Tuesday, January 6, 2009

we're optimists

While the details are not exactly right, Charlie Finch has managed, all the way from New York, to nail down the facts fairly well in his latest Artnet Column. We are optimistic. We want to do something even when the financial forecast is worse than stormy. And as Jason Renaud said recently and so eloquently: “We wanted to use a sledgehammer but found that art worked so much better.”

Meaning: photographs, documentation, stories, words and in this particular case, a film. Currently in production and directed by Brian Lindstrom, Alien Boy tells of the life and the death of James Chasse. A couple of years ago my online diary was full of his story: an artist on the forefront of the Portland punk scene, a maker of fanzines, a singer in a band and someone who struggled with schizophrenia. He died in police custody after an altercation with them and they probably should not have been dealing with him anyway. But for the record, Jim was not drugged, he was not dangerous – to himself or others. He was actually considered "a success" in the mental health care system here, a survivor.

The Mental Health Association of Portland has already moved mountains in progress since James Chasses died. There were so many mishaps along the way in his death, so many ways things could have gone differently. Slowly big changes have been made and the police in Portland get very special training for dealing with the mentally ill now. This film will only accelerate the process and take it across the country. People are concerned. Some people are very angry. It was heartbreaking to see what happened to Jim.

So I’m organizing events, house parties and finding ways to unite people so they can verbalize their concerns, get to action - and help us finish this film! We’ve already had some powerful success and Brian Lindstrom has a beautiful track record.

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