from the Service-Works introduction
My name is Josh Greene. I am a 36 - year old artist and waiter. Service-Works is my own foundation that is designed to bridge the gap between my art career and my service industry career. Each month I dedicate one night’s worth of my tips to fund a project. For the past twelve years I have been doing art projects while making a living waiting tables. I currently work as a waiter in a fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco.
Four Service-Works Grants
Helena Keeffe's 256 Dollar Project
On February 25th, 2006 I sent out the following call to online list-serves (rhizome.org, craigslist.org, artsopportunities.org, cac.ca.gov, and artdeadline.com) and over 200 professional and personal contacts.
Call for Artists/Speech Writers $50 prize
Can you imagine a speech given by President Bush that would convince you that he has had a change of heart and could actually be the president of your dreams?
It is all too easy (and seems to get easier and easier) to criticize our president and his administration. Life changing events (often of the extremely painful variety) force us to reevaluate our values and actions. What if this happened to our president. What if he were humbled in some way which caused a profound change in his outlook on life and his role as the the leader of our country - turning the aggressive posturing of an all-attack-all-the-time leader into a gentler, wiser soul determined to demonstrate the power of honesty and vulnerability. Channel your frustration, use your wit and ingenuity to write "the speech that shocked the world." Send your 1-2 page typed speech to me by March 6th at email@example.com to be considered for the award of "most convincing" speech. The winning speech will be read by a Bush impersonator and made into an audio recording which will be available to the public on my website. The winner will receive a $50 cash prize and a copy of the audio recording.
I received several responses in support of the project but not a single serious attempt at writing a speech. Finally, two days after the deadline, I received news that a group of first graders from Rooftop Elementary in San Francisco, had written speeches. Upon receiving their humorous and thoughtful contributions I found a most convincing George W. Bush impersonator in Jim Meskimen. In lieu of awarding the young speech writers a monetary prize, I elected to use the funds to throw them a cake party. Photographs from the party, as well as the Bush impersonator's reading of the kids' speeches are below. Please enjoy these two speeches from Melissa and Natalia.
Lumi Sugazawa O'Neill
The Making of 256 Dollars
The night I worked for Helena Keeffe was fairly ordinary. I did have one table of note. Prior to the table being seated I received a TC from the hostess. A TC is a small note that contains relevant information about a table, such as dietary restrictions, celebrations, and other details. This particular TC had a quoted note from the guests' online reservation. It read, "it's our 25th anniversary, please bring my beautiful bride something chocolate for dessert." After several minutes of waiting on this couple it was clear that their love was still going strong. They sat on the same side of the table and were cuddling and exchanging affection between courses. On a few occasions the man referred to his wife as "my beautiful bride." Towards the end of their meal, my front waiter (sort of like my assistant) informed me that the couple had asked to have a menu autographed by the staff. I approached the table and they confirmed that they did in fact want a signed menu. They told me that they collected menus and kept them in their wine cellar. The gentleman went on to tell me that what they like to do is go to the cellar, open up a nice bottle of wine and peruse their autographed menus reflecting on all the fine meals and service they've enjoyed over the years.
Jenny Zhang's 210 Dollar Project
Since moving to San Francisco two years ago, I've been writing stories, not showing them to anyone, and feeling sporadically lonely. I've always believed that stories possess unifying and connective powers rather than alienating ones, so I decided to write a short story over a period of twenty-one days and send each day's writing by postal mail to six people I know in some capacity.
Each morning, I would print out what I wrote the day before, date it, and mail it off in an envelope without my name or a return address to the following recipients: my video store clerk whose paintings I recently saw, an elderly woman who lives in my apartment building and has the most marvelous name, a young man I met on the Caltrain three years ago who sends me Christmas cards during the holidays, a man in Paris whom I once subletted an apartment from, a woman who works at my local grocery store, and Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor of the New Yorker.
As I was writing, I tried to incorporate the recipients of my story into the story itself--borrowing details, both imagined and real, about my recipients and inserting them into the lives of my fictional characters.
