Cultural or art actions by ordinary people in many places in the US and in the world --- including Salem, Oregon --- are claiming public and sometimes privately owned space, creating webs of interconnection between people, and providing free cultural materials, art, and more. The Occupy movement may have given strength to these actions by its claim of public space.
Four of these actions/activities are described below.
These are free book exchanges housed in small structures in neighborhoods.
From the “official” Little Free Library site:
“What is a Little Free Library? It’s a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share.”
Free Art Friday
Free Art Friday is a grassroots movement where people create art of some kind and leave it in a public space to be claimed for free.
There is a wide-ranging definition of art at work here – from painting on canvas to origami to masks to recycled crafts and so on). This helps moves “art” out of commercial galleries, gives artists freedom to create, and gives finders something free to take home which is unconnected to any exchange of money. At this site you can read more, see photos and find a FAF near you. See also https://www.facebook.com/FreeArtFriday.
Salem, Oregon has had an active FAF group (https://www.facebook.com/FreeArtFridaySalem) for several months.
This activity has been around a while and involves textile crafters (knitters and crocheters mostly) moving their work into the public sphere. Yarn bombing can be defined as “a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarn_bombing)
Yarn bombers often cover existing structures in the public space, such as bike racks, poles, tree branches, etc. Groups or individuals may have different motivations for yarn bombing, some making political statements (such as covering the rifle of a statue) but the effect is to claim and personalize often cold and sterile public space.
Are there any YB-ers in Salem, Oregon? Someone started a Facebook page called United Yarn Bombers of Salem Oregon , but it appears there has been no recent activity; let's hope that changes soon.
“Guerrilla gardening is gardening on land that the gardeners do not have legal right to use, often an abandoned site or area not cared for by anyone. It encompasses a very diverse range of people and motivations, from the enthusiastic gardener who spills over their legal boundaries to the highly political gardener who seeks to provoke change through direct action.
The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned or neglected by its legal owner. That land is used by guerrilla gardeners to raise plants, frequently focusing on food crops or plants intended to beautify an area. This practice has implications for land rights and land reform; it promotes re-consideration of land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or misuse and assign a new purpose to it.
Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden in an effort to make the area of use and/or more attractive. Some garden at more visible hours to be seen by their community. It has grown into a form of activism.”
Seed bombing (“a technique of introducing vegetation to land by throwing or dropping compressed bundles of soil containing seeds or live vegetation”) is considered the beginning of the guerrilla gardening movement.
Anyone doing guerrilla gardening in Salem? I think yes, but some of it must be really underground at this point.
What does all this mean? Perhaps people move in small steps, and the Left needs to meet people where they are. People who are involved in the activities described above may have no background in politics or organizing, but the steps they take when involved in these activities may put them on track toward what Occupy was/is trying to do.