This is a story of how one artist, and art, transformed a Portuguese fishing village into a world art teaching capital, Provincetown – and how the wife of his son has transformed the music world in New Orleans.
The most incredible art blog/website I have ever seen is the story pulled together by a famous writer of the New York Times, David Dunlap. It tells the story of the transformation of Provincetown from a sleep Portuguese fishing town at the butt end of Cape Cod into an art powerhouse. Every art capital should have a blog like this!
Fritz Bultman was the kingpin of American abstract impressionist art in the mid-20th century. He had two axes: New Orleans and Provincetown. For a great article about Fritz Bultman:
I got to know Bethany Bultman and her husband, son of Fritz Bultman, through endless months I used to spend in New Orleans – where she is a very active force and participant in the radical faeries group there. (The faeries reinvented themselves in NOLA into an artists-of-all-kinds group.) Bethany generously hosted radical faerie potlucks at the Bultman Mansion on St. Charles Avenue while I was there. The faeries are always up for a party – and parties are often at the core of NOLa’s events and art activities.
Bethany spearheaded many initiatives to keep NOLA’s artists alive. It started of course with NOLA’s jazz musicians. Playing gigs all over, surrounded by booze and drugs, no nutritional core, little exercise had resulted in an average life span of 45 for a musician down there.
The kicker was that when Bethany started researching the health care musicians were getting she discovered one startling fact: 85% of musicians were getting their only medical care in the emergency room, after the fact, when it was too late.
Being a mover and shaker in town Bethany confronted the hospitals who were paying for that expensive emergency care and pointed out that providing comprehensive medical care pre-emptively and preventively would cost far less. And would result in simpler conditions to treat – upstream rather than downstream, when it was simply too late. And the musicians of NOLA might stand a chance of surviving – and even possibly thriving.
Otherwise with NOLA’s musicians dying at 45 there would be no passing on of the great music traditions that had made NOLA so great. The traditions simply would have little chance of being passed on. With the grand old masters dying so early NOLA’s musicians would quickly be reduced to starting from scratch – and trying to guess what has made jazz so great – so far.
Knowing the peculiar nature of artists through faeries Bethany stressed the importance to keep the medium and the message narrowly focused on the immediate needs of NOLA’s musicians – and that everyone musicians came into contact with in the system be trained in the vocabulary, concerns, overall lifestyle, and context of what it was like to be a struggling musician in NOLA today.
Nothing’s perfect. Lots of mistakes were made on all sides. But initiatives were targeted, and communications couched in terms, that these artists felt comfortable with – that they could own.
The experiment has been a growing success of the two steps forward, one step back, kind. But successful enough to gradually include other artists. And everyone is gradually winning in this war on physical deterioration and breakdown.
In this light Bethany has done in her own way and in here own milieu what her husband’s father, Fritz Bultman, did in transforming not just art in Provincetown and on the Cape – but in transforming the town itself from a quiet Portuguese fishing village into a mecca for artists where summer after summer art flourished by being taught by established artists to those trying to find themselves in art. Fritz reinvented the concept of the art colony in America’s oldest continuous art colony: P’town.
Fritz Bultman was a major art force in the mid 20th century, a famous impressionist – and a major player in the art world at that time.
A separate posting in www.PerOnArt.wordpress.com will describes that incredible David Dunlap website/blog that visually – of course! – describes how Fritz did that – and what the lives of artists in Provincetown looked and felt like in that crucial turning point era. I am grateful to have spent time with Bethany and her husband Fritz in Provincetown – and especially grateful to the curator of the town’s art collection at the time, Stephen Borkowski. (For the best overview of this story in pictures and in detail see the book Stephen co-authored with Alexander J Noelle and contributions by James R. Bakker, The Tides of Provincetown: Pivotal Years in America’s Oldest Continuous Art Colony (1899-2011).
Bethany in her own way did what needed to be done – and what could be done – in her art world in New Orleans – just as Fritz revolutionized art on the Cape.
That to me is becoming a Bultman tradition.