Inn Street Revival - 2016
By John Brown
By In 1958, Jack Frost, a New England artist, put forth a vision for the first Yankee Homecoming. At the time, Newburyport was in dire economic straits. In that vision he expressed the intent for a festival that was motivated and engineered by business, community, and volunteers to serve as a revival of local, co-creative, community based- sustainable economics. In light of this morning’s Newburyport Daily News article entitled, “Inn Street Blues’ (on the corporatisation of Yankee Homecoming), this original intent can never be more important to remember, and to embrace.
What happened on Inn Street this year has been building for quite a long time. As a local Newburyport artist based on Inn Street, I have been working its festivals for over ten years now. In 2006, I was granted the first non-food vending license in Newburyports contemporary history, and became the first artist to take his work literally to the street by operating a seasonal vending kiosk for eight months out of each year on Inn Street. Over the years I have seen many changes. Some good. Some not so good.
In 2013, I had the honor to design the ‘Jack Frost’ tribute program book for the 55th Yankee Homecoming. In that program book I made a salute to not only Jack Frost, but to George Cashman and Joe Mathers as well. This salute was incorporated into that years chairperson, Tammy Jennings, introduction in the program book. Along with that salute, I also wrote a press release for anyone interested in the symbolism that was used in the Yankee Homecoming program cover tribute to Jack Frost. Unfortunately, it never got printed. At the end of that press release, was also a plea. This plea, for the most part, has also gone unheard. The message was as follows;
“I believe its important to remember, embrace and to pay tribute to original visions when so many times the visions manifest themselves, but the artist behind them are often disregarded, forgotten or overshadowed by corporate sponsors and political motives by others over the years. The principals of such visions must be upheld and given due credit to the visionaries that created them in order to remember and embrace the principals in which they were created for in the first place.
I hope that this special tribute to Jack Frost and the creators of the first Yankee Homecoming in many ways serves as a reminder of these principals and sets an example to never forget, nor undermine the artist contributions to community, heritage and history, as well as their visions for the future.”
After not only reading this mornings article, but also experiencing a first hand account on what happened right next to my kiosk across from simply sweet on Inn Street this past week, I am once again moved by the rumblings in Jack Frost’s grave. As a community, we stand at a much-needed precipice of change motivated by a vision set forth by a New England artist over 50 years ago. This is not to take away anything that the many dedicated people and volunteers that give of the time, energy and money to the much-celebrated Newburyport Yankee Homecoming. Rather, it is an opportunity to take the good work that’s been done,…and make it better. It’s a time to take a good hard look at what is being done to our town and community,….and to make a choice on where we want to go from here.
I had an opportunity to talk to Dennis Pallazzo this morning. I am also very grateful that he gave me his time and listened to what I had to say, especially after the lambasting I had just given him, and as he told me,…I didn’t know the half of it. But here’s the upside.
I asked Dennis straight up. What was the reason behind the corporate sponsorship? Is this an agenda by other ‘powers that be’ that may want to put forth ‘other visions’ for this town?? He said no. Its about money. Its all about money. I told him that I understood that money is needed to finance the festival. But at what cost? Selling out the spirit of Jack Frost vision? Selling our soul for a few thousand dollars of corporate financing? I don’t believe that corporate sponsorship is the only way to raise money. Hell, a local movie theater raised over $60, 000 due to community fundraising by local artist. I believe with the right targeting and promotion, that this finding can be supplemented by other sources that are more aligned to the original vision of Jack Frost and more true to the real meaning of a ‘historical arts and cultural district’.
Dennis then made his point of someone stepping up with viable options to the refinancing of corporate sponsorship. I told him that I believe the answer is staring us right in the face and echoing to us through the bricks on Inn Street from that very first Yankee Homecoming celebration and its original intent. I began to tell him that I believe there would be enough quality local artist from Newburyport and the surrounding area that would provide an ‘Artist Row’ on Inn Street featuring the ‘cream of the crop’ craftsmanship of the community. And I would even volunteer my time throughout the upcoming year to book this talent, as well as work with the music director to pull forth some of the best musical busker talent in the area, (of which Inn Street is famous for!). Build your foundation with local arts, crafts, and music, then get your brick and mortar business to participate with sidewalk presentations,. and now you have a real ol town block party! I told him we could name it; Inn Street Revival 2016!