After sending out the last section of my store, I took a month's break before looking over what I had written. I spent three days putting in the deletions, additions, and revisions I had made over the period of twenty-one days, along with some additional new edits, and organized the story into sequential order. I sent my completed story to my original six recipients with the following handwritten note attached, "Thank you for reading my story in progress. Here is a complete draft for you to read."
The entire story can be found and read as a whole or in parts at http://mailedstory.blogspot.com/
The Making of 210 Dollars
This particular night was fairly slow. It seemed to be nearly over by 8:30 when a solo-diner was sat in my section. I received a note from the hostess with some information about how many cases of wine this guy has in his collection, as well as his love of cheese. When I approached the table I noticed the man - a pretty robust fellow - had a digital camera and a notepad on the table. He quickly made it clear that he was a very serious diner as he proceeded to drop the names of a few internationally renowned chefs. He referred to them by their first names and mentioned that one chef recently prepared a 50-course meal for him. On this particular night he ordered the 11-course tasting menu. I noticed that throughout his meal he would frequently talk to himself about the food. At one point during his meal, he detailed the remainder of his west coast gustatory itinerary. I imagined that he was going to be eating all of the meals alone and I wondered if he was content being a solo diner or perhaps would prefer to have a bit of company.
Amanda Herman's 450 Dollar Project
I met Anjoli Cooper in October of 2005 in Oakland, California. After fleeing their home in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Anjoli and her mother were living at the Jack London Inn. Over the next year I worked with Anjoli as part of a project about Katrina evacuees living in California. During this time she moved out of the hotel and was placed in an apartment in Oakland. While there her apartment was broken into three times. Anjoli had lost all of her possessions in New Orleans as a result of Katrina and what little she owned in California--primarily donated items--was stolen during the breakins.
I have used the Service-Works grant to establish my own insurance company. It will provide Anjoli with a retroactive renter's insurance policy to replenish what she lost in the storm and multiple robberies. The retroactive policy will also provide her with renter's insurance (issued through a slightly more established insurer) for the next year. Anjoli recently turned 21 and is a student at the Treasure Island Job Corps program.
According to estimates made soon after Hurricane Katrina, the costs of uninsured losses have reached the $100 billion mark, while costs of reimbursing people with insurance reached 34 billion.
The Making of 450 Dollars
As I continue to write about my work as a waiter I have begun to notice that one night is nearly indistinguishable from the next. Sure, some nights are busier and more exhausting than others. And of course on a given night there is bound to be some moment of tension -- perhaps a misunderstanding with the chef or a co-worker, but these days I have found that it is sort of like I am on auto-pilot at work. Recently at line-up (this is the time before service starts where the chef and manager talk to the front-of-the-house staff about various things) my manager was saying something like, "when you are waiting tables and you are going through your mental list of things to do..." As he said that I don't use a mental list of things to do. To a certain degree it has become intuitive and there is very little active thinking that is done. This is not to say that I am not engaged in what I am doing, but rather taht I have figured out how to do what I need to do in an efficient manner. Coincidentally, over the past couple of weeks I have had several guests comment on what a "calming presence" I have.
This month's grant is significantly larger due to an unsolicited donation and a contribution from a curator of an exhibition I am going to be in in April
Stuart Keeler's 215 Dollar Project
I created a series of "commemorative" plaques that detail aspects of my experience as a gay man in Chicago. Each stainless steel plaque, semi-permanently installed, is etched with the location, date, time and exact words that were expressed to me in the public realm.
The Making of 215 Dollars
Recently I have noticed that I am one of the older people on the staff at my current job. Many of my co-workers are in their mid-twenties. It is kind of funny to me to think back to my own early-mid-twenties waiting tables. I was full of idealism back then. Working as a waiter was a good way to have time to do my own projects during the days and of course, I never thought I would end up as a "career waiter." I remember how I used to think of my older co-workers and wonder why they were waiting tables. They all seemed at best mildly frustrated. It seems that I have become them.
Service-Works (documentation on more grant projects)
Josh Greene's Some Parts Might Be Greater Than the Whole: A Social Studies Initiative is on view at the Arizona State University Art Museum February 18 - May 18, 2008, where he will be artist in residence through April 14, 2008. For further information on other projects of Josh Greene's please visit his website http://www.josh-greene.com/