Friday, October 28, 2011

Change and State of the Arts in Northern Colorado

"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad." ~C. S. Lewis
Image by surrealist painter Rene Magritte

Change is good, although some may resist it, others resent it, but none can avoid it. Growth can be a painful experience but only through change can one achieve progress.

At this juncture, Valhall Arts is undergoing a shift in the way it operates. Going forward, the gallery will no longer be showcasing other artists, but instead will serve as the working exhibition space for Laura Brent, the artist. I am hanging up my 'gallery director' and 'curator' hats for the time being. This change was brought on by the ever increasing demands on time and a prioritization of my artwork above the running of a gallery, and promoting contemporary art to Fort Collins.

The general climate in this area has been lukewarm in its support of the arts in general, and icy-cold when it comes to interest in contemporary art. Due to this lack luster reception of contemporary art in Fort Collins, I will be putting my energies into art creation, and distribution/exposure to other areas of the country. The gallery will still be open during the First Friday Gallery Walks, held the first Friday of every month, 6-9 pm, and my contemporary artworks will still be shown, however the shows will be a looser arrangement of current projects in process, instead of juried, group, curated exhibitions.

Why is there this lack of interest in the arts in Fort Collins? There are those in the community who would have this be an arts destination in the spirit of Santa Fe, but we have a long way to go to reach this high ideal, and need a better foundation, and extensive improvements in the types and qualities of artworks created, exhibited and received in our town, to make this goal a reality. There is a superficial embracing of the arts, and misguided support by a local (unnamed) arts promotional group. There are too many resources and dollars spent supporting art activities that do nothing to create lasting effects for the art community. The program supporting street entertainments over the past few summers, is, in my mind, a flip-flop of how this sort of thing should work. These opportunities, if made available to working performers through legislation, could actually generate income for the city (through license fees, for example). Instead, funds were spent to promote buskers to bring their entertainments to the migrant visitors to our city. Instead, these resources could have been better spent supporting local, existing, organizations to build a permanent infrastructure and take us further down the road toward our goal of being an "Art Town".

The wealthy donors in the region, those who give generously to these promotional organizations do not seem interested in supporting the arts, or there is a lack of understanding of art historical models and metropolitan art cultures. We do have our newly built (and almost completed) history and science museum, and the university has a wonderful arts center with world class performing and visual arts. But the private sector in general, the visual arts field in particular, is filled with amateur/hobbyist infused art co-operatives, and a few remaining commercial galleries, each offering the expected 'western' souvenirs, (landscape paintings and photographs of aspen trees in their fall colors), these mundane and tired artworks, offering little in the advancement of the arts. Art can expand one's mind, bring the world to one's community and teach us something of ourselves and our culture. Instead, it seems, our community is only interested in being entertained.

Why this lack of diversity and interest in the arts? Is this due to an un-enlightened or un-educated art audience? With the higher educational institutions in our town, I would expect a better informed audience, with a more diverse understanding of art history and the cultural importance of showing important works to enhance of our local community. How else are we to achieve our goals, without high quality institutions and private organizations to bring this to the public? How can these organizations survive with out the support and commitment from the public?

I've been smelling something funny in my local art scene, a rotten egg is among us, and only through change can we become the bird we hope to be and fly into the future to become an art destination. At this point its all just scrambled, and I am ready for the next change.