The Problem with "Support Local"

Categories: The Overserved

Downtown_Dallas_Arts_District.jpg
Our city deserves more than cheerleaders.

"How does anyone even get to Dallas?"

It wasn't a question my friend was asking over dinner. It came across more like a statement. It doesn't feel transient here to me, but as I start to mentally take inventory of my social circle, I realize how many are from California, or Florida, or Nevada or Houston.

As someone who has dwelled in these North Texas plains for most of my time on earth, I forget that so many of you came for work or love or for a supposedly growing economy. The latter, especially, makes our city a unique melting pot of the very practical. Many of us are employees of companies who can afford to move staff across the country and wanderers who find reasonable rent appealing. Big fishes who hope to make splashes in our growing pond.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the cultural temperature of this city and those who make it up both because I have been given the opportunity to comment on it and because I am a near constant consumer of the music, the art, the party being produced at any given moment. But lately a new chant has been getting under my skin, and it's time to wrestle with it a bit.

I see it on posters, in hashtags and in social media bios glaring at me. Support Local. Support Local Music. Support Local something else or another thing that is local. Local. Local. Local. It feels so easy to accept that "local" is somehow inherently valuable. Why? Because there are no shipping charges? Valuable because it must be sourced from surrounding stimulus or because it may help define a city cursed with transience? But local isn't noble all on its own, not if it isn't also compelling.

Let me be clear: I am an admitted Dallas apologist. And if you aren't cooking with Brandt, Texas' Vital Farms eggs, then you aren't cooking. So I get the enormous potential of local.

But what if we changed the rally cry? What if in Dallas there wasn't this push to support local first? What if our hashtags united us to call for excellence instead? #SUPPORTINGENUITY #SUPPORTIMAGINATION #SUPPORTCONTROVERSY #SUPPORTSOMETHINGTRULYSTRANGE

That might raise the standard. Perhaps we could make Dallas a place where any great artist could come to North Texas and thrive, making ours a creative destination, instead of a stop on the way out for our friends leaving for LA and New York and even Austin. I know the entire health of a creative community isn't wrapped up in a two-word phrase, but its implication still irritates me.

When I admitted to a Dallas-based editor and visual artist that I get uncomfortable about this idea, HER/HIS response was thoughtful: "I have realized that the only way to make our local arts culture better is by opening up a dialogue with the great arts and music cultures all over the world, so that artists can not only be considered great according to a Dallas standard, but compared to artists both nationally and internationally.
"We live in a global world, so if we want to be taken seriously, we should strive to contend with global standards of excellence in both life and art."


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48 comments
kevinobregon
kevinobregon

I'm a little late getting to the game here, but on the whole, I agree with you Deb.

Mostly.

I am a visual artist and musician and have had two art galleries and continue to advocate for buying from local artists whenever possible as I pursue my endeavors as a Dallas-based artist. I also believe artists should seriously check themselves when it comes to their work.  We, as culture-makers, must take more risks, stop copying others' work, stop usurping others' contribution to the community, stop back-biting, be more ethical and give credit where credit is due if you collaborate with another artist. We must realize that the success of our peers is, indeed, OUR success in the long run. 

I, too, am tired of the cultural comparisons to other cities, for the very same reasons it's not productive to compare one's self to others. It's a losing venture. That said, however, there is much to be internalized when comparing what works in - say Houston, Austin or LA - when you're like me and trying to determine why Dallas is not getting the proper national attention in art magazines and such when it comes to our culture-makers, risk-takers, envelope burners and well, pure talent and skills.

One of Dallas' main problems on that front is we have One Daily Newspaper (ODN) that does not cover visual arts as it should. It alerts to no one what kind of culture we're really creating in studios, warehouses and small galleries here and there - only what we're consuming, culturally. At one point, our one daily paper had 12 writers on the "Arts" scene. Of those twelve, eleven wrote about theater, movies, TV, restaurants, theater, TV, celeb gossip, TV, movies, Ft. Worth/Dallas museums, and more plays. The one who did write about visual art moved away and became a screenwriter. 

Another problematic issue we have as a city is that some of our greatest benefactors to the "Arts" don't really seem to know what or where local art can be seen, some of which is being created and in myriad studios in garages, dining rooms, warehouses, anonymous buildings because these hard-working artists' works are in numerous galleries in Dallas and no one (present company excluded, thank you) seems to be caring enough to dialogue about it or even give credible reviews. The national arts magazines based in NY/LA have local writers who cover local visual arts, but from what ultimately gets chosen (or what gratuitous pieces slipped through their editor's fingers), Dallas' art scene is far less than representative of its reality.

