Behind The Red Door



I'm honored to be a founding member of a Chelsea-based art collective called Emergency Arts.

What is it?

Imagine Arcosanti meets "free" Art Commune (working out of a generously donated, rent-free space) in an enormous building in the West 20s with a "secret" red door entrance. EA was masterminded by Melody Weir and her friend, the building's landlord. Not just as workspaces for the artists, but also common areas to curate shows and share our mission statement and ethos. Each artist is building out his/her own space with found or recycled objects. These spaces will function as work and gallery spaces to curate shows, etc. Many important art and media people are now starting to come in and out of the space and it will afford both the artists and the curious a synergy of uncompromised vitality and awareness.

This is our mission statement:

EMERGENCY is a group of multi-disciplinary artists and media creators who are responding to environmental, social and political crises within New York City and around the globe. Our Manhattan home base is the heart of the Chelsea Art District and houses projects presenting creative solutions to our most pressing problems. These projects range from humanitarian aid organizations to environmental companies to alternative energy producers to artists whose work focuses on the most pressing issues of the moment. The building itself is a showcase of sustainable construction featuring recycled building materials, super-efficient electrical systems, green-roofing, and collective responsibility. We see this project as proof-positive of what can be done to rebalance our policies and practices, thus helping to improve the world through beautiful yet pragmatic solutions.

Photo Credit: Dusty Wright

Artists are often on the front line of raising our collective social consciousness. Regardless of your feelings about U2's music, lead singer Bono has done more with his celebrityhood in promoting a healthier planet and people than any recent pop culture figure I can name. Using a more modest profile, actor/EA member Matthew Modine has taken it upon himself to use his leverage in New York and Hollywood to make a difference. He'll be producing his new documentary out of our space as well as launching numerous eco-friendly campaigns to lessen the impact of waste in New York City -- campaigns we hope will be adapted globally, like Mayor Bloomberg's "smoke free" campaign has been adopted by municipalities all over the world. (I sat with him for a lengthy podcast that I'll be posting shortly.)

Modine's got a terrific campaign to replace traditional plastic utensils that so dominate our "carry-out" food culture with biodegradable corn starch-based cutlery. This will revolutionize the fast food business and eliminate yet another pollution problem. You can read more detailed info on this fascinating application at Biodegradable Food Service. Modine is also spearheading a two-wheeled global event called "BICYCLE FOR A DAY". He's completed a three-minute film that will promote this exceptional worldwide event in June 2007. You'll be able to watch it as a vidcast on our site as well.

We have a group of young artists called Armada that has just completed its Mississippi River raft -- two Volkswagen Rabbit diesel engines converted to run on waste vegetable oil (used fryer grease) will power the propeller -- that launched this past weekend. They're looking to spread their message by floating down this mighty river on a raft built out of found objects.

The Miss Rockaway Armada is a group of approximately 25 performers and artists from all over the country including members of the Toyshop Collective, Visual Resistance, The Amateurs, The Floating Neutrinos, The Infernal Noise Brigade, The Madagascar Institute, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. This July they will converge in Minneapolis to construct a flotilla of rafts that will journey down the Mississippi River. They'll stop in towns along the way, hosting musical performances and vaudeville variety-theater in the evenings, along with workshops and skill-shares centered around arts and environmental issues during the day. In their travels they intend to share stories and to solicit dialog around subversive and constructive ways of living. They are a group of intrepids who believe in a hands-on, live-by-example approach to creating change within our culture. They are taking cues from Johnny Appleseed, traveling medicine shows, nomadic jewel box theater, and of course that old radical Mark Twain.

And our friend and advisor Scott Harrison at Charity Water is currently working on an urban "money for water" campaign to deliver clean water to people who have none (1.2 billion people don't have clean water in the world, more than 1 billion people have to walk three miles for water that might not even be clean, and 25,000 people die every day due to water-related diseases). He also brings to the group his first hand experience on a mercy ship; ocean vessels providing health care to the poor in port areas around the world. His compassion and energy is boundless. We are blessed to have him as part of our collective.

We at EA are also currently seeking eco-friendly sustainable energy sources. (Perhaps some readers can help me locate sources to contact to see if anybody might be interested in donating materials or using our space to test materials to help better offset the ever-rising electrical costs we will soon accrue.) I've been in touch with wind turbine companies that might be interested in testing some models on our roofline. We are also considering a living "green" roof that will help insulate the building and offer many invaluable additions to our cooperative.

If any of you would like to know more about wind power, I would encourage you to watch a wind power documentary about its positive impact on communities that have adopted this clean energy alternative. No noise, no safety issues, no pollution. You can access an amazing educational documentary about wind power at The Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

In six short weeks, we've made tremendous progress in building our urban utopia, and I'm certain all of us would like to help raise our positive consciousness globally. We should all pitch in, regardless of how hopeless you may feel, eliminating all cultural, ethnic, religious, and political barriers to promote a world that deserves to be as healthy as its inhabitants.

I would encourage you all to pursue bio-sustainable and bio-diversity programs in your day-to-day life and in your community. Examine environment-friendly energy sources and how they can augment your lifestyle. It can be as simple as picking up litter in your neighborhood or bringing your own tote bag grocery shopping. It's imperative that we replace oil-derivative products with bio-sustainable ones. We have an emergency-level need to integrate bio-diversity and bio-sustainable systems into all of our daily lives.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite maxims, which our Native Americans championed so many years ago and that rings even more relevant today: "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."