Agog? Not I.

I’ve been considering writing about the arts building called GoggleWorks. It has recently opened in downtown Reading. Perhaps you’ve heard about it. Or perhaps you’ve been living under a rock in the hills of Berks County (I know, I know, “Greater Reading”) In any event, it has been a real dilemma for me. It’s the sort of thing I’m expected to appreciate. But I’m pretty much drawing a blank.Apparently, nearly all of the folks in our area who proclaim an interest in art and culture think GoggleWorks is just one of the best things to ever happen in Reading. There’s been a raft of effusive GoggleWorks media coverage. The movers and shakers as well as local opinion shapers can’t say enough to sing the praises of GoggleWorks. It has already been christened a grand symbol of a sort of Reading renaissance. That’d be great if it could somehow occur. But I’d be thoroughly surprised if it did – especially as a result of the existence of GoggleWorks. Searching for the rationale for the positive spin on this story, I asked my friends and other folks who think this is a great thing to explain to me what they are expecting will happen now that there’s a GoggleWorks in our midst.It seems to boil down to something like this: It may bring in tourists – people from out of town. And they’ll spend money there and in the city of Reading and “Greater Reading” – where they will stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants. I say it seems to boil down to this because when I pursue many of the other statements that sound good, folks admit they aren’t really the point and they don’t expect them to happen either. Statements like: “This will be something the citizens of Reading will support because they are interested in arts and crafts and culture in general” sound great but ring hollow. Reading is my city too. I was born here and I’d be more than surprised if the average local citizen has much of an interest in what’s up at GoggleWorks.Anyway, it’s a long shot – a very long shot. And if it was a business plan – it wouldn’t get off the ground. If it was a gamble – I wonder what kind of odds it would get. I’m generally suspicious of cultural phenomena that are imposed from the top. I’m sure there is a contingent of potentially supportive folks, such as those who gathered for the grand opening of GoggleWorks. I’m just not sure why the political, economic, and cultural elite need another marketing rep to promote what is clearly a giant marketing campaign already. In fact, I’d consider it somewhat unethical for myself as a cultural observer to jump on this particular bandwagon.I won’t be having much to say about the “cultural phenomenon” aspect of GoggleWorks. Cultural phenomena take time and are nearly impossible to anticipate. I’ll be visiting some of the individual exhibits and events at GoggleWorks and writing about them as things in themselves – just as I do about other events and other venues.* There is one aspect of the building that does make good sense to me – its educational possibilities. I hold Wyomissing’s Institute of the Arts and Reading Area Community College in high regard, for example. I think they’ve done more to uplift our citizenry than they typically get credit for. If GoggleWorks helps their outreach and benefits our citizens with extended educational opportunities – through these and other already existing cultural and educational institutions – that will be a laudable outcome.

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