Fishing for Folks

In a parking lot across from the actual waterfront
In a parking lot across from the actual waterfront (I’m in the middle).

1.  I acted out a business and tourist attraction that happens all the time here, but in a place that literally made no sense. I live in a small fishing town on the coast of North Carolina, USA. I chose to go fishing in this empty parking lot (pic 1). The lot belonged to a family seafood restaurant that closed. There are several other restaurants nearby, and across the street is the Intercoastal Waterway, where many fishing charter boats dock. In this town, there is little else to do that is not tied to the water, either directly or otherwise. Unfortunately, a decline in population has happened over the past generation and the town and county leaders are stymied about how to sustainably reverse this. I think more people participating (akin to the flash mob idea) would have garnered a greater social response, although I still love the concept.

2. I will admit that time was of the essence for this project: it was about 24 hrs between reading/watching the assignment and actually going out there. I didn’t want to wait any longer as I knew Saturday would have the highest foot traffic and, therefore, likelihood of engagement. I casted for about an hour. While a lot of people passed by on the other side of the street, only a handful walked directly by me and none stopped to ask what I was doing. Even though the parking lot is very obviously not for use, the chain is not up on the pillars near me (I’m in the middle in pic 2), and a car nearly ran over me as it turned in. Finally, at the end of the hour, one older gentleman did holler across the road “Catch anything yet?” I responded with “nope, think I need to try somewhere else”, a fairly standard response among fisherfolk when on the beach. My husband (who took the pics and was across the street) said he heard the gentleman remark “Cause if she is, I’ll go get my rod!”

3. I kept in mind the idea of “Readymade” art, that of displacing a thing or action is what causes it to be considered art. My family only recently moved here from a larger metropolitan area in the state. I am an Arts Administrator by training and practice. It confuses me how this area can be so tightly focused on one resource (the water) and not able to see other ways to use it or other resources and industries that could be used to revitalize the area.
I was also thinking about what Enrique Penalosa said about the need for communities to have “good public spaces” and how “sidewalks should be more like parks or plazas.” Fishing can be a solitary or communal pursuit, yet few people treat the beaches and waterways here as anything more than their own personal playspace. And while this particular streetscape has broad sidewalks, piers, and many restaurants, people do not treat it as a “third space” but as a “point a to point b.”
A lot of my recent research and work has been with our Cultural and Folklife departments here in the state, and I was pondering what Commissioner Finklepearl said about spatial politics as relating to different cultures. I moved from a place that was overwhelmingly more diverse (pick your marker) than here. The culture here is born from the Core Sounders, from fishing and other water industries, from tides and weather. But this culture is not as vibrant–as in money-generative–as it once was, and other cultures (again, pick your marker) are moving in and have the potential to take over. How can I as a new member of this community “fish” for how to support both of these audiences: those who have been here for generations and are opposed to change even though it’s coming AND those who are new/different with new ideas who can bring new life to the area?