#96: Matt Chasansky
Matt Chasansky is the guy behind the scenes at the City of Boulder’s Office of Arts + Culture; think of him as the Wizard of Oz in back of the curtain, pulling the strings, counting the beans and allocating the funds that make public art happen in Boulder. He kicked off his job there with a bang, managing the Flood Project, which tackled the human side of Boulder’s recent floods through art.
Before that, he performed a similar role at Denver International Airport, and you can thank him — or curse him — for overseeing the difficult installation of the wild-eyed and storied "Blue Mustang" (aka Blucifer) as the airport’s official greeter on the plains. Right now, his attention is turned to pulling back the layers of Boulder’s new Community Cultural Plan — in his inimitable, people-friendly style. Here are Chasansky's answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Matt Chasansky: PG Wodehouse! Wodehouse, Wodehouse, Wodehouse. His genius was so quiet; the stories were quaint and camp, but they masked a fathoms-deep talent for twisting, contorting and bastardizing the language in a way that I so very much admire. I’ve read passages where the placement of quotations had me laughing aloud. I admit his shortcomings, and don’t make excuses. However, I would love nothing better than to see what that man could do with a blog… a podcast… a YouTube channel… a Tweet…
I’m also smitten with Bartolomé de las Casas. In the sixteenth century, he took a stand against slavery and the genocide. No schmuck from our historical canon needs to be regarded “in the context of his time.” And today no one gets a pass; you are either working to make the world better, or you are doing the opposite.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I’ve been following Broken City Lab for a few years. This team of artists and activists has emerged in Detroit where the need has been greatest, and the creative landscape so fruitful. Also, the Radiotopia family. Especially Roman Mars and Nate DiMeo. If they get their way, the media, storytelling and the audio environment will be drastically changed (for the better).
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I’m done with artist-designed collectable toys. Not so much in and of themselves: Some of the actual objects are rather spectacular. No, I’m bored with the disingenuous motivations. Your pricey toy line is not a way to make your art affordable. It is not overcoming the social and economic inequities of the art market, making your work more available to the community. The value is measured in those bags of cash you are getting. Call it what it is.
What's your day job?
I’m a proud bureaucrat. A pencil pusher. Petit bourgeoisie. Red-tape artist. And I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. I take great pride in the stewardship of the participatory system, of making cities work for the people to whom I owe my livelihood. Big politics is a bit broken. But at the most local level, there is still a sense that we are all in this together.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Somehow we have become a bit of a center for Social Practice. Slowly growing in momentum for maybe thirty years now, these rock stars include an intimate conversation with real humans as part of their work product. Folks like The bARTer Collective, M12, Viviane Le Courtois, Ana Maria Hernando and lots of others. If I were unshackled by reality, I would be investing heavily in these rock stars and in Colorado’s identity as a center for Social Practice. We should have an institute, awards and residencies, develop the field, and become a magnet for the best artists in the world. We should start calling Social Practice “The Denver Style.”
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I’ve been orbiting Denver my whole life. There’s just enough Wild West, just enough unapologetic energy to keep me interested. However, we are becoming a bit too buttoned-up, risking our wily character. Even the places in town that have a bit of character seem to be putting that character in a box of clean streets, flower boxes, interactive fountains and clean brick facades.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
My daughter Rae is the most creative innovator I have met — when it comes to avoiding chores. She’s quick on her feet, coming up with a unique approach to each evasion. She’s a genius; I have so much to learn.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
My year will be consumed by the launch of Boulder’s Community Cultural Plan. The city has doubled its funding for the arts and will be doubling that again in the coming years. We have new grants for cultural organizations, a new public art program to build, neighborhood programs, support for artists, fostering diversity, creative economy work to do: So much fun! I geek out most about our research projects. I’m working with a lot of very smart folks to dig deep on understanding just how culture works in a city: how culture impacts public safety, what ingredients are needed for a robust cultural sector, how to meet the needs of the young creative workers and how the arts may improve our ability to positively impact climate change.
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Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Our design studios are beginning to flex their muscles in affecting public projects. Watch out for Workshop 8, Berger & Fohr and Matter.
Learn more about Boulder’s Community Cultural Plan and keep up with what’s going on at the City of Boulder Office of Arts + Culture online.