Sites Alternative
Category: Resource
Written by Richard Garriott-Stejskal
Edited by Kellie Hanna

Artists on the edge open creative frontiers for the rest of us. They are the catalysts of change. Their work is not always understandable nor comfortable; and at times it may even seem to be down right fraudulent. But, without visions from the edge the world tends to cluster in the middle near places of sameness. If you are an edge artist working with artistic extremes you’ll find it hard to find a spot to show your work.

Galleries are interested in sales and few restaurants will show cows floating in formaldehyde. Resources and support systems are equally hard to access. An alternative is to move to New York where there is interest, support, an audience, and the hope of getting discovered by the arts editor of the New York Times.

When an artist leaves the community, the community looses a part of itself. Several folks, though, are working to make it possible for artists to stay. They are working to educate the community, to provide exhibition spaces and resources for artists to help them develop their portfolios and to provide a critical forum where artists can discuss their work.

The oldest of these efforts in Albuquerque is the Harwood Art Center. Founded by the Escuela del Sol Montessori, the Harwood has provided studio space for 50 artists, access to educational opportunities, and spaces for exhibitions and performances. The Harwood has been at the core of some major arts initiatives such as the “Prints of Albuquerque” and “Vehicle.” It has been blessed with strong leadership and a good deal of community support. Some artists, however, are concerned that the Harwood’s tie to Escuela del Sol and its status under the school’s board of directors means that it cannot exhibit really edgy, controversial work.

Site 2121 has been located at 2121 Isleta Blvd. deep in the heart of Albuquerque’s South Valley, and has been a major exhibition site and a support system for contemporary artists. Jon McConville, Da-Ka-Xeen Mehner and Sabra Sowell have for the past four years dumped their time, energy and money into making Site 2121 a viable proposition. Recently they have rented the second floor of a building downtown, and they are currently renting out studio spaces. There will be some exhibition space available, although the single staircase precludes anything beyond by invitational openings. They are also working with ARC Gallery to form a non-profit organization to develop a center for the contemporary arts.

ARC Gallery, the work of Michael Certo and Jessie DeLeers, sits on the corner of Mountain Road and Broadway near Downtown Albuquerque. Like 2121, ARC has been an exhibition space for numerous artists. They have shown over 250 individual artists between them. ARC specializes in providing a space for artists to experiment and explore new directions. Currently about one fourth of the building is being used for gallery space, and the rest is living quarters and studio space. Certo is certain that if he didn’t own the building they wouldn’t still be there. Like 2121, artists at ARC share in the cost of exhibiting, and Certo and DeLeers provide technical support. “It is like working two jobs to make this go,” states Certo.

The hope is to get non-profit status and to find funding for a center. Not only will this provide a stable organization, it will pay these folks for their efforts. The center as envisioned will provide increased exhibition space, a resource center and library, a place where artists can photograph their work, a forum to show slides and discuss each others' work, and a way to begin to educate an audience.

There is the hope that some sort of residency program can be developed that will allow for for visiting artist to come and work here. Certo says he has found that San Francisco has over 14 centers for contemporary art. Despite the differences in size, income, and sophistication, Albuquerque certainly needs at least one. If the energy and dedication that these people have shown over the past four years holds out, we’ll get it soon.

Santa Fe is not only the “city different,” it is the city of differences. On Pecos Trail in the old Armory is Plan B Evolving Arts--the closest thing to a community center for the contemporary arts. Actually, the current program evolved from the Santa Fe Center for Contemporary Art.

Ginger Myhaver, Michael Luhan, and Zane Fisher were brought in as project managers from OffSite, a small contemporary art gallery and work space in the warehouse district. There is a large exhibit space, a movie theater, a performance space, a small coffee shop, some studio work spaces and other resources available to artists in the community. One of my favorite programs was a kind of junk exchange shop. Artists would bring in their left overs for other artists to purchase. One man’s junk is...

Exhibits at Plan B are about as edgy as one can get. The gallery space is itself is pretty daunting and a bit overwhelming--a cross between a castle keep and a blimp hanger. But where else can one see a Jan Svakmajer retrospective?

On the other extreme is Site Santa Fe. Funded by big bucks, it brings in some of the edgiest artists from the international world of art. It sits in a renovated warehouse on Paseo des Peralta. It was designed around its first exhibit and hosts everything from the quiet contemplations of Agnes Martin to the twittering robotic machines in its current show. It also sponsors numerous lectures, performances and films. Site Santa Fe was founded on the idea that the city needed a not-for-profit space to show art from the edge. It is a startling discovery for a town so driven by the market and one Albuquerque hopefully will catch on to.

Harwood Art Center; 1114 Seventh St., NW; Albuquerque; 505/242-6367
Site 2121; 2121 Isleta Blvd., SW and 105 4th St., SW, 2nd floor;
Albuq.; 505/877-0970
ARC Gallery; 301 Mountain Rd., NE; Albuq.; 505/842-8016
Plan B, Evolving Arts; 1050 Old Pecos Trail; Santa Fe; 505/982-9854
Site Santa Fe; 1606 Paseo de Peralta; Santa Fe; 505/989-1199


Do you know of a similar organization in your community? We'd love to know about it! Write Kellie Hanna with your ideas.

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