And so we enter Townie Summer, when the weather’s still mostly decent (Tropical Storm José notwithstanding) and there’s room to breathe again.
There’s a lot to be thankful for in town this fall. We survived, somehow, the first season of the Trump administration’s restricted and belatedly issued numbers of H2B visas. Last weekend the gay pilots’ association put on a touching marriage proposal event at the Monument for two of their members. The Provincetown Book Festival took another step in establishing itself among the literary traditions of the Commonwealth. Tennessee Williams and William Shakespeare are sharing billets in town this week, no sharks attacked Swim for Life participants, and SKIP is reopening soon. In many ways, life is good.
But it might be a moment to stop and reflect on what it is that we’re doing right… and what we’re doing that’s not so right, what could improve.
I give you the Visitors’ Service Board’s new logo, which is so bad that even a non-artist (me, for example)—never mind the plethora of extraordinarily gifted local artists available–could conceivably have done a better job. And it’s not just artistically questionable; it runs counter to the goal of attracting a diversity of visitors to town.
When marketing firms and advertising agencies do branding, the first question is: who is the target audience? Advertisers need to appeal most directly to the consumers they want to attract to their product or service. Looking at this logo, it’s clear that there was no idea who the target audience is… well, either that or the designer just woke up from a forty-year coma. What I get out of it (and I’m not alone; see Howard Karren’s op-ed in the Banner) is that the intended audience is a just-came-out member of the LGBTQ community of the early 1970s.
In the early 1970s.
The logo is exclusionary, uninformative, and God-awful art. But it represents more than that. It represents a lack of process that should be disturbing to everyone in this town. How does something as important as the creation of a logo, which is for even the best of minds a challenging project, get so little attention until it surfaces as a fait accompli without input from the people whose lives and livelihoods are profoundly affected by whether it works or not?
It wouldn’t have been difficult to obtain that input. The very diversity of opinions here (which would undoubtedly have made the process more drawn-out, oh, well) is precisely what would have made for a logo that celebrates diversity. In his Banner piece, Karren suggests a logo contest; at the very least the town could have obtained several different logo concepts and invited opinions and possibly even a vote. Votes are good: your choice might not win, but at the very least you had a stake in the decision.
But the fault doesn’t just rest with the board. Having a say in things like this means stepping up to the plate. Ever since the logo was unveiled, Provincetown’s Facebook page has exploded with nastiness about it. That’s not process, either. That’s letting other people sit on the VSB and make the decisions. Should the board have opened it up to the community? Probably. Should the community participate more on boards and committees and commissions that make decisions like this one? Absolutely.
Process is difficult. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s much easier to work within a clear hierarchy where top-down decisions are made and those affected can like it or lump it. Process involves including everybody’s opinion, even when you think the opinion is bat-shit crazy. Process involves actively listening to each other instead of only pushing your own agenda. Process means respecting everyone’s voice equally and being open to ideas other than your own.
Wow. No wonder we don’t do it.
I have two thoughts here. The first is that we’re seeing in the current national administration the devastating effect that top-down decision-making can have on people’s lives. I may be wrong, but my sense is that many if not most people in this town don’t feel very good about that.
My second thought is this: if we don’t want top-down leadership, then we need to all be leaders. That means being proactive about the way the town is run, participating in decision-making, putting in the time and the effort to make a difference instead of criticizing those who do. If you don’t like the logo, volunteer for the VSB. If you don’t like other things that are happening in town, stand for election, go to the meetings, take part. Stop kidding yourself that being a troll on Facebook means that you care about your community.
This logo is the physical, graphic manifestation of nonparticipation in the running of the town. It’s the logo we deserve. It’s what happens when people don’t care, or when they care too late. Having more diverse voices on the board, artists’ voices even, might have been able to force more process into the decision-making and given us a better product. Those diverse voices don’t fall from heaven in a Glad bag: they’re the result of people believing in the town and wanting to do something positive for it and being willing to put in the time and sweat and frustration to make it happen.
In 1992, James Carville helped get Bill Clinton elected on the phrase, “it’s the economy, stupid.” In 2017, at least in Ptown? It’s the process, stupid.