So consequently, when there are no reviews, regional highlights, or mentions in national magazines, there are no higher standards that should be invoked.  God forbid our ODN show color-spreads every Friday or Sunday highlighting local culture-makers! Wh-what?!  And deny the public their right to know what former NFL player's wife said about another baller's wife? 

(sigh)

In the end, however, the "Buy Local" mantra is not just a platitude. It's real. When I make a sale or get paid for a mural, I spend my money on other locals' businesses. It's a beautiful domino effect. But you're right, Deb. There needs to be substance - not just sustenance. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

What is the permanent residence of the DO owners?

rjasonbonner
rjasonbonner

people from dallas in the 23-38 demographic or whatever who were typically from here use to leave. Now, Dallas is leading in that demographic. Therefore there will be more support locally for local music and pubs like the goodfriend and gentrification of areas and whole take overs of others like Lake Highlands. There will still be clubs in Deep Ellum, and there will be more elsewhere, and Denton will continue its profile and be valid as a place to live because all the jobs in Lewisville and Grapevine where they must be giving rent for free to corporations who move there and those corporations will mention in their quarterly reports that they reside in Dallas although its not Dallas. All the build up downtown and Oak Cliff and south Dallas needs to be tempered by some of that ethos that those towns have so the young folks can have a downtown to live around and work in before moving to Lake Highlands to settle down. 

msondo
msondo

If you do not prop up your local storytellers, who will tell your story?

Example: I have been following local rapper Dustin Cavazos for several years.  A friend of a friend pointed me to his blog when he was first starting out.  Even though his early work might not have been strong, I felt that the kid had talent and loved his passion.  Hearing his "In And Out Of Sleep," his first album and a culmination of the past few years of his work, crystallizes why I believe in supporting local.  In particular, his homage to DJ DMD's "25 Lighters" is a great reflection of Dallas and all of the kids that grew up in the hood during the golden age of dirty south rap yet from the unique perspective of a globally-minded, talented young kid who is very much Oak Cliff 2013.

Without a thriving local scene full of passionate supporters who are willing to spend money, retweet, and otherwise represent the people that reflect the community, none of that great talent would exist.  I agree that we need to encourage a scene where artists dialogue with others globally, but I still think art is very much a product of its environment.  And although it might be tempting to assume that we're living in a truly global society, art isn't made on Facebook (unless you are the Real Housewives of Oak Cliff.)  I can't think of a single worthwhile artist, chef, or even party scene that isn't dependent upon a physical home base or home bases of support.  Art, after all, is about communicating some human story.  I feel that if it ever loses that it is just a product and not worth my time.

Stephen Baynham
Stephen Baynham

I've never been, but I'd be interested in hearing why you don't think it and/or its attendee businesses are very good.

Mae Rock
Mae Rock

That's not the issue in this article, though I probably agree. Your example of the Homegrown Fest may be a good example of the cry "Support Local" causing low quality business to be generated, but my experience with local festivals (I go to about 10 a year) has been overwhelmingly the opposite. Furthermore, I think the market will decide what festivals and merchants are supported, regardless of where they hail from. That being said, I agree that to boost the local scene in Dallas, we need to have quality merchants to promote, but I disagree with saying "Support Local" hurts that cause. I think "Support Local" helps that cause immensely.

Anton Schlesinger
Anton Schlesinger

i'm all about great local breweries & more local companies doing great things & nurturing great things on a local level. the goal should just be to think beyond local, also make sure that we are welcoming to global movements. Growing up in Dallas was hard because it felt so isolated from culture at the time. However, a lot has changed in the last few years & I hope it continues to go that way. In discussing this with someone else, I realized that the bigger problem holding Dallas down is overwhelming conservatism that surrounds it.

Mae Rock
Mae Rock

I'll have to take your word for it, since that's not a festival I've been to, or plan to attend. I do attend many beer festivals and events in the Dallas area that say we should "Support Local," and I think it's gone very well. We've maintained and gained many breweries in the area, all with fine products.

Anton Schlesinger
Anton Schlesinger

yes, too much importance on the local aspect. a great event in a great location, but a lackluster lineup

Mae Rock
Mae Rock

Examples of locals supporting locals, or are you saying this is an example of shitty bands getting support simply because they are local?

