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On April 12th 2005 the Tucson Museum of Art held it’s annual art house raffle of the American Dream house, an upper middle class dwelling worth $550.000, to raise money for the art museum. This raffle represents the problem of an unsustainable life-style that uses up more of the world’s resources than its share. The house is a part of anti-cultural sprawl that exploits nature rather than maintains a balance with it. It isolates people into “nuclear family” hermitages when the reality is that families are broken with more than 50% of marriages ending in divorce. This housing model doesn’t provide people with what they need such as live/work spaces, convenient childcare and elderly care facilities, communal eating areas, public meeting spaces with neighbors, and access to agricultural lands and wilderness. This TMA “dream” house is an architectural and ecological nightmare. It’s totally dependent on fossil fuels and the automobile that perpetuates global conflicts for diminishing resources.

Social critic James Howard Kunstler writes in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, “We poured our national wealth into the construction of a living arrangement that has no future -- and the future is now here. The infrastructure of suburbia can be described as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It was deficient and problematic as a human habitat even apart from the question of its sustainability.”

Did the TMA board know urban sprawl created by building suburban single-family houses is one of the main reasons for the decline and extinction of thousands of indigenous plant and animal species? 70% of the people in the world live without adequate housing. Of this number, 640 million children don’t have shelter. In the US, people with low wages or the unemployed become homeless because of the lack of affordable housing. How can our housing crisis be solved by continue to build a model of development that destroys the ecology? To go on consuming resources the way we have been since the mid-20th Century and building an economy that is depended on constructing suburbia while depleting natural resources, we would need 40 Planet Earths.

The Arizona Daily Star reported an artist and part-time Tucson resident won the grand prize. The TMA raised more than $1 million from the raffle. Raffle tickets were $150 and only 8,500 were sold. The raffle had one winner and thousands and thousands of losers; we were all losers as more of the Sonora Desert was destroyed by another subdivision. Promoting such a prize showed me just how spiritually bankrupt and out of touch with progressive and artistic thinking the board at the Tucson Museum of Art might be!

The role of artists and by extension art promoters is to lead us toward a better world, not sponsor a nightmare that is one of the main causes of the destruction of the planet’s biosphere. Traditional nuclear family housing is the most conservative of American institutions, the malignant cell of a dysfunctional civilization. What chance do visionary artists have of getting their insights of a better way of life shown to the public when the people who run art museums can’t think their way out of sprawling grids and square boxes? When our art institutions promote visions of architecture that don’t work, then what future do we have?

Would I buy a raffle ticket to a drive-in suburban, dystopian nightmare “art house?” No way! But why not have a raffle to raise money for a new kind of holistic housing structure—what world renown, visionary architecture Paolo Soleri calls arcology, the fusion of architecture and ecology—a pedestrian-orientated ecocity designed to bring about social justice? I would love to chance to win a place to live in an arcology, a place where I knew I would be helping the world by being a pioneer of a sustainable life-style that could make all beings happy and free. Such a raffle would produce a win-win situation for there are no losers when our environment is saved, and people start putting their money into building a meaningful future where all people have what they need to self-actualize.


Human Extinction or Lovolution?