Opening Remarks for Sep 15th 2008 ARTS CONVENTION
David M. Boje
September 15, 2008
Blacksmiths and Funding in New Mexico
Why is up-North in New Mexico getting more Arts Funding?
The goals you set tonight in each task force can change the patterns of storytelling in the Arts and Culture scene of Las Cruces & Mesilla Valley.
I have two questions tonight:
- How do you market arts and the arts scene of Las Cruces & Mesilla Valley?
- How can artists and museums, galleries, theatres, symphonies, book and journal publishers, music groups and film societies make more money in Las Cruces & Mesilla Valley?
My point is that art is not selling in Las Cruces & Mesilla Valley? Sure some is selling, but artists are not making a living. That is why Ruth Drayer, our Talking Stick Board member moved to Santa Fe. It’s why three galleries closed last year. There is a reason why the museums are asking for funding. And there’s a reason why New Mexico State University professors are paid about 15 to 20% less then the professors in University of New Mexico, also financed by the state.
Now here is story for you to kick it off.
I am a member of SWABA, the Southwest Artist Blacksmith Association. Susan Frary and Pep Gomez are my forge teachers.
I made a chisel with the help of Ben, Pep, and Susan at my first SWABA meeting. At my second, I learned to make a coal fire with something called a doughnut, and how to hold the hammer to so as not to have it bounce off the anvil and knock me out. When we got the fire going, I made three hooks to use in my barn, to hang the fly traps on to help out the Arabian horses. I turned the crank myself on a hand-operated blower.
Hopper Shannon is a blacksmith in Hatch. He designed the blacksmith building in Farm and Ranch Museum. He did it old style, with adobe bricks, and no air-conditioning, and electric motors. Hopper was the 1st blacksmith employed at the forge at Farm and Ranch Museum. That’s until Governor Richardson cut back the funding to the down-state museums in New Mexico. The blacksmiths teaching the craft were no longer on the payroll.
So Hopper’s student, Billy Provence volunteered to work for free, and so did Susan Frary. They work without wages several days a week. But the museum granted them the right to sell their back art to the visitors. They make knives, hooks for tools, and fire starters (a piece of forged steel and a flint stone). I bought two of Hopper’s fire starters. Its easy when he strikes it and makes the sparks fly. I still don’t have the hang of it.
Now here is the interesting part of my story. The state of New Mexico increased the funding to museums up-North, while decreasing the funding down-South.
I decided this Thanksgiving week, when I am off from the university to work all week with Pep and Susan, to really learn my black art. In January I’ll go take a class with Hopper Shannon in Hatch. He has told me No, he’ won’t teach me three times now. But I teach assertivness, and to me a no is just a request for more information.
The reason I don’t want to go up North to Santa Fe or Albuquerque to take a class is I think we have some fine blacksmith artists right here.
I did some comparisons. They are in a report I gave to the city and to the councilors. Its on the web at http://talkingstick .info
In FY 2008 arts funding to counties in New Mexico by the New Mexico Arts Commission (State Dept of Cultural Affairs, using Federal money from National Endowment for the Arts, and state monies), did something mighty peculiar.
If you compare the funding of arts organizations in this state between 2004 and 2008 here is what you see
Dona Ana county (down-South) in 2004 received $88,119 in grants (6.29% of total) and in 2008 got about half of that, only $49,574 (5.5%)
Now look at Santa Fe, up-North. In 2004 they got $169,632 (12.11%) and in 2008, it almost doubled, to $306,445 (34% of the total).
Now you could say that Dona Ana just put in fewer grants. I hear that story. But you got to admit the numbers tell quite a story. When you put the story of the funding of museums going up, up-North, and way down, down-South, I think there should be some kind of investigation.
Now next year I will be ready to take up an art by Great Grandfather mastered. He was a blacksmith in Goldendale Washington. Became a blacksmith after he and his daughter Wilda (my grandmother) crossed the Rockies in a covered wagon. They tried wheat farming, but could not make a go of it. Moved to town and became a blacksmith. Wilda and her brother Gerald became trick riders in the Rodeo. Gerald married Stella LaClaire of the Yakima tribe. My grand mother learned all about herbs and how to throw a rock to kill a rabbit for dinner, and how to bend a piece of wire to make a hook and catch a fish.
Let me tell you what its like to be an artist. My dad made wood clocks, pens and toys. Sole them at fairs all over Oregon. But the fairs charge him $300 to $500 for a weekend. He had to sell a lot of pens and yo-yos to make that money back. He had to sell a lot more to pay for the materials, and all those tools. And he had to sell even more if he was to earn money to pay some bills and buy some food. Still, he was the happiest man I ever knew, after he left the corporate world and become an artist. He died happy, asleep in his art shop, with a smile on his face, and the remote control in his hand. Kinda like to go that way myself, God willing.
Now keep in mind this is just storytelling, and you will have to investigate the facts for yourself. -- David Boje