Then I made a gentlemen’s deal with Dennis. I asked him point blank, If we are to raise this financial supplement by local arts and culture, would you rid yankee homecoming of the need for corporate sponsorship? He said. Yes.
So there you have it. That’s my idea for a solution. An ‘Inn Street Revival 2016’ to be ushered in during next years Yankee Homecoming. As Dennis walked away he said one more thing. You do this,…and Ill make a banner for you to stream across Inn Street. I said, deal.
I believe what is happening in Newburyport today is but a reflection of what is happening as a nation. We are to tied in and interdependent on a global structure and global economy. The reason that MacDonald’s was even on Inn Street was part of this marketing campaign to salvage a last ditch effort to revive a dying enterprise. If that global structures falters,…as it is doing overseas and many nations today,…..Newburyport, as well as America, will get dragged down with it. A strong local co creative sustainable economy is a necessity, and local arts and culture needs to be a vital part of leading the way. It doesn’t matter whether or not you drive a VW or a Mercedes. Art, is the key that drives the vehicle. Art is what drives, inspires, motivates and envisions futures. And we must never forget that. This demonstration can not only serve as a supplemental financial alternative to corporate sponsorship, but it can also be used to draw attention to the current state of Inn Street.
I sat in on an Inn Street restoration meeting by Mayor Holaday last fall at city hall. In that presentation she outlines the plans and timetable for the beatification of the Inn Street project. She demonstrated how $250, 000 had been set aside from parking assets and together with matching state funds, a total of 450,000 was being channeled towards the Inn Street restoration and the time table was to begin immediately for implantation in two phases. The first phase was the refurbishing of the Inn Street fountain and that was to be completed by the end of the year in order to qualify for state grant. The second phase was to be completed in the spring of 2015 and that would include restoration to the badly uprooted and sunken bricks, to planters and bistro tables and chairs. None of this has been done. A twenty foot section of brick in the back of my cart alongside the back entrance of the Dragons Nest was attempted almost two months ago and then abandoned with a yellow tape and saw horses left roping the section off in its place. It is still there today.
For years now its seems that Inn Street was someone else’s problem. It is still vandalized with graffiti often. I’ve personally witnessed several people fall and be hurt on account of the brick. Do we really need all this brick anyway? Regardless, Inn Street serves as a major vital and intricate part of Newburyports downtown business and tourist economic center and needs to be incorporated into Newburyports newest category of an Historical arts and culture district. We cannot afford to cast it away and continue to watch our infrastructure deteriorate, while selling out to Ronald Macdonald as a financial sponsor of one of our most cherished summer celebrations and festivals promoting local entrepreneurialship. Inn Street is an intricate part of the central downtown local business and economic heart of the city. We cannot afford to cast it off as being some ‘What do we do with Inn Street’ quagmire. It is just as intricate as the waterfront…if not more. It is our heart. And with a little bit of imagination, grassroot organizing, support from the city, and community involvement, I believe we can turn Inn Street into one of the citys most prized jewels and destination points. Its come a long way since the days of Jack Frost in 1958. A lot of people worked hard to get it to where it is at today. But it still has a long way to go. Inn Street Revival 2016 could be just the avenue to take us there. Our time is at hand. Once again Newburyport has an opportunity to LEAD THE WAY. Lets come together as one community TAKE BACK OUR STREET…BY TAKING IT TO THE STREET!!!
Spirit of Newburyport
For more on my proposal and plan for a permanent seasonal Artisan market on Inn Street, please see www.spiritofnewburyport.com/Artisan_Market.html
Points of interest;
In Light of; Historical Arts and Culture District
Why stop at Yankee Homecoming???
Proposal for an Inn Street Artisan Market.
Pull a Brick - Plant a Seed campaign
Do we really need all this brick on Inn Street?
Kickstarter for a brand new Artcart kiosk and a design proto type for a demonstratable model for an Inn Street artisan market.
Northshore master art plans from Beverly to Salem to Lawrence and Andover..
Once again Newburyport has an opportunity to LEAD THE WAY.
TAKE BACK OUR STREET…BY TAKING IT TO THE STREET.
Alchemy. Why settle for brick, when we can have gold?