Our final course! Enjoy a hearty taste of Jennifer Burton!
Jennifer Burton is a mother, dancer, and writer currently working towards her BFA in Dance with a special interest in ballet pedagogy, contemporary choreography, and Arabic folk dance. Burton began her ten-year career in journalism as an intern at the El Paso Times from 1999-2000. Between 2000 and 2009, Burton worked as a contributing writer and/or regular columnist for: Stanton Street Weekly, What’s Up, El Paso Inc., and Newspaper Tree. From 2008-2013, Burton served on the board of Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project. She currently splits her off-campus time between her family, creating multi-disciplinary work, performing, and working as a dance educator. She and her husband Justin J Leeah co-own Sound+Vision Studios- a multi-disciplinary facility focusing on music production and dance education. Don't miss your chance to hear about her incredible work this Sunday... until then, enjoy this taste! CC: What is your background as an artist? What drives you?
JB: I was lucky enough to be indulged by my parents with regards to my artistic interests. I showed a very early interest in dance, music, theatre, and visual art and I can’t remember a time in which I wasn’t creating or learning within the context of the Arts. Creating is a compulsive need within me. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a proposal drafted by my dream theatre troupe. I’ll be in the shower or making dinner or driving and I’ll have to stop everything and take notes, sketch out the idea a bit, and resume my tasks.
CC: Each artist who is presenting their ideas at this feast comes to the table
with ideas that have 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?
JB: El Paso/Juarez’ binationalism, tolerance, multi-culturalism, its heartiness, resilience, uniqueness, and warmth are all inspirational. My work will intersect by providing another outlet in our small contemporary dance community for production and performance, exposing the community to more of this aspect of contemporary art. It will also engage local dancers with paid work. CC: Caldo's mission focuses on the role of the artist in shaping community
through contemporary art projects and programming. What do you feel are
characteristics of contemporary art in our community? Is there potential for
artists to grow and be challenged here? How and in what way?
JB: We have an immensely talented pool of contemporary artists (in all disciplines) in El Paso who grew up here, attended UTEP or NMSU, and have created and/or fed a Contemporary Art scene here. I’m thinking first of my mentors, individuals like Richard Baron who founded the Bridge Center, or friends like Tim Razo- someone who gave one of his first group shows at the Bridge as a teenager and who now works in advertising. El Paso’s aesthetic is definitely defined by our place- physically, culturally and politically. There is absolutely room for growth and challenge here as long as people stay. Providing opportunities for work and patronage is our great challenge.
CC: What support have you received for your work in El Paso? What
support would you like to have access to as an artist?
JB: I have a lot of moral and directional support through my mentors. I’ve been lucky to have a number of wonderful mentors throughout the years, in my writing, in printmaking, and in dance. As for financial support, this is my first time reaching out for a grant for a piece such as this. I generally funded my pet projects as a printmaker by printing soccer jerseys and event tees. As a writer, I was paid for my columns. So this is a very different endeavor.
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
JB: Brutal honesty? Pros: El Paso’s zeitgeist is unique and imbued with a sense of rasquachismo, ingenuity, and authenticity. El Paso has an authentic historical identity with regards to the arts that is very much its own. One can still live in El Paso and be an Artist. It is feasible to work in teaching, to find a financial niche, and support yourself and a family and live a pretty middle-class life if you have the impetus and skill set to make that happen. The same cannot be said for most major cities. El Paso has a remarkably supportive artist community. Everyone knows everyone.
Cons: Everyone knows everyone. Sometimes this can lead to unhealthy competitive drives, cliques, and/or chisme. Sometimes this can lead to nepotism (maybe not literal family per se, but friends). The El Paso art scene has a self-esteem problem. We are constantly comparing ourselves with other cities, or we are hyper-defensive and insular. We have far fewer opportunities for paid work outside of teaching and public projects- especially in the performing arts. Most venues for performing arts do not pay, and if they do, it’s a pittance.
CC: What do you believe the role of art and artists in a community to
be? In society?
JB: It is our job to be unabashed optimists and unforgiving critics. It is our job to listen to those in our community and society whose voices are unheard or whose stories are too difficult to tell and provide a visceral embodiment of their life and struggle. It is our job to search the inner life and explore those things which most either cannot or won’t explore.
CC: How could artistic practices address the cultural identity and needs
of this community?
JB: Community artistic practices can either bolster the cultural identity of the region or add to its narrative by providing exposure to new and different points of cultural reference. Hopefully both.
CC: Your work will examine subject matter and utilize an artistic
language that isn't often seen in artwork in El Paso. Can you tell us
about the process you will use to generate points of contact between
your work and the community?
JB: This specific piece, Al-Atlal, speaks to a number of issues which directly address our region: tensions which cause forced migration, multi-
culturalism, the cross-section of feminism and religion, and the unending wars in the Middle-East which directly affect our citizens- specifically our military community.
CC: How does your work/practice engage the community? Do you feel
that engagement is important? Why?
JB: Al-Atlal seeks to create a dialogue between all of those raised in the Three Faiths of Abraham, those who have lost their faith, and those outside those faiths by examining our mutual origins our own Nationalistic/Sectarian predjudices- which act to separate us. Only through an unvarnished dialogue can we move past our expectations and begin to heal.
CC: What role does the community have in the
production/creation/inception/initiation/activation (choose which
words you feel best applies) of art?
JB: It is essential. No artist’s work would find completion without the engagement of community- positive or negative. No one lives in a bubble.
CC: As an artist, how best can a community support its artists?
JB:By finding ways, however small, to patronize artists. This can mean going to a show at Monarch supporting a local band or it can mean buying a large canvas from a favored painter. It can mean volunteer hours, chipping-in for Glasbox’s overhead, attending a small dance performance, buying your friend’s CD, or eating soup in someone’s backyard. It’s all about showing up.
CC: Can you paint a picture, briefly, of your ideal artist community?
What's the dream?
JB: I would like to see a community full of collaboration, with artists able to live well, and not feel like they have to move unless they absolutely want to. I’d like to see the next generation say, “Wow it’s really happening HERE! I love working in El Paso!” Come and FEAST with us! THIS IS COMMUNITY. THIS IS CALDO