Public Comment

Art and Venture Capital Really Do Go Hand in Hand

Carol Denney
Thursday May 03, 2018 - 12:09:00 PM
Carol Denny

Our neighborhood hardware store went out of business recently and has been replaced by "Neyborly", a fund-raising enterprise which hosts events for ...causes. I'm not sure how worthy the causes are, but whatever they are, "Neyborly" takes a cut out of their fundraiser to pay rent in the empty space which used to be our hardware store. 

Today they set up several big barbecues on the relatively small sidewalk in front of their business; huge, round, hot, smoky barbecues which left little room to pass, not enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass, which is a standard often used in Berkeley and in school corridor settings for the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Even that standard presumes that things are not on fire, belching smoke, and spitting hot grease on one side or the other. 

I asked the organizer about it and the woman got defensive right away saying both the police and fire department had "given permission"- not exactly the case, but in fact neither entity was going to stop it, either, and I know. I called and they gave me the whole "this stuff doesn't really matter" treatment because of course when I called I asked them to ask how, in a world in which the City Council had just restricted sidewalk use for the poor, this was in any way possible except in the most cynical of kleptocracies.

So I went home, took a shower, dressed up, and made tiny little fliers that say: 

$25 million in venture capital and hey— 

You can buy the neighborhood sidewalk! 

It's disruptive! It's inventive! 

It violates the ADA, but when you're rich, who cares! 

I walked in while the big dinner was happening, and they greeted me like family. Then I just walked around the tables smiling and giving them out, tiny little fliers only big enough for the words. By the time one of the organizers had read the little flier and understood what I was doing and began to threaten to call the police I was done, and I just smiled and walked away out the door. They made asses of themselves threatening me and grabbing at me while I kept smiling and handing out fliers such that people really became more and more interested in reading them. I made my point. I had fun. Exploit my neighborhood if you can. Your exploitative business model is my art's oyster. Happy May Day! And next time you want to help a worthy cause for heaven's sake just give them some of that $25 million in venture capital money.