens).

And while you are thinking about where that place might be, put down your bottle and flag us gone.

BTW: Talent is bullshit; work is the thing, and of course it is all for naught, always has been, always will be, but that has nothing to do with the doing of it.
 

For a little more context with regard to who Connie Rose is: at one point during a heated argument with Bob Fugett about the meaning of life, art, and the function of faith and the individual within society, Connie reached into her car and grabbed off the front seat a Sugar Loaf Guild town brochure; then from the back seat under a pile of tools snatched a pair of scissors (almost without movement, like a Zen master); and, while continuing the argument full steam without a break (in about 5 seconds) she quickly cut the cupcake below out of an abstract Endico painting from a page of the brochure, held it under Bob's nose and stated emphatically, "That's what I'm talking about," which immediately shut Bob down and closed the argument in Connie's favor:




Connie Rose, Pensive with Pottery
01/2014
 

And that is what we are looking for, a burgeoning artistic community that nobody has yet heard about but which is now, or soon to be, chock full of Connies.

In the meantime a quick paragraph to help Google bring our people to us: artists community, artist community, art community, artist's enclave, world class creators, artists enclave, artists group, hand made, one of a kind, unique creations, creative people, fine artists, full-time artist, art village, craft village, crafts village, craftsman village, village of artists and craftsmen, art organization, artists organization, arts guild, arts guilds, town of creatives, working artist, working artists, artist's colony, community of artists, etc.

Addendum: You do not have to guess what Connie Rose is thinking about in the photo above (nobody needs another timeless Mona Lisa moment); that photo was taken by Mary Endico, and Connie is thinking what an insufferable asshole Bob Fugett is to be off on another rant in front of her, something about retail vs real deal (hope that doesn't take away the magic).

Biting her knuckle is a technique Connie developed to keep herself from interrupting. -b

By the way, here is the painting Connie cut the cupcake out of:


Endico painting #1005
Can you find Connie's cupcake?
 

 

 


 

 

 

 


 


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