Count de Monnaie

Oct 18, 2000 at 12:00 am

Legal tender — nothing gets done without it, or so it seems. Here we are in another WDET-FM 101.9 pledge week. Some of our "favorite Metro media personalities" will have joined jocks Judy Adams, Martin Bandyke, Ed Love, Tim Pulice et al. in the biannual fundraising, glad-handing chorus. Without it, our No. 1 noncommercial radio station goes down, gets fed to the reservoir dogs.

On Saturday, Walk & Squawk Performance Project smashes a metaphorical champagne bottle across the hull of its new Furniture Factory space (4126 Third, south of Canfield, Detroit), giving hometowners something else to cheer about besides new stadiums and corporate relocations. This time, it's a primo theater complex (see this week's related story). But it's also the premiere of a new play, Something Wicked This Way Comes — Walk & Squawk's Macbeth, which kicks off a project that seeks support from either Furniture Movers ($175 — gets you cocktails, performance, sit-down dinner and a dance party) or Furniture Shakers ($45 in advance, $50 at the door — gets you strolling dinner, performance and a dance party). Movers and shakers should call 313-832-8890 to help them finish building it and letting the people come.

Then, this Sunday at the Fox Theatre (2211 Woodward, Detroit), Jeff Daniels premieres his new movie, Escanaba in Da Moonlight (written, directed by and starring the man himself). In this benefit for Daniels' Purple Rose Theatre Company of Chelsea, the hoopla starts at 2 p.m., with the film coming on at 3 p.m. and a VIP reception directly following at Comerica Park's Tiger Club. Tickets are $15 and $50 for the flick (call 248-645-6666), $250 for the VIP shindig (drinks, dining, valet parking, gifts, the works — call 734-475-5817).

That's where my baby stays

"But wait a minute, something's wrong./The key won't unlock this door." So sings Jimi Hendrix in "Red House," a blues about, among other things, prostitution, loss and regret. But he could be singing about arts funding in America: that never-ending go-round of artists and administrators getting gussied up and putting on a happy face so that patrons and benefactors will look kindly upon their efforts and needs.

Think about it. Here's just one week of the year and we've already got three important cultural projects testing the local waters of generosity — all worthy, all important. And dozens more next week, next month, next year.

Yeah, we've heard it all before: "Audiences vote with their feet and wallets;" "the arts projects that survive are the fittest;" "it's better when people learn to make their own way."

But here we are in an election when a mammoth tax cut is being proposed by the Republicans, the same gang that’s been trying for years to do away with the National Endowment for the Arts on both moral and fiscal grounds. And arts funding in general finds itself more and more dependent on the private purses of the well-to-do. What kind of art will that get us? Do we want a lap-dog culture where smiling artists have to lick the hands that feed them?

Let's face it: The keys we're using now don't really fit the door. Instead of making art, theater, music, dance, etc., creative imaginations are being taken up with grant requests, menus for banquets, designs for souvenir T-shirts and coffee mugs (not to mention legal battles, as Tyree Guyton knows all too well). Strong community support and a loyal listener base have helped make WDET-FM one of the best public radio stations in the country. But a fraction of its audience participates in pledge week, while the majority just sits back and endures it.

And relatively few projects enjoy the major institutional foundation that WDET-FM does at Wayne State University. Walk & Squawk, which is basically a two-woman operation, has literally had to haul ass (with the generous assistance of countless arts professionals) in its recent move to Third and Willis.

And when does the fundraising business get in the way of art's development? The lips of the dadaists, surrealists, abstract expressionists, situationists, beats, punks and countless others at the outer reaches of the imagination had as little contact as possible with the booty of high finance. Which is one reason we still refer to their works with respect and curiosity (those same works which, of course, continue to be commodified to the max by the commerce of art).

In the election this Nov. 7, Wayne and Oakland county voters will have the opportunity to support 17 major regional arts and cultural institutions by voting "Yes" on Proposal A. Yes, Virginia, money talks, but votes do too. In the overall arts picture, a half-mill property tax is a drop in the bucket. But it’s also a start, another first gesture toward public support for the arts.

More on this next week in Hot & Bothered. Stay tuned and help us meet our goal.

The Hot & the Bothered was written and edited by George Tysh. E-mail him at [email protected].