The first four paragraphs of this story are reminiscent of some passive aggressive cocktail party conversation. It’s all like, “Well…she KNEW we weren’t trying to pay her that much and, we ARE just a “public benefits corporation” that “returns a portion of its revenues each year to the city” so, why was she asking for more?
We don’t know because she didn’t return calls for comment.
That’s not what this post is about. But I should at least give Jon Smith one bit of advice, be very fucking careful with those parking lot contracts!
What should be stated here of course, the obligatory “wants to transform the flea market into a place known more for art made in New Orleans and Louisiana than a dumping ground for cheap products largely made overseas.”
This is what everyone has seemed to want for the French Market for years and years, presumably back into the days when the thing began to change in the first place. I don’t know the history of it and how it happened but its return is an ideal that even an idealistic person may begin to think is increasingly more and more unlikely simply based on the fact that the French Market is actually fine the way it is. People shop there. They buy stuff. There are local artists. I remember there were local artists there in the ’90s. Not every vendor is all that great. Most aren’t. But it seems there is an effort to change people’s tastes simply by not offering them any choice and that won’t work.
Let’s say that everyone’s dream comes true and the tenure system is dissolved, people who have built their lives around it go away and the market becomes open and available for local artisans. I mean, no cheap Chinese crap, all local artists. Are there enough to fill it to the level of revenue it generates now? Will Bywater H-words and their sorta local crafts be enough to provide the revenue the vendors of cheap Chinese crap do? Will visitors be appreciative of this?
And let’s be honest. The tenure system and the expulsion of the current vendors is going to be next to impossible. They sued last time and I didn’t blame them. Sucks that it was set up like an oil field in the past with no real future plans in place but that’s how it went down. And when Jon Smith says, “People will either come along for the ride or phase themselves out and once their leases or contracts are up they are free to go if they don’t want to work within the grand vision of the market” Sounds like a big “fuck you” to them. Unless I am reading it wrong. Forecast: Shitstorm. And really, a shitstorm for something that really isn’t as horrible as it is made out to be. Efforts to improve it have worked to some extent.
And let’s talk about this dream, this return to the way the French Market used to be before 9/11, I mean Katrina.. I mean…wait, what happened to destroy it? I am assuming it went away because systems weren’t in place to protect it (like they are in Jackson Square I might add). But was it even sustainable economically anymore? So I don’t see how a return to it could really be supported economically. But, it is a good thing to say if you want a little love from the folks you have to live around so it was a smart thing for Jon Smith to say. And maybe he is going to give it a go, who knows? It sounds hard and the end result will have a dubious benefit. I wouldn’t be too heavy handed.
Sure a nice genuine Farmer’s Market will seem to fill the needs of French Quarter and Bywater and Marigny residents but really, how often are they truly looking for local art? Every weekend? A few times a week? As an artist, I can say I sell to quite a number of locals. They sustain me some months. But visitors are the meat and potatoes. So they need to be considered. And they do sometimes buy the cheap Chinese crap too.
Of course, full disclosure. I AM a local artisan. And I actually don’t mind cheap Chinese crap. I try not to buy it and do well at that. But above all, it makes me and my art look better. I am not losing money to cheap Chinese crap because those who buy it were never going to buy my art in the first place. I look at most of my customers as having been destined to buy my or a few select others’ art and pretty much nothing else. It’s a slim, slim margin I work but I net gains from it. And all the cheap crap in China simply provides the negative space that my recycled architectural salvage shines against.