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City through a Pop Filter

August 6, 2004 . Weekender . Page 2W

Artistic visions for future will debut next week
By Steve Penhollow, The Journal Gazette
If this article were about a movie sequel, a certain tagline would be called for. Something along the lines of, "Pop Filter is back, and this time it's personal!" But it's not a movie sequel and, to be honest, this time it's municipal.
City Prototype, the next project from Pop Filter, begins Tuesday, and it's a chance for Fort Wayne to see itself in a different light. Through a series of news conferences, product launches, mock storefronts and other provisional downtown improvements, the Pop Filter crew will try to make a Fort Wayne that many people dream about and others have to see to believe. It all culminates a week from today with a Pop Filter event that will make the previous party in January at Avant Garde gallery look like a church supper.
"The two things we heard most often after the last Pop Filter event," co-founder Matt Stuart says, "was 'When are you going to do it again?' and 'I didn't feel like I was in Fort Wayne.'
"It got us to thinking about what the city is and what it should be. What does Fort Wayne feel like?"
The purposes of City Prototype are multiform. One is to show what effect ardently applied creativity and cutting-edge technology might have on the Summit City if given a few years to flower. Another is to demonstrate how well artistic types and executives can work together to achieve their seemingly disparate goals.
Stuart says the "Rise of the Creative Class" concepts of Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon business professor, are usually employed by bohemians who want to point out deficiencies in business models. But Florida's ideas cut both ways.
"When people talk about Richard Florida," Stuart says, "It is usually to explain how much businesses can learn from the art world. But the creative community has a lot to learn from the corporate world."
In spite of its high-mindedness, there is nothing dry about City Prototype. Stuart is nothing if not intellectually double jointed and artistically sardonic, so there will be much to be amused and bemused by. Expect to see a poetry group that evokes the worst aspects of a typing pool or telemarketing firm. Expect demonstrations of technologies that have never before been seen outside science fiction. Expect breakdancers dressed all in white, popping and locking while digital video is projected onto their bodies. Expect disadvantaged youths to be given a perspective that has been economically denied to them.
The climactic Pop Filter party starting at 8 p.m. Aug. 14 will involve the entire Performing Arts Center/Art Museum/Post-Nipsco Matrix. The eastern section of Main Street will be closed off. Musician and poet Michael DuClos will perform, as will musician and actress Eszter Balint. Video artist David Sleep will return.
As with last January's installment of Pop Filter, it will be difficult for attendees to tell the difference between reality and theatrics, mockery and earnestness, experts and posers. Stuart will in some sense be Pop Filter's Willy Wonka: "Little surprises around every corner, but nothing dangerous!" Of course, Willy Wonka wasn't being entirely honest when he said that.
One of the aims of Pop Filter is to dispel a certain defeatist attitude that tends to permeate some discussions of Fort Wayne's zeal for transforming itself.
For more information, go to www.cityprototype.com.