Shortly after Hundred Waters announced the second Arcosanti festival, FORM, which required would-be attendees to fill out an application, criticism arose on social media platforms. Curating performers was one thing, but now bands were curating their audiences? Is this to be a private party for the music Illuminati 1%? And why isn’t it all ages?
After directly responding to some tweets, Trayer Tryon of Hundred Waters posted an explanation on their Facebook in an attempt to clear up the questions surrounding the exclusive nature of this year’s FORM. Tryon stressed that the festival was taking place in a remote desert community, that capacity was limited out of respect for the space and its residents, and that invitations would be based on a number of factors which would include enthusiasm but not “coolness.”
hey yall we’ve been getting a few questions about arcosanti and wanted to address some things that weren’t super clear
(1) why do you need to do an “application” to go?
arcosanti is a handbuilt home shared by ~50 ppl way out in rural arizona. the situation is very different from a bar or a festival ground and it has different natural requirements. it can handle about 500 more ppl, plus musicians, their guests, and crew.
typically capacity issues are dealt with by making something expensive, first-come-first-serve, or a lottery
making it expensive would mean only wealthy people can come. not down.
making it first-come-first-serve would favor the sibling who calls “front seat”, and exclude lighter internet users
making it a lottery would lead to ppl making multple rsvps and ”sitting on” rsvps they aren’t sure they want to use
due to the difficulty of getting out there, there’s a high probability of ppl canceling. having a bunch of cancels is no good- the capacity is small already & there are other ppl who really want to come. thus we needed an rsvp system that takes a lil more effort so that only ppl with real interest take time to do it
so we thought up the application thing. ppl who want to come write stuff and send it to us. basically we are all guests at arcosanti (us included) and that’s the giant guest list. juggling a guest list of 500 ppl we don’t know will be a difficult exercise in fairness and looks very daunting. but it’ll also be fun reading what ppl write. […]
what this is *not* is a coolness contest. that means nothing and is irrelevant to our lives. this is also not an exclusive vip party, not an ask-a-punk secret show, and its not davos. this is a free show for 500 ppl in a big weird house in the middle of nowhere with us fronting all costs and effort to give people the best time we possibly can.
According to the post, the organizers had wanted to make the festival all-ages but had to enforce age restrictions due to the constraints of the space as well as local liquor laws.
Is it exclusive to throw a festival in the middle of nowhere for 500 people? Possibly. Is it more or less exclusive than throwing a festival with a $200 price tag? What about throwing shows in 200-capacity spaces in New York City? Or badge-only SXSW showcases? How about more implicit exclusions based on things such as class privilege and cultural and social capital? What are the endemic legal and financial hurdles that prevent some arts events from being open to all ages crowds?
While their might not be a “right” answer, questions about how to negotiate access to limited resources, how to balance intentionality and inclusion, how to address exclusivity in cultural spaces, and how to throw festivals that don’t suck are ongoing conversations that we should be having with each other on a regular basis.