Laurie Angela Cumbo, a community activist and Director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA to the acronymious), will announce tomorrow that she's running for City Council in Brooklyn's 35th District (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and parts of Bedford Stuyvesant), on a platform centered around culture:
"This is our chance to bring an arts agenda to NYC.
This is our chance to bring a community perspective to NYC."
Them's mighty big words, and perhaps a bit of an oxymoron. Make that two oxymora or more, because New York City has an arts agenda already, just not one with a community perspective of any kind, unless you mean the "community" of tourists or the "community" of big players in the cultural-industrial complex. As New York's Commissioner for Cultural Affairs once explained, the arts are a terrific boon for the community, because every time some fat-cat developer destroys a neighborhood to build some cultural complex or other there's a few more jobs for parking-lot attendants. Not different, really, from the policy practiced by Unesco: to designate, and then fund, the preservation of "World Cultural Heritage" sites, which often as not is a pretty-sounding expression for "gentrify."
"MoCADA has become the institution for emerging Museum professionals who are eager to have a voice in shaping our local global community,"
says a press release for Cumbo. This would not be the first time art professionals are involved in reshaping a community around the arts and culture, the most successful example being social-democratic "Red Vienna" between 1919 and 1934. The announcement of Cumbo's candidacy brings up a number of questions that have been asked before, and should be asked again:
Cumbo's web site is at www.lauriecumbo2013.com. Pay attention. And wish her luck.
[10-11-2012; last revised 10-25-2012.]