...and a happy NEW year!

Greetings Community! We're happy to welcome you to our new blog! We had an amazing conversation at our first “Conversations Over Caldo” in November and this blog is a product of that conversation. We want to keep the conversation going. We’ll keep our language simple, not only because we’re humble, but also because the last thing we want to do is exclude a community through a foreign language that only the most "artsy" of artsies speak. We’re prepared to see very few comments or pieces of feedback (knowing fully that the current trend in El Paso tends toward a lack of engagement or feedback or even interest at times) BUT our hopes are high for some interaction in this space and we’re certainly up to the challenge of making it happen. We’ll get better at finding the best ways to say things; maybe not the safest or the most flattering for our city or on the other hand, maybe too polite or not fiery enough, but we’ll keep it as real as we can.

Every month (at least once) we’ll post a new entry here. We’d like to open a space where ideas can be shared and stored for ongoing discussion. We ask that you feel free to comment on these posts! We’ll be bringing you interviews with local artists—the OGs and the newbies! We’ll also be shooting interesting articles and reviews out to you through this blog. We are also excited to invite you to submit posts to us for consideration, if you would like to use this open forum for your ideas! We only ask that you make sure to write about art (preferably art in El Paso). You can take that any way you like from any angle or aspect of art you can think of- expand, criticize, break down, compare. We only ask that you keep it constructive. You’re also welcome to share your experiences here and provide advice for local artists if you’d like. If you have work you’d like to share, email us so we can find a way for people to access the work through our website! We’re working hard on the ongoing creation of a database of local art work that allows for you to send us your work and have it posted here. There’s a lot simmering in the pot right now. All we need is YOU. For our first entry, we felt it would only be appropriate to share a New Year greeting to all of you from one of our cofounders. Enjoy!

Greetings Friends and El Paso Family! I’m happy to create the first post of the new year on our newly designed website! The Caldo Collective had an incredible inaugural year. We welcomed over 400 members of the community to participate directly in the arts toward a measurable increase in access to the arts and opportunities for artists. During only three “Frijol Feasts” community dinners, the community supported 12 local artists and their ideas and directly funded three of those artists’ projects. “4 Years”, a dance production created and directed by Maximillion Hawkeye Canion, “Seed of Benevolence”, a philanthropic art project by Diane Vera and “Panza Llena, Corazon Contento”, a ceramic sale aimed at fighting hunger by Alejandro Perea were the projects selected by the community to receive funding from a total of $5000 raised throughout the year! We count our inaugural year as a massive success in grassroots action to improve access to the arts and art opportunities in El Paso.

I thought the best way to begin this written adventure was to share our very own beginning. I’ve had the fortune of creating some very unique opportunities for myself. I value art because I have seen it change communities. I have been an active part of that change. I value art because there is a noticeable and measurable difference in communities when art is a part of them. This collective was founded so that all of its cofounders might share all that we’ve learned with you. Our hope is to grow over the next few years to serve the El Paso community through dynamic and contemporary *community-driven* art services and eventually become a fully functioning 501c3 non-profit organization. We’ll keep building as we go, but for now, I’m happy to share where we’re coming from. The first, and probably most important, reason we exist is our dedication to this community and its culture(s). Now, when we use the word “dedication” we would like to be really clear about what we mean. We don’t mean we are dedicated in a way that binds us to reflect upon a culture and way of life that no longer exists, or that excludes people from a dialogue or participation in cultural exchange. We’re not interested in labeling ourselves or anyone with titles and demographics that no longer apply or that lead to segregation or the territorializing of ideas (something we feel tends to happen in our border city). We’re into a lack of boundaries. When we say we’re dedicated to our community what we mean to say is that we’re dedicated to contributing to (if not creating) an increase in creative productivity and access to those products. We’re dedicated to contributing to a cultural (r)evolution that is responsive to the 21st century. We’re dedicated to the widening of the public’s view so that new forms of creative communication can be integrated into common language (instead of packaged nicely and pushed on people.) We’re dedicated to honoring, not exploiting, the visual cues and themes that have made this border city unique. We are dedicated to asking questions and guiding (when and if we feel we’ve found some answers) instead of forcing, expecting or assuming. We’re dedicated to our belief that this community has a plethora of creative capital (sitting idly in both artists and non-artists) and, through the right channels and with methods that respond to and engage wider audiences of people (not the kind you see every month at the museum) the public can foster and cultivate that creative capital in a way that values art as this city’s most powerful tool for growth.

The second is our desire to increase access to art AND the contemporary ideas that it can catalyze, explore, question, dissect and reveal. Simply put, we see art as a way to educate ourselves about and explore the world around us AND beyond us. We feel it’s particularly important in El Paso to be willing to look beyond our immediate world and see what else is out there and how folks are making things happen in other cities. We don’t think we should take from them and implant here. In fact, this collective is based on an international model of grassroots organizations that create opportunities for artists; only, we’ve made our formulas, our own strategies, that respond to our community. We believe El Paso is so important for its geographic location and isolation, its unique cultural identities (we’re not just referring to the part of the city’s identity that comes from the other side of the border), for the beauty of our surroundings and most importantly for the potential we have to grow responsibly. We don’t believe that only certain groups of people should have the privilege to engage in creative processes and experience art in their everyday life. We want to see art work (pun intended) everywhere- on the streets, in windows, in vacant lots, in ditches, in allies, on buses, in the trees and in your front yards…to start. We’re not into sitting and waiting for others to make venues happen for us. This year, we’ll be bringing art to you in just a few of these spaces with a tiny kick start from the National Endowment for the Arts and Texas Commission on the Arts through the City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department’s “Community Art Program”.

The third reason we started this collective is probably the most simple of our reasons. We’re really hungry. We’re not hungry for food in our bellies. We’re hungry for art in our souls. We want to see more of it. We want artists to make more of it. We want the community to have more of it. We want everyone to be able to feast their eyes. We want a community that values its artists and understands that hanging a work of art in your home is as important as buying books to fill your bookshelves, stickers for your bumpers or plants for your garden. Going to an art exhibition or participating in an art project is as important as going for a run, exploring the outdoors and sending your children to school. Our cofounders, among other formative experiences, value the role art has played in their daily lives. We came from very humble backgrounds and had art in our lives because we couldn’t live without expressing ourselves. We were taught that our ideas and stories have value. We didn’t get to have art in our lives as an opportunity or luxury, we created it in our lives as a response. We still do. We asked for it. We still do. We want El Pasoans to ask for it too.

We had a great year last year. We’re thrilled to have faced the challenges that so many artists face everywhere as they try to infuse communities with an artful conscience. We’re equally thrilled to have faced challenges that artists in El Paso (and perhaps only in El Paso) face as we began at square one… the most basic of the basics. We had a lot of voices chime out of a very small force of people (we would like for it to be a bigger force, this time next year!) with concerns and suggestions for the arts in El Paso. Here are where our priorities lie for the coming year: Professional Development. We’re going to help artists learn how to be their best representative. If artists in El Paso learn to advocate for themselves, the climate for artists in this city would drastically (and almost immediately) change. While it helps to have folks around you who can help you secure success (in any field), we’re firm believers in the empowerment of the artist through professional practice development and increased exposure to professional opportunities and processes. Let’s value the power of writing about, speaking about and documenting our work, the same as any other professional field out there. That way, when opportunities come around or when an artist wants to generate opportunities of their own (that’s usually what is necessary), they’re ready to hand anyone what is needed in order to believe in them.

Experimental Public Exhibitions. It’s impossible to create and share artwork without physical space. Here at Caldo, we’re interested in creating tangible experiences with art-the kind that pull you in close enough to touch. We don’t want to hang paintings on walls in a room you can’t get to without google maps. We’d like to find a space that has no walls… no ceiling… no door. Our solution is simple… we seek out alternative spaces and find a way to make them art spaces. We’ll experiment a lot. Our experiments will culminate three times this year during three different exhibitions in the “Transient Triangle Project”. We’ll ask artists to join forces with us. We’ll work with unexpected partners and we’ll make sure you get to see all of it. By finding and using these spaces, artists gain the opportunity of sharing their work, while pushing it to new levels in new kinds of spaces. We’ll open education workshops led by the very artists whose work is being exhibited. Even better yet, the work made by workshop participants will be a part of the exhibition itself. By using public space we’ll make sure EVERY BODY gets to see what we’re up to. We’re hoping you’ll come right up to us as we work and tell us what you think. If we use the space right, we make magic that not only intrigues and inspires, but that challenges, engages and ultimately educates the public.

We’re looking so forward to what’s coming next. We can’t wait for you to be a part of it. Stay in touch with us. If you’re a fan of what we do, reach out! We’d love to find a way for you to participate in our artful adventures. If you’re an artist and think you might like working with us, reach out and let us know who you are. We’re planning to work hard to find every artist we can this year, but would love it if you found us too. Join us as we take on another incredible year of artful feasting. Afterall, there’s no better way to share in this city than with a feast… that keeps El Paso Family. Happy New Year to all of our friends and family. With warmest regards,

Xochitl Rodriguez for The Caldo Collective

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