ALBUQUERQUE — As arts communities across the nation work to develop long-term sustainability in the face of the shifting economy, getting people talking together seems like a good first step. Arts Listening Project (ArtsLP), a new initiative by the Albuquerque-based ArtSpark, aims to support artists and creatives in their quest for economically sustainable careers. They do this through facilitating dialogues not just with artists but the larger community, including small businesses, government representatives and others.
ArtsLP’s first site for dialogue was Silver City, a city of about 10,000 located a few hours south of Albuquerque. It’s fairly well known in the state for its arts community. “ArtSpark chose Silver City, NM, because it is a community with rich artistic and cultural resources,” noted ArtSpark founder Kristine Maltrud in an interview with Hyperallergic. “It is also a small community with a history of people working together to solve problems, and the arts and culture community is strong and connected.”
Per Maltrud, 15 people were present for a daylong conversation, and they came from different sectors of Silver City — not just the arts. “The ArtsLP seeks to uncover how existing resources are used and leveraged,” Maltrud said, adding that they also look at “what parts of the community are participating in arts and culture (and what parts of the community are not), and how the community might break down the silo boundaries of different sectors and make best use of already-existing resources.”
This approach seems to recognize that the success that an arts community faces is often systemic in nature. “Bringing in different sectors brings in new perspectives, new ideas and, often times, very different actions, resources (very important) and even solutions,” Maltrud said. “The multi-sector approach also can create conflict, but so far that’s not been unmanageable or even particularly negative. Challenging, yes, but I believe that’s a good thing.”
According to a report developed by ArtSpark, the group focused on the question of community support of the arts and brainstormed around what could make that better. Challenges explored weren’t just about money (an admittedly vital issue for so many arts organizations) but a greater diversity of outreach, better marketing and perceptions about art world elitism. These are common themes amongst many dialogues around engendering support for the arts, but ArtsLP helped draw connections with these ideation sessions and the stakeholders and organizations that could help them make it happen.
While the ideas generated by the dialogue are many, focusing them — and turning them into action — will be critical to success and no doubt more difficult. Maltrud remains optimistic, and she hopes to see ArtSpark supporting the dialogue as it continues, using both the internet and in-person visits: “Following up repeatedly after a community dialogue process is essential for planned actions to turn into actual action.”