ART Magazine. San Antonio, Texas.
By Haydeé Muñoz De la Rocha
Contemporary Art Month is right around the corner. This year’s CAM will be more “alive” with some new things happening. Miss CAM Antonio, the Perennial Exhibit, and their new establishment as a non-profit organization are some of the accomplishments for this year’s co-chairs Ben Judson and Roberta Hassele.
Roberta and Ben, How has your experience been as co-chairs of this year’s Contemporary Art Month? What changes are you two responsible for?
Roberta: Ben and I have implemented some pretty cool stuff. For example, we are having the first CAM Perennial, which will be opening in collaboration with the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. We brought in a curator from Dallas, Frances Colpitt, who used to teach here at UTSA so she has a lot of people who respect her and studied with her. The other thing is that Artpace has moved their family day to March so it can be a CAM event with the help of Kaela Hoskings, Curator of Education at Artpace, who is one of our board members. We are really excited about that. Another key factor for Ben and I when we walked into this as a partnership was that we really want CAM to become a solid non-profit organization. We want to make sure that whenever it is that we exit, whether it is this year or next year or the year after that, that CAM is an official on its own non-profit organization.
Ben: There are a few things. There is structural stuff going on behind the scenes and then there are more organizational things. This is the first time that we organize an exhibit during CAM that is sponsored by the organization itself rather than just helping to promote other organization’s events. This is the first time we have collaborated directly with the Guadalupe Center. Also, we have been a little more hands-on in collaborating with Blue Star for the opening event this year. In the past years we have been there supporting the event but it this is the first year we have been more involved in the planning with things like Miss CAM Antonio. I am very excited that Artpace moved its family day to CAM, it is really exciting to be collaborating with other organizations like SAMA, the McNay, the Southwest School… This year there has been much more collaboration than in the past couple of years. We are also stabilizing CAM as a non-profit. We recruited some new board members and we formed our Advisory Board. Therefore, as our Executive Board changes, even though the plan is that there will always be artists on the executive board, we want to guarantee there will always be a strong artist voice in the organization. There are eleven members in the Advisory Board now, if there is any changes the Artists on the board provide a lot of input to make sure that CAM stays with the artist community of San Antonio in mind.
What was your goal with CAM this year?
Roberta: Our goal with CAM this year was to implement some new things to give it a new life. You know? CAM has been around for twenty-seven years and we really wanted to do some new stuff, things that we have not done before. Our mission is really to spread the word of Contemporary Art Month in San Antonio and nationally we want everyone to know that San Antonio has an amazing Contemporary Art Month. There is so much that goes on. Especially like Luminaria or all of these amazing galleries that bring not only local artists but artists from everywhere. The city offers great work. The public art has become so much better in San Antonio, it is so beautiful and vibrant, everywhere you turn there is something new being installed and some other artist is creating a piece that is going to go on the river or along the bridge downtown. It is very exciting. We would like to see more collaboration, like this year’s collaboration with the Guadalupe and also with Blue Star for the kick-off party.
Ben: Our goal is always to change and stabilize the organization and to strive to make people excited about CAM. Hopefully, though that excitement other people outside of San Antonio will hear about it.
Are there any plans in the future to select which exhibitions will be participating or to implement any measurements to raise the bar and to prioritize quality over quantity?
Ben: Right now we don’t have plans to make a selection. It could happen in the future, but in the immediate future we do not plan to do that. One thing that we started doing last year is having on the calendar recommended events. If you go to our website there are some events that are recommended if you look at a particular week there will be one or two events that are recommended. But we are still trying to be really inclusive and we will not prevent people from actually getting in the calendar.
Tell me a little more about the Cammies. Which awards are you having this year? Will they be the same as last year? Who will select the winners?
Ben: It will be pretty much the same than last year. They were created by a former board member with the idea of trying to highlight work that pushes boundaries. There is one for participatory art, another one for moving into new approaches of art making…We plan to have people voting again this year rather than having a panel.
Roberta: They are selected by voting, people go to our website and vote. There is no panel, there is no judging, it is you go on there and you vote. You can vote, I can vote, everybody can vote. This year though we are making something different. We are probably going to have some cool tractor trophies. In the past we used to have sculpture trophies but my understanding is that the last couple of years it was only certificate awards. And of course all that is coming from donation. Everything that we do is coming from donation.
The purpose of CAM is to promote contemporary art and help with marketing local artists. CAM is now very popular within the arts community. What efforts are being made to promote the event with the general public?
Roberta: Well, we met early on with the Convention & Visitors Bureau so that they can help us with some Public Relations outside of San Antonio. I believe in the past we have had CAM advertised on Spirit Magazine from Southwest Airlines. We try to do a lot of PR work in Austin, Houston, and Dallas so we can get them up here and reach the market as close-by as possible.
Ben: What we are hoping is that by raising the social media profile over the last couple of years information will spread that way. Also, we are promoting through the Current and some of general media outlets like that. In the past we reached out to some of specific communities by collaborating with the Symphony in 2010… things like that. This year the main initiative is the Perennial. I believe creating social media participation will help to reach to the community.
What is your goal with the Perennial Exhibit? Will CAM organize more events in the future?
Ben: The Perennial… we are thinking it will be something that happens annually. Right now we don’t have any plans to organize more events. We are bringing a curator from out-of-town to increase awareness of San Antonio’s artists to people outside of San Antonio. I don’t see it as a beginning of a move towards the whole thing being centrally curated or anything like that.
Roberta: One of the things we are achieving with the Perennial and with the help of the Guadalupe and Artpace is that we will be providing some educational programming during the run of the show. We are reaching out to the schools and teachers to bring them in to check out the work and tell them a little bit about the artists.
How do you think CAM will be different from last year? Where do you see it going in the future?
Roberta: CAM is going to be totally different from last year. We have the Perennial, the kick-off party is going to be very alive, the studio tours, we are going to have signage sheets this time, that is all coming by donation. All the studios will have a number and a CAM sign on it. We have found more sponsors this year. Vino30 will be sponsoring all of our events. We had a fundraiser at the Limelight, which we had never done before. There are just some really great things.
Ben: As I said earlier, we are doing some collaboration between local organizations. In the future, we would like to see that the most significant art organizations would play a more significant role in planning the event besides planning their own events. We hope that they will become more active in the event. Every year there is a lot of individual galleries and organizations that come up with very cool innovative ideas and events every year and our role has been to draw attention to them. We are going to play the same role as we have in the past, but we are looking to have more collaboration and form more connections in between local art institutions.
Contemporary Art Month will have its kick-off party on March 1st from 6:00-9:00 pm at Blue Star Arts Complex. For more information about CAM and to see the calendar of events go to their website contemporaryartmonth.com