When my family and I went to Paris last summer with Kris and her son, we stayed in the Montmartre. (And by the by, for anyone who thinks that sentence sounds snobby, please know that since that fabulous trip, we have been eating ramen and vacationing in Oroville while we pay off the credit card bill…). Our metro stop “sortie” funneled us past the Moulin Rouge, and the Place du Tertre was only a short, steep, smoke-filled walk from our apartment (about the equivalent of 6-8 blocks, or as I measured it, two crepe stands four boulangeries, one cheese shop, and about 15 cafes . . . sigh). Even though the area is now somewhat touristy and commercialized, the mention of “Montmarte” still conjures images of anbsinthe-addled artists communing to share vision and talent and wax quixotic on all things bohemian, of men like van Gogh, Matisse, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec living the artist’s life, of Picasso setting up his easel in the Place du Tertre. We’ve all seen Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen’s poster for the famous Montmartre cabaret, Le Chat Noir (yes, you know it, it’s orange and yellow with a large “artsy” black cat, can be found on postcards, canvas bags, and adorning the wall of at least one of your college friends, most likely the one majoring in theatre or dance), and maybe some of us (me) have wished we were part of the artistic community it’s come to represent.
Well, let me tell you . . . we are. The ideals the Montmartre have come to represent—a marketplace for creativity, the exchange of “big ideas,” a haven where emerging artists can rub shoulders with those who have paved the way—are alive and thriving and can be found . . . on Facebook. Artistic endeavors can feel lonely, especially in our modern world, where art is often relegated to hobby status—to something we fit in after work and the kids’ soccer practice and walking the dog and cleaning our toilets (my life is glamorous, no?). It’s not our “real job,” so we don’t bring it up in conversation, hesitate to ask for input from others, and often pursue it quietly and alone. But Facebook has changed that. In the past year, I’ve discovered many of my friends—not only those I’ve just found, but also those I know well—are artists. They are talented photographers, children's authors, video-game designers, choreographers, purveyors of cupcake creations, actors, models, tutu-makers, and rock stars. We may not live in the same place, but we can engage and innovate and inspire one another simply by putting our work out there. Nothing rips me from the banality of daily life and gets me back to the manuscript faster than reading about a friend starting a fashion/music/lifestyle company, or another friend touring with his band. So, for all its problems (no, I don’t care that you just bought a cow for your farm or that your fairy name is Princess fussypants), Facebook serves an important (I would argue necessary) purpose. Sure, it can be a time-suck, a voyeuristic escape, a narcissistic soapbox—but it can also be an artistic enclave without geographic constraint. To all the artists . . . let your light shine! Please, comment, and let us know about your creative endeavor.