I believe it’s an artist’s job not to provide answers, but to ask questions. Artists are the canaries in the coal mine for problems we face as a society. We are the first to speak up, often under threat of punishment — or even death, in some regimes and times in history. We reflect and record the world around us, so we see things that others don’t, seek out hidden spaces to reveal them to the light. We provide a context for a different way to see the world, both for entertainment and enlightenment. We give voice to joy, sorrow, injustice, fears, dream impossible worlds and teach us about the one we inhabit. And right now, the world we inhabit faces a grave threat, and an urgent need for us to have serious conversations.
Over the years I have created over 23 solo shows, participated in hundreds of group shows, founded two co-op galleries, curated exhibitions, opened community print shops and galleries, and volunteered thousands of hours helping create culture in this community…and very few of those activities have been financially rewarding in any way, and often these activities cost me money. Every art show was free for the public to enter, every community space was alive with use, and often, if I got paid at all, it was so far under the minimum wage as to be unnoticeable. This isn’t a complaint, just a reality: I’ve done it all for love, and I continue to do these things for love. And now, I am working on a love we all share – the love of our planet. Someone needs to do the work of having these difficult conversations, and I am volunteering. In fact, these conversations have already started, while we are building the tiny house on the street, and at appearances like the Denver Art Museum’s Untitled Night. Along the way, I will continue to create experiences and beauty for people out of love, costing them nothing but their time. But to do this, I need your help.
I may be just an artist, but we are all “just” something, and it will take many of us having these conversations. In order to do this project well, though, the umbrella of “artist” houses several job descriptions: builder, architect, gofer, communications director, writer, photographer, videographer, volunteer manager, tour booker, fundraiser and designer. And I am a staff of one, a crazy Don Quixote tilting at the elephant in the room. It will take a village to make this project happen, and though sometimes I switch hats so quickly it feels as if that village lives in my head, I only have the standard 24 hours in a day. But freeing up my time from earning money also moves the project forward!
During the times I was pondering leaving Denver to explore other climes (I have always had a bit of wanderlust), and when I was actually leaving for grad school, I heard the same refrain what feels like hundreds of times: “You can’t leave Denver, we need you!” And while I feel incredibly flattered and humbled by these words, I also feel as if staying here is less and less of a financial possibility – the tiny house is also an answer to that. It will allow me to stay in my community in some fashion, sidestepping the gentrification that will inevitably force me out. Arguably, local arts and culture has made Denver a better place to be, and has been part of what has attracted all of the new residents. Yet artists themselves are rarely reaping the benefits of this boom, and the expenses, as we all know, have exploded here. Supporting local art keeps our culture vibrant!
If you have been enjoying this blog, please know: this is another labor of love. I don’t do this for Westword, though it was gracious enough to agree to host my weekly Mayday Experiment posts when I asked (I reach far more readers this way), I do this because I sincerely want to change the dialogue we’re having by traveling the country and having conversations with ordinary people – in everything from church parking lots to farmers' markets to schools – about what it’s going to take to make the changes we need to make to live sustainably. The tiny house is a platform for these conversations, a bridge for understanding, a laboratory for sustainable ideas so that people can see them up-close and personal. But more than any of my other labors of love, this one is expensive, and I am all in – I have my entire life savings sunk into building this, and I need your help to complete it and hit the road. Every week when I write the blog, I am only paid by those kind souls who have sponsored my Patreon account, which is another way to support – if you read weekly, think of me as your public radio station!
I’ve been limping along, paying for things as I can, after the initial investment from the sale of my house to get the framing built and trailer bought. However, basic survival is a struggle — as it is for most artists — and unfortunately, time is of the essence. The gentrification in my neighborhood has brought offers on my building, and I know it is only a matter of time before I will have to move – it’s doubtful I could find another spot with parking and a woodshop that I could afford in the New Denver. And the recent loss of my truck, Bertha, and the broken windows make the challenges seem almost insurmountable at this point.
Sure, there are hundreds of appeals and charities asking for your money. Many of them have staffs, many of them have offices, many of them have large budgets…I just have me, myself and I, and some generous and dear friends (especially Victoria Salvador) who help me out. And now I want to count you among them!
What I am attempting to do with this project, I am doing for us all – it’s crucial to change the conversation around sustainability and climate change. True, I’m just an artist, and just one voice, but the more people doing this the better, and the tiny house is a unique way to engage people in the conversation, providing an important visual aid to questions about sustainability and the different choices we can make to stop harming our habitat. If you share my concerns, then help me push this project forward – I truly cannot do this without you! If you want to help, click here.
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, a 2005 Westword MasterMind winner, is blogging about her tiny house project, The Mayday Experiment, on Show and Tell. If you'd like to support her journey, you can pledge here or here. See more of her work at lynnxe.com.