Anton Schlesinger
Anton Schlesinger

i dont know where you spend your time, but it is an attitude that exists. Ever heard of Homegrown Fest amongst many other examples?

Craigley
Craigley

creative community comments are so last year - be more like Houston - the future is being International

DC9 at Night
DC9 at Night

Totally yes, I agree completely -- but subjective, right? I just want to make sure I understand your point right.

joag95
joag95

I think we can all agree it is about balance.  Is something local necessarily better than anything else?  Of course not.  But if we don't support our own quality artists, how will anyone else ever hear them? That is one of the main things I love about working with Sofar Sounds.  We are able to support local music, but on a global basis.  We are an entire network of local scenes joining forces to share the best of what we all have to offer. So yes it is my job to take the best of DFW and share that with my networks in other cities and even countries.  And it is theirs to show us what they have to be proud of.  If you want to support both local and quality you should consider get involved with us. https://www.facebook.com/SofarDFW

Stephen Baynham
Stephen Baynham

Some people have been watching too much Portlandia. This article is a great rebuttal against an attitude that doesn't exist in real life.

Mae Rock
Mae Rock

"We shouldn't support things just because they are local, we should support them because they are awesome. " You're just regurgitating the article. I've already said that people don't support things JUST because they're local. The things have to have their own merit as well.

Anton Schlesinger
Anton Schlesinger

no one is saying to not support local. obviously without a local scene there would be no scene. but for a local scene to grow, it needs to be bigger than its own bubble & aware and welcoming of content from other burgeoning scenes. Its funny that you mention all of these other cities & their proud musical exports. Unfortunately, Dallas doesn't have too much to show for our exports in the past. Is it because people in Dallas are not supporting local? or perhaps that the local musical products that have been worthy of support are few and far between, and any local Dallas talents have taken off to other cities with more diverse scenes where there is an ecosystem that surrounds them and helps them to be successful. I would argue the products from those cities have influences in other cities to be thankful for (ie Bun B of UGK from Houston, who was heavily influenced by music from the Juice Crew in NYC etc etc etc). The inside needs to look out & vice versa. Dallas needs to become more of a melting pot of all things, a path that it is already on. We need to be aware of what is going on outside of Dallas as well as nurturing what we have going on here. A lot has changed in the last three years to Dallas' benefit. Hopefully it will continue that way. Nothing is necessarily broken here, but it is important to keep advancing our awareness AS WELL as producing local products that are loved globally. We shouldn't support things just because they are local, we should support them because they are awesome. Hopefully more local things will be awesome & Dallas can create the environment for them to want to stay here, however that requires a lot more than "support local".

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

Well, I agree with the sentiment that you shouldn't just buy into something because it's local. However, spending locally *on things you like* will encourage others who make good things to come here. Of course people won't want to come and stay here with their band/restaurant/museum/whatever if there's no market for it.

Stephen Baynham
Stephen Baynham

Do you not listen to much music? Seattle Grunge, Twin Cities Rap, hell, hip hop in general, every genre of music that's come up in the last 30 years, is HEAVILY influenced by the city it came up in, and those genres were only made possible because the artists who pioneered them were supported by local music-lovers before the world took noticed. If you don't think NYC residents understand the importance of supporting their local artists and businesses, you're smoking something.

Mae Rock
Mae Rock

Yes, I do think people in NYC and LA support local, and try to advertise that they have local merchants that need support, versus large companies that happen to be in business in those cities. I think they're further along in the movement than Dallas, and thus they don't need to proclaim that buying from small companies is "supporting local;" people just buy from small/local companies when they want to infuse their money into the local market instead of having the money go elsewhere. In order to attract people who want to do "awesome stuff" here in Dallas, we have to be sure the people here in Dallas doing "awesome stuff" make money doing so. Thus, we have to support those local people.

Stephen Baynham
Stephen Baynham

Hey everyone I just realized that if we support local musicians then dallas will become a place that musicians want to live and perform, making Dallas a better city for culture- everyone should know this! (we did)

Anton Schlesinger
Anton Schlesinger

Do you think a city like Los Angeles or NYC or any other city that is a global major player gets so caught up with a "support local" movement? no, they just worry about doing awesome stuff that the whole world pays attention to. This article is about adjusting the perspective to a bigger view.

Stephen Baynham
Stephen Baynham

Yo guys I just realized what supporting local means and I'm going to explain it to you as though I'm not the only moron in the room.

Mae Rock
Mae Rock

What a pointless article. "Support Local" literally means vote with your dollar; be sure businesses and people stay in Dallas because they can make a living here. The idea that people would support local if it weren't good/quality/what they want... is ludicrous. If your product isn't good, those who buy it JUST because it's "local" will not sustain you; the market will move the business to other vendors and you will fail. This is the same premise of selling "No H8" shirts and "Red" gear; they have a good message, but if the product isn't quality merchandise, and the price isn't right, people won't buy it, even though it's for a good cause. Saying people are going to support shitty music/breweries/eateries JUST because those businesses are local is incorrect.

TheGaver
TheGaver

 I love when people are stupid and dont really have good reading comprehension and make comments that are long.  #stupidlocalpeople

greenfield.md
greenfield.md

Why do those from Dallas feel so compelled to always defend their city, as though they have something to prove to the rest of the world? You never hear people answer when asked where they would like to take holiday - "Texas". Dallas seems to be a city that is constantly trying to make its mark in the world by comparing itself to other major cities. It is what it is, a city in a red state that tries to overcompensate by assuming it's up to par in all aspects with coastal cities.

dudeabides
dudeabides

This article is less of a call to action as it is a call for help by someone that hasn't experienced enough in life. If living in Dallas is so horrible, go live somewhere else. I love that by saying you're a Dallas apologist, you admit that Dallas fails in some way that must be defended. Meanwhile, it's possible to live here without giving a goddamn about what anyone else thinks. Maybe more people need to #SUPPORTNOTGIVINGAFUCK or if you can't seem to let go, then go wash dishes in every major city.

No one said a vision quest was supposed to be easy. 

Tell your friends to buck up and make the best of it. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

support local breasts, go to a titty bar

rbeezlee
rbeezlee

Supporting "controversy" and the "truly strange" is a call for excellence?  Will any old "controversy" do, or are we talking about something specific here? And while we're at it, would you mind defining what you deem "truly strange"?  By the by, how old are you?  Aren't there child labor laws in Texas?

Anton Schlesinger
Anton Schlesinger

Couldn't agree more. Dallas needs to be bigger than it is in our own local bubble. The rest of the world needs to start paying attention as we turn Dallas into a cultural hub. Let's raise the bar.

anteeezy
anteeezy

I couldn't agree more.. thanks for opening up this dialogue

Tiney Ricciardi
Tiney Ricciardi

I think the point is to just support. Dallas has always been pigeonholed as apathetic to arts and that has definitely changed as more artists and events have an opportunity to reach the masses. Even if you're supporting some shitty band at a tiny bar on Greenville, you're still supporting the independent venue. Quality counts, but then again, quality is both relative and objective.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I couldn't support a local bagel, I'll tell you that.

debdoingdallas
debdoingdallas

@dudeabides I would disagree, I think experiencing more and being curious about experiences beyond that have helped shaped my expectations of cultural consumption in this city. I love Dallas but I rarely have to defend Dallas to those inside the city, it's those in other parts of the world who have a specific idea of what life MUST be like in Dallas, or who act surprised about some of the opportunities that exist here that make me wonder about our outward perception. And just what they are missing?

I don't want the vision quest to be easy, I don't really care if anything is easy so long as it's serving a specific purpose. It probably won't be easy, editing can be difficult. And on the surface I support #supportnotgivingafuck, but only if it leads to uninhibited creativity and not laziness. As an audience member I want the people who really don't give a fuck to teach me a thing or two. 

debdoingdallas
debdoingdallas

@rbeezlee I mean excellence as an end game but I think those other ideas open up an audience for more thoughtful demands of their art/music/whatever are just a starting point. You might support another thing above local - and at the end of this conversation I might too. My point with the "truly strange" is just - what if Dallas had a reputation for craving that kind of stuff? What would it mean for our creative reputation?


I am going to decline on the age, I feel like that part of the conversation is leading somewhere condescending. But, thanks.

 

jsballardx
jsballardx

@triggerdowneconomics I really like the Deep Ellum IPA. The first couple of times I tried it I was not impressed but it's really grown on me. 

greenfield.md
greenfield.md

@debdoingdallas Don't get me wrong, Houston (where I did my undergraduate studies at Rice) and Dallas (where I have many relatives) are great cities in terms of resources, but it's the too conservative mentality that turns people off and the overly sense of pride that prevents its residences to realize there's a world outside of TX. There will always be preconceived notions of things, so the skewed perception of one may in fact be an accurate representation to someone else.

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