I would like to say I can’t believe the holidays are here again so quickly but that’s not the truth. One side effect of Mobile’s endless heat and humidity is that it makes the time between holiday seasons — otherwise known as “when we turned off the air conditioning for a couple of days” — stretch more than it might otherwise. Who says summer’s swelter can’t be your friend?
So now that early December is here, I might as well jot down a Christmas list to the guy in the big red suit with the team of prancing venison pulling him across the sky. It would certainly take some elfin magic to make parts of my longed-for reality come to pass.
What made the wish list? There’s a little bit of Artifice fun for a lot of different folks.
• I would like see more ventures downtown like Urban Emporium and Gallery 450. We’ve still got far too many empty storefronts in our oldest sector. Sharing the load always helps pay the bills, so artists and artisans alike can shoulder that boulder through cooperation. And of course, to complement it would be …
• Mobilians who turn to downtown sources for their retail needs. Gifting is the perfect reason. I’ve made a long habit of turning to books for presents. Not just because I’m a bibliophile but because the nature of the gift requires personal consideration. A pair of slippers or electric blanket can be for anyone but a book has to fit someone’s predilections. Random selection is ill advised unless, of course, your Grandma wants that book of burlesque photography.
For that reason, Bienville Books is a logical choice. I support a local entrepreneur and show someone I was thinking of them particularly with one move. The same can be said of artistic purchases of all stripes.
• Solutions to the LoDa ArtWalk brouhaha. Histrionics and ultimatums aren’t an answer. I’d like to see the city come up with some way to prevent the event from descending into a flea market free-for-all without becoming too onerous. As I suggested a while back, a prorated peddler’s license would seem to provide both oversight and affordability.
• More variety in the Saenger Theatre show schedule. I want to see something besides the endless tepid parade of classic rockers, country crossover and sedate soul reviews.
Yeah, I know about the vagaries of this market, what sells tickets and what doesn’t, but a Christmas wish list is about idealism, right? The problem at the heart of it is we just don’t have the demographics in this area to support much else.
• I’d like to see more locally written plays for the stage. Thomas Lakeman, Danielle Juzan, Tom Perez and Scott Morlock have put out some wonderful things but there’s always room for more. My experience shows Mobilians love little more than originality geared for their peculiarities. It would be wonderful if someone could take classic storylines from Shakespeare or similar canon and reshape it so it fits life in the north-central Gulf Coast.
• Better stewardship of our area museums. The Gulf Coast Exploreum is having a hard go of it right now. Funding has ebbed and they lost personnel in charge of seeking new sources.
The History Museum of Mobile has become the latest playtoy of political brats. Now that directors are bailing out and everyone is lawyering up, it doesn’t look to get any more harmonious in the near future.
Mobile Museum of Art is scrambling as fast as it can to improve local involvement with their facility. The latest director, Deborah Velders, has made great strides toward widening the appeal and usage with concerts, workshops, festivals and free events. They’ve even pulled in the one thing Mobilians truly seem to cherish that’s not in a stadium — Mardi Gras — in a bid to draw focus to the 50th anniversary of an institution that far outpaces local appreciation.
• A better sci-fi/comic/gamer convention. There is a lot of creative energy that goes into these repositories of nerd love — easily comparable to Mardi Gras costuming — and this port town is missing the boat. New Orleans’ WizardCon pulls in tens of thousands. Atlanta’s Dragon Con draws enough to fill a football stadium.
Yes, we’ve had our version called Mobicon for nearly two decades now but its impact is minimal, normally drawing fewer than 1,000 attendees.
Last year, Pensacon kicked off its inaugural event with more than 10,000 participants and are on track to surpass it this coming February since they’ve already sold out of passes. The estimated impact on their local economy? A tidy $6 million.
And the participants are far better behaved than their pre-Lenten, concert-going and gridiron counterparts. Unless D&D dice might possibly scratch a hotel tabletop. Oh, the horror. More on this in a later Artifice.
• Something to fill the Arts Alive! void. Now that the annual spring festival is moving to Brookley for the foreseeable future, I’d hate to see that energy wane.
Just a couple of years ago, when SouthSounds premiered and Temporal City Festival was still going, it felt like there was finally some creative critical mass building downtown. That initial weekend was buoyed with promise.
True to its name, Temporal City has wafted away. Arts Alive! has followed suit and downtown just doesn’t need the kick to its chops. Rumor has it a local arts organization is on the verge of announcing their own event to try and pick up slack, so we’re just hoping they can make a go of it and revitalize interest.