The Santa Fe Art Institute offers themed artist residencies for a 1-3 month period throughout the year. The current residents started one week prior to our visit and the focus of their art projects while they are in residence is on water quality. We were invited to give a presentation on Public Transformation - our findings thus far and tips, tools and advise we have learned thus far, to share the story of the art / work that is happening in rural areas with the residents and to encourage them to start to think about including the rural communities in the area as part of their potential audience, subjects or participants in their projects. We broadcast the 20-minute presentation on Facebook Live and captured it on video, which we have share below. Please feel free to give a watch and ask any questions on our Facebook Group, which we will answer as soon as possible!
If you haven't heard already... Gus the Bus has decided to take a little break and stay in the lovely community of Show Low, AZ while we figure out what happened to his little engine that couldn't...
On our drive from Phoenix to Show Low, AZ, on the top of a peak in the White Mountains, Gus started spitting out some pretty serious smoke - we pulled over to the side of the road and filled up the tank with water, but he still wouldn't start. We had some lovely friends from the Arizona Department of Transportation (who LOVED the name of our project and took multiple window decals!), try to help us out, but he still wouldn't start. So, we had to call a tow truck and ride on the back of a flatbed trailer! After dropping the bus off at the garage, we carried on with our interview with Lisa Jayne that evening and she very graciously hosted us at her home!
The next morning we made our way to Williams Brothers Garage to find out that it was going to take quite a few days to even get IN to the engine to figure out what was wrong... and, quite a few more days after that to fix it! Well, even though Gus was such a great part of this project, we simply didn't have time to wait! There were so many interviews already scheduled, so many stories to hear, and so many new friends to meet!
So, we made our way to Enterprise, where the WONDERFUL Jason helped us out in the most major way! We rented Dan the Van, said "goodbye-for-now" to Gus, and hit the road to Gallup, NM for dinner and drinks after a looooooong day!
We are still not sure what is up with Gus, but we know that it is going to be a pretty penny... so, if you haven't donated to the Indiegogo campaign already, we sure would appreciate your support in helping to get Gus back! Click here to DONATE to the cause!
And, here is a little video we made about the transition from Gus the Bus to Dan the Van:
On January 6th, I pulled into Ajo, AZ in my little yellow school bus, where I had the sincere privilege of meeting a number of artists and leaders in the community. The video featured below includes snippets from interviews conducted with the following Ajo residents:
Emily and Stuart Siegel are the Co-Directors of the Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center - in this clip, they talk about being introduced to the term Creative Placemaking and how they balance their desire to be an arts destination with the realities of running a business;
Kat Anderson is a local muralist - in this clip, she talks about what attracts artists to Ajo and some of the initiatives of local artists and leaders to help revitalize the area;
Wolf is a local muralist whose work can be found on buildings all over Ajo - in this clip, Wolf talks about the role of the artist in community development from his eclectic studio;
Thomas Kiefer is a local photographer and former janitor at the border patrol station near Ajo - in this clip, Thomas talks about how he got started photographing artifacts that are stripped and discarded from people who are caught trying to cross the border. Check out his work at www.tomkiefer.com.
On January 4th, I had the sincere pleasure of interviewing artist and farmer, Nikiko Masumoto and her mother and father in Del Rey, CA. Below are verbatim excerpts and photos from that interview about the intersection of arts, farming, and community.
“Why isn’t someone who moves a shovel full of dirt a sculptor? You are altering your environment, you are giving it meaning - so, why not? I think that’s what every food worker / farmer does - I just don’t think we have built our cultural systems to value, appreciate and take time to acknowledge that work”
"In the new era of national discourse that we find ourselves in, part of me thinks “no the needs are the same” we might just be more awake to the essential work that has to be part of our daily lives - but at the same time I think that the field of arts and creativity has a lot to offer thinking about strategies on how to enact our world visions and I also think we are at this moment where it would behoove any of us who define ourselves anywhere in proximity to the word artists that we really think about developing deep alliances, coalitions, partnerships with unlikely partners."
"I was just having a conversation with someone about “publicness” being manifested in very different forms in rural places than in urban places - so that “public” technically often happens on private land - so our farm is private land, but it becomes public when we gather."
“I’m sure you read about the tragic Oakland fire, to me obviously we take a moment to pause and acknowledge how sad it was, but also to me it’s emblematic of how artists’ lives are mirrors of what we are doing wrong as a social body - there is no affordable housing for people who want to create and live out their imaginations and that is not specific only to artists, it applies to the lack of affordable housing for everyone. If we as artists do the work that creative placemaking is all about, which is not syphoning off a space just for our precious art, but making sure that what we do is integrated into these larger systems at play - that is the calling of the moment”
“One of our neighbors is a huge Trump supporter. There is no easy resolution, but because we are neighbors and he has bailed us out when our tractor breaks down… We are forced and invited to have a much more complicated understanding of the political and the personal, at the same time as having huge problems with his political ideology, we embrace what it means to be a neighbor and that’s something that I think is hard to do in urban spaces.”
Two months ago, I had no idea that I was going to buy a school bus and travel across the country interviewing rural-based artists - I had no idea that I would need to learn how to insure a converted school bus, to use the big truck diesel gas pumps, to wait until the "glow plugs" light goes off to turn the key - and, I had no idea that I would be having phone conversations with artists across the country in towns under 10,000 people planning the day that I pull into their community in said school bus to learn from their incredible work.
Then, the election happened... and the maps that showed the glaring divides between urban and rural surfaced... and, I bought a bus and planned a trip - a cross country rural art documentary and mobile artist residency kind of trip. And, with the help of some amazing partners (Springboard for the Arts, Creative Exchange, and Art of the Rural) and support from individuals through an Indiegogo campaign, I hit the road on January 4th.
I wanted to post this brief prologue to let any one who reads this blog know that what I will be posting on this blog will be excerpts, snippets, beginnings of themes, through-lines and connections, and basic reflections along the road. They will not be finished products - think of them more as trailers for a future product!
What that future product is - well, I still don't know... I am a processed based artist on a journey to learn from incredible people working in my field. I will be capturing these stories in many different formats and when it is all over, I will compile what I have learned into something that I hope will be useful and artful.
I am also thrilled that these findings will be presented at the Rural Arts and Culture Summit in June and at Art of the Rural's Outpost Gallery in Winona in July! I will be posting on this blog every three days, but if you want more regular updates, please join our Facebook Group or follow-us on Instagram @publictransformation.
Thanks for getting on the bus! More soon!
Hello world! It's that incredibly exciting and nerve-wracking time when you launch a brand new project that you care very much about! Eeeek! Currently, I am in the process of confirming the tour schedule by emailing and calling artists and organizations based in rural communities across the country. I pick up Gus, the bus, on January 2nd and will start posting regular updates at that time. Please follow along on this "Stories" blog starting in the new year. And, if you have any questions about the project, please feel free to be in touch - I love hearing ideas and collaborating on every step along the way... Here we go!