Tucumcari to be sculpted as next artist haven

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Taos and Santa Fe are both renown for their art and artists – and Tucumcari may not be far behind, according to Small Business Development Center Director David Buchen at Mesalands Community College.

Buchen said the city is implementing an art incubation project, with help from the Small Business Development Center, the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp., the state and, of course, local artists to make this vision a reality.

And what local artists there are. Ruth Nelson, an interior designer who moved here two years ago and worked for the city’s Economic Development Corp. and now sits on the board of the incubation project, said she was amazed when she learned of the great amount of local talent.

“Doug and Sharon Quarles came to me with a list of 60 artists who produce locally,” she said. “I said ‘Wow, we have to take advantage of this and promote our artists nationally.’”
An art incubator would be the way to do it, she said.

As explained by New Mexico Business Innovation Center Executive Director Jeff Nathanson, an incubator is a place for development that provides services, facilities and help with management to new companies, or in this case, artists. It would serve to take the artists from the studio and into enterprise, Nelson said, and, as the name incubator implies, allow them to move on to even greater success.

“This project would help current artists in Tucumcari come to the business side of art — exhibiting, pricing and marketing,” Buchen said. “We could even do workshops if they wanted to.”

Slated to be called The Iron Rail Art Center, the ultimate location of the center would be in part of the old railroad depot downtown. Buchen said the center would include an office, perhaps a classroom and – of course — gallery space.

“We would also be recruiting more artists into the community,” Buchen said. “They would find the community here is more affordable than Santa Fe or Taos and it is easily reachable from those two places.”

Since the renovation plan for the depot is at least a couple of years down the track, so to speak, Buchen said they are looking at other downtown locations he said he would rather not disclose to set up the project in the interim.

The idea for this project was born last year, Buchen said, but never came to fruition. He said it was reignited this past January, in part, because he came on board last November and heard about the seeds already planted.

Buchen said $5,500 was secured from the state for a feasibility study and plan which is almost complete. The hopes are to move forward within the next year.

“The state has a certification program for incubators,” Buchen said. “And the city has funds earmarked for the depot, to help rehabilitate it.”

Although the art incubation project has yet to leave the station, Tucumcari already has an artistic foundation.

“We have a strong art base,” Buchen said, pointing out the gads of local artists, the foundry at Mesalands Community College and the annual iron pour held each March where artists come from as far away as Alaska to participate.

“The hope is to add a studio tour to the event,” Buchen said.

This would include taking participants around to the work spaces of local artists to see how things are done.

The Quay County Council or Arts and Humanities and the Chamber of Commerce are strong art supporters and would be part of the tour project, Buchen said.

One more idea waiting to be hatched, Buchen said, is a fund-raiser with ostrich eggs.

“Taos does this thing every year with gourds,” Buchen said, “where gourds are made into art pieces, submitted and auctioned off. We are hoping to do the same thing with ostrich eggs.”

An ostrich egg workshop would be held for interested artists, Buchen said, so artists don’t end up with, say, egg on their faces. He said more information would be forthcoming as it becomes available.

Nelson likens the art incubation project to a step towards an entire new image for Tucumcari, not unlike what she said happened in Silver City.

“Within a week its two main sources of income shut down, a big mine and a 400-job call center,” Nelson said. “Poof! There were no more jobs. They reinvented themselves as an art community. We are excited and hoping we can do the same.”
Artists wanted:

Who: Santa Fe Opera.
What: Seeks New Mexico artists for 2006 Santa Fe poster image.
Where: Poster will be used to publicize the 2006 season and be on sale at the Opera Shop and online.
Send one image per artist appropriate for a 21-inch by 28-inch reproduction to: Press Office, The Santa Fe Opera, P.O. Box 2408, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2408.
Deadline: Feb. 1.
More information: press@santafeopera.org

Who: MasterWorks of New Mexico.
What: Seeks New Mexico artists.
Where: Art will be displayed at the eighth annual Spring Arts Show, comprised of four different juried shows held in April at the Expo New Mexico (state fairgrounds).
Categories include pastels, watercolors, oils and acrylics and a miniature show. Call for a prospectus and specific information.
Deadlines: End of January.
More information: Barbara Lohbeck at 260-9977, or e-mail Bardean@aol.com

Who: Art in Public Places Program of New Mexico Arts.
What: Seeks artists from the four corner states: N.M., Ariz., Colo., Utah.
Where: Art will be purchased for different public art sites around the state.
Send slides or digital images of up to five pieces created between 2001 and 2005 that are for sale; artists must receive prospectus to apply, download at www.nmarts.org
Deadline: Dec. 2.
More information: Call (800) 879-4278, e-mail aipp@oca.state.nm.us or visit www.nmarts.org