Congratulations and thank you to Tansee and Hannington Xeltentat for achieving what so many have longed for since the demise of The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA)
The new SLEA is planned to consist of 7 SL Regions (1 Region = 256x256m = 6.5 hectares of virtual land, plus 15,000 prims/land impact). The old LEA consisted of 20 Artist-in-Residence Land Grant regions plus another 10 regions for a variety of other uses.
What Tansee and Xeltentat have accomplished here is, in my judgement, brilliant. With only 1/4 of the resource donation of LEA from Linden Lab, they will be able to present the same number of artists per year in a more nimble, faster rotating, more vibrant SLEA archipelago.
The plan is for a 1-region Landing HUB with teleport stations, offices, educational and public relations facilities, a theater and other central facilities. A second region will be an SLEA Sandbox. The remaining 5 regions will be Artist Land Grants
20+10 vs 7 Regions
While LEA’s 30 (20+10) regions were glorious, I believe they were too many. It was a large donation from Linden Lab and it was a lot to administer for the LEA committee. The burden of managing such a massive land holding may have played a role in the eventual end of LEA.
Seven is a much more modest donation from Linden Lab. And a land base that will allow for extensive creation and exhibition without the strain of managing an overwhelming 30 regions.
While some of the 10 LEA regions were used in different ways, the showcase 20 LEA regions were all for 6 month land grants. While generous, I think this was tremendously inefficient.
Based on all the LEA projects I was able to view over the years, I am convinced of 2 things:
- No one needs 6 months
- While some artists make magnificent use of a full 6.5 hectares, many can create wonderful installations in a still generous 1.625 hectares of virtual land and 3,750 prims/land impact.
Doing the Math
- 20 Regions @ 6-month residencies = 40 artists/year
- Plus indeterminate number of artists served at the other 10 regions
- 1 Region @ 1-month residency = 12 artists/year
- 1 Region @ 2-month residency = 6 artists/year
- 1 Region @ 3-month residency = 4 artists/year
- 1 Region @ 6-month residency = 2 artists/year
- 4 1/4-Region @ 3-month residency = 16 artists/year
Total = 40 artists/year = same number of artists as old LEA AiR 20 Land Grant Regions.
Using different lengths of time and different size grants, SLEA presents about the same number of artists with 1/4 of the regions. Beyond being more efficient I believe this structure will be much more alive and vibrant.
The old LEA presented many magnificent installations by compelling artists from across the grid. But none of them took anywhere near 6 months to build. Even the best work sat largely static for long stretches of time. It was a slow paced place and a staggering continent of virtual land for visitors to take in.
The new SLEA presents an excellent number of artists per year in a much more fast paced and vibrant calendar. The more compact archipelago will be more easily appreciated by visitors.
While it may seem that SLEA is a smaller, more modest project than the grandiose 30 regions of LEA, I see it as just the opposite. SLEA is a more efficient and ultimately more compelling presentation of SL creativity to the larger community. LEA was a giant, room-filling IBM 360 mainframe. SLEA is a Ryzen-9 CPU talking to an RTX 3090 GPU in a small box sitting on your desk.
Two Modest Suggestions
What Tansee and Xeltentat have agreed upon with Linden Lab is truly magnificent. I am beyond optimistic that the spirit of LEA will be kept alive. I believe that SLEA has the potential to reach beyond the scope and achievements of its predecessor.
I would respectfully like to offer 2 suggestions to the organizers:
- Even more short residencies
- Embrace community
1. Shorter Residencies
To me, much of the power of SLEA comes from its bold move to have smaller and shorter residencies than LEA did. I cannot overestimate the dynamism I believe this will introduce. LEA was at times brilliant, but always slow moving. SLEA has the potential to be a vibrant hub for the arts grid-wide.
I love the proposed 7-region structure of Central Hub, Sandbox, 1/4 Region Grants, 1-month, and 2-month grants. The 2 regions I am troubled by are the 3-month grant and the LEA-style 6-month grant. I urge the organizers to let go of LEA baggage and convert these sleepy and inefficient regions into additional 1-month and 2-month regions. All the LEA installations I ever saw did not require 6 months or anything close to it. Let’s be more efficient with the land, serve more artists, and share more work with residents on a faster, more engaging pace.
- 2 Regions @ 1-month residency = 24 artists/year
- 2 Regions @ 2-month residency = 12 artists/year
- 4 1/4-Region @ 2-month residency = 24 artists/year
Total = 60 artists/year = 50% more than current SLEA plan = at least as many artists as all 30 of the old LEA regions
2. Embrace Community
SL or RL, artists are often loners. Often narcissists. Artists love the “white cube” of the art museum for the purity of it’s detachment from daily life. The problem is, human beings, avatar or fleshvatar, don’t live in detached, white voids. We live in the real worlds of messy, patchwork RL cities and messy, patchwork SL mainland regions.
Artists love the elegant remove of the white cube. But no white cube will ever have the impact of a street artist who presents their work not in isolation but in public space for everyone to love, hate, consider, and interact with.
LEA regions were notorious for their isolation. 20+ full regions that, except for me, I’m not sure if anyone ever physically walked between all of them. Isolated, teleport-in, teleport-out, spaces made even more separate by improbable vertical terraforming and ugly curtain walls.
I’m not certain if we are to interpret the proposed map of the 7 SLEA regions as being all isolated islands, but I hope not. I hope SLEA will encourage artists to consider their work not as isolated genius, but as a chance to be in dialog with other artists and SL residents.
I hope the 7 Regions of SLEA will be contiguous.
Cities, and SL Art Regions should, I believe, be walkable. The walkability of RL cities across the globe has been largely lost due to COVID-19. Rather than repeat the isolation of RL, I hope SLEA can be a chance to rediscover the joy of walking. I hope SLEA can create the opportunity for SL residents to go for a walk and experience a range of art. The avatar-sized 7 regions of SLEA is perfect for this. Even if LEA had wanted to cultivate community, I fear the gargantuan 30 regions would always have been prohibitive.
The never-built Lower Manhattan Expressway in New York City is the perfect example of this dichotomy. Robert Moses, the most powerful builder America had ever seen, wanted to cut Manhattan in half to service car traffic. Jane Jacobs, a secretary, argued that serving cars was not the beginning and end of cities and neighborhoods. That less sexy, less heroic areas of mixed use provided the safest and most vibrant spaces for children, families, and communities.
I hope SLEA will take inspiration from Street Artists, Jane Jacobs, and every pedestrian who has ever walked the streets of an RL city or the SL Mainland. Don’t make SLEA 7 isolated islands of artistic ego. Make it a contiguous, walkable community where residents can meet, interact, and share their creativity, their lives, their hopes, and their dreams.
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