We are OVERJOYED to introduce you to El Paso's own Nathan Stell!
Nathan Stell is a native of El Paso and began his artistic life in the womb listening to his older brother play violin. At the age of three, Nathan started taking lessons himself and since then has been a student of music in general, studying various instruments and instructing others on violin guitar piano and voice. He studied and majored in music and theatre at Notre Dame and the University of El Paso and recently began his graduate studies in Pastoral Ministry at Fordham University in New York. Through his graduate studies he hopes to continue his life-long mission of sharing the joy of living with others, as well as serving as a reflection of the dignity we all possess. Don't miss your chance to experienc the JOY yourself when Nathan shares his ideas with us during Frijol Feasts! CC: What is your background as an artist/collective? What drives you? NS: My background began in music, listening to my brother take violin lessons as early as my fetal days, then beginning with my own music lessons at the age of three. Without leaving the violin, I began delving into guitar and piano in middle school, and joined band in school and later orchestra in college, playing oboe and saxophone. These all gave me a well-rounded musical foundation with which to see and process things. Then when I was in college I joined the theatre department and acted in plays for a number of years. Throughout that time, my brothers who are dancers, roped me into a few dance recitals here and there. The eclectic nature and variety of artistic forms and genres that I’ve been exposed to and a part of in my life has really served me by giving me an awareness of the variety and eclectic nature of people and life itself. This has given me the hunger to experience and do more, mainly towards the goal of connecting with others through the expression of shared and varied passions.
CC: Each artist who is presenting their ideas at this feast comes to the table with potential to make a lasting impact in our community. What do you find most inspiring about this city/this community? How does/will your work intersect with the community? NS: One of the most inspiring things about the El Paso/border/southwest community is the concept of family and community that exists here. There’s a feeling of belonging that doesn’t always exist in other places, and it’s unique in its flavor. Unfortunately the connection between family members is harder and harder to maintain in today’s world. My work is aimed at strengthening the connection between parents and their children here in El Paso, and in so doing, helping El Pasoans remember their own inner children, and all the joy and creativity that comes with that.
CC: You, like so many, left El Paso for some time and have returned. What about the city do you think draws people back?
NS: So many things. I left right after high school and thought I would never come back. But almost as soon as I arrived in my new city, I really began to miss a few things. For me the two biggest things at the time were food and people (women specifically – remember I was in college at the time). Meals just didn’t taste as good outside El Paso. Once I left I also realized that the women here were extremely beautiful. Now I would extend that to say that the people overall in El Paso are truly beautiful. I don’t think that can be overstated. CC: Caldo's mission focuses on the role of the artist in shaping community through contemporary art projects and programming. Do you foresee your practice intersecting with contemporary ideas? How? NS: It’s possible. I don’t actually have a good grasp of what “contemporary” art projects and programming encompasses enough to be sure, buy my practice is something that can and should be molded to the reality that exists in the present moment, and so I would imagine it the two could intersect.
CC: What support have you received in El Paso? What support would you like to have access to as an artist? NS: Mainly, the support I’ve received so far as an artist in El Paso has been in the form of encouragement and acceptance. These two things are huge by the way, without them I can’t imagine any artist flourishing. The El Paso artist community is very good at welcoming and encouraging, that’s a true gift we have here. In addition to those things, I think easier and more efficient access to the network of artists that exist here would be awesome, as well as funds to do projects and create.
CC: How would you compare the climate for artists in El Paso with that of other cities? What makes El Paso's art community unique? How can it be strengthened? NS: As far as the potential to be strengthened, that’s a for sure thing, any community anywhere is never at its potential because of the nature of art and creativity, we always need to be growing into our art and that’s one of the beautiful things about the arts in general. As far as the El Paso art climate, I don’t think I know enough about other cities in order to make a decent comparison. But I will say that one thing that I would imagine makes El Paso unique, is the mixture of cultures that exists here. The Native/Anglo/Hispanic/Spanish/Tex-Mex/etc mixture that exists here is something that can’t help but be brought out in the art of the people.
CC: What do you believe the role of art and artists in a community can be? In society? NS: I don’t think there’s enough time or paper to address that big a question. In brief though, I think artists serve as our philosophers, our mirrors, showing us who we are and offering us a glimpse of what we can be.
CC: How could artistic practices address the cultural identity and needs of this community? NS: I think the ways that could manifest are endless. As the needs change and evolve, so will the art and the artists.
CC: You're getting ready to tell us about the art of joy. There's no better way to ask... Can you tell us a little bit about joy? It's not often that question comes up for an interview! NS: Ooh that’s a great one. Joy is life, for me at least. It’s different than happiness I think. Happiness is great, but it’s often tied to an outward physical expression. Joy is different, deeper. Joy is something you can be filled with even in the most sorrowful of times. It’s a way that one carries themselves. For me, to be full of joy is to be complete, know who you are in this world, and be able to express that with life and vitality and appreciation of the other.
CC: Can you tell us about the process/programs you will use to generate points of contact between your work and the community? NS: Well my work is specifically community-based. It aims to bring people/families in the community together and through that interaction, work with each other to be more open to the joy mentioned earlier. It’s a social experiment of interaction, centered around the child, where parents and their children will gather and have the ability to have a child-guided fun and joy-filled afternoon focusing on art, movement, and/or music.
CC: What role does the community have in the production/creation/inception/initiation/activation (choose which words you feel best applies) of art?
NS: The community’s role in the manifestation of art in general is pretty vast. I think that the community often forms the basis of the artist’s work and ideas. I think a community should work to recognize its artists as its own and care for them, through patronage, encouragement, constructive feedback. I also think that communities need to work to foster creative expression in children. That’s really what my proposal aims to do. CC: As an artist, how best do you feel a community can support its artists? NS: Through the above-mentioned ideas: financially, socially, and critically. Possibly most importantly by creating safe and engaging environments for artists to develop and play.
CC: Can you paint a picture, briefly, of your ideal artist community? What's the dream? NS: I think the main word that would describe my ideal artist community would be “open”. A place with just enough structure to allow for the open free and safe communication and collaboration between not just artists, but people of all disciplines. My ideal artist community would be one where everyone is welcome, has a place, and the opportunity to contribute to holistic projects. This means the facilitation of all forms of art working together, and also an environment where the artists collaborate with those in business and the sciences. I believe it’s only when we really see the dignity and wholeness in each person that we can have a dignified whole community. Come FEAST with us!