A few years ago, there was optimism in the air regarding Bridgeport and the role that arts and entertainment would play in this city’s revival.
The Read’s Artspace with its occupancy consisting mostly of creative and talented people was the flashpoint for change, with the hope that the powers that be and the community would buy in. Something has gone wrong, the wheels of change are moving at a snail’s pace, leaving many of us to wonder if this was all a pipe dream.
As an artist who has a small clue about this landscape, I wanted to offer my perspective on this subject.
I had a conversation with the manager of an establishment where my band, MDIII, has performed, as well as another band I was once part of. Unbeknownst to me, I learned that he was upset with me.
You see, a few months back, I performed on consecutive nights, at his spot, and another venue in the same block. I was told there was an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t book too close in the same area, or too close to another band, something I had heard of, but didn’t quite comprehend. This “rule” effectively handcuffs me and my musicians, forcing us to find bookings elsewhere. As a native son, I was doing them a big solid, or so I thought. Let me explain…
Imagine cities with lively entertainment districts, Seattle, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The people get it, establishing nights out that bring people out, and make sure that they return. Imaging paying one cover to see two or three hot bands. On that Saturday night, my band was at one place; another hot band was a few doors down. Though I did not approach these establishments, I assumed the lure of great live music at two spots would be a huge draw. I t turned out to be a decent night, but lack of communication and information prevented it from being great.
I had no agenda, only an idea; if you give people options without breaking their bank, they will support the cause. An armband, 1 cover night, hey, they even do it in little old Milford, would ensure a steady flow between the venues, two great area bands, and contrary to what you’ve heard, we don’t do the same things, the activity downtown is automatically increased, therefore creating a win-win scenario. I know that people did not come to see us or in extreme cases, the other band because they did not want to pay two covers. With the economy being what it is, I understand totally. My opinion is that if the local business people who are truly committed to making Bridgeport what so many say it could be, this is a good start. In some cases, decision-makers are not from this area, so they don’t have a good read at all for the demographics, history, or otherwise.
This is an opportunity for those who pay lip service to Bridgeport’s artistic revival to put their money where their mouths are. That includes city government no-shows, club and venue owners who need to understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, the segment of the public that always talks about coming. Hey, they built it, so we’re waiting on you. A friend of mine from another city, a lady who gets it, as much as she loves living here says she never been in a place like this, where people are so non-supportive.
It seems as though when you want to believe in Bridgeport, there’s always something to take the wind out of your sails. As someone who has seen it over and over again, it does get frustrating. In February, for Black History Month, I was part of an art exhibit/musical performance sponsored in part by the City of Bridgeport. I found it strange that there were no city officials there. What did we do wrong? Maybe we didn’t advertise well enough. I did my part, inviting more than 200 people, but I cannot drag them out of their homes, I can only tell the public about the events. The apathy is mind-boggling.
I consider myself fortunate to have grown up here, to have been exposed to people, places, and programs that broadened my thinking and my life experience. We were taught to look beyond the limitations of a city like Bridgeport, a city of potential, that has never been fulfilled, only to exist in suspended animation.
This city still has a ways to go, there are generations to come that have to live here, some not by choice, I’m sure the youth of this city would like to look outside their respective windows and see a future.
Hopefully, they’ll be encouraged, as I was, to look beyond the city limits of a city that limits.