From Pretty to Gritty

Peter Santenello writes about moving to Kyiv in 2016:

That November in 2016 was a step into another dimension for my mind, and new scenery for my eyes. Kyiv didn’t quite have that same charm as it did in the summer… grey skies fused into grey buildings, like one wide and long brushstroke of paint on canvas.

But I didn’t want everything to be great; I didn’t want the weather to be perfect. I wanted texture, depth, and grit… and Ukraine checks all of these boxes like a seasoned professional.

Every place evokes a feeling in the first twenty-four hours. Ireland, drinking. Bali, relaxation. Las Vegas, excess. New York, busyness. Ukraine… authenticity.

The country has an uncanny ability to keep things authentic. There are a whole set of factors that lead to this outcome, but where much of the modern world is trying to put on a show, Ukraine is one of those places that doesn’t. In a way, it’s very simple here; people only smile if they mean it. There are no “being nice” gestures, only gestures that come from authentic intentions whether for good or bad.

My thoughts returned to this when I read last week that Downtown Charlottetown Inc. has a program called Gritty to Pretty, which seeks to fund “projects [that] will contribute to DCI’s strategic beautification goals.”

While I support the general notion of supporting creative workers in using the city as a canvas, the “Gritty to Pretty” wording of this program infantilizes artists, reducing their creative work to “gussying up the place.”

I don’t want my community to be pretty, like Santenello I want it to have “texture, depth, and grit,” and if the business community is going to subsidize art, it should remove the shackles of “pretty” from its program, embrace the grit, and fund authentic art that changes the world.

Charlottetown Perspectives Entry, 2012

(My entry to the Charlottetown Perspectives program in 2012)