John Crawford believes in arts and literature and the impact they can have on people. John is the publisher of West End Press
and the producer of the Albuquerque Cultural Conference
. To him, accessibility matters. So does making "high art." He says, "I believe in art, even high art, but I also feel it should be rooted in the real public." And then he cites Mexican muralist Diego Rivera
as an example of an artist who was able to simultaneously maintain very high standards and reach the masses.
Crawford goes on to say, "I want to see performances and works go back to the source--a real audience--without corporate intervention, [arts that are] socially grounded and authentic." And then he clarifies that this doesn't mean going back to the past but rather embracing the invigorating trends of the last two decades including slam, performance poetry, hip hop--"arts that capture the real public imagination and open public space [for dialogue]."
And Crawford doesn't just mull and postulate, but rather makes things happen. The third Albuquerque Cultural Conference, which happens next weekend from September 3rd to 6th, is bringing together people from New Mexico, Alaska, the Eastern seaboard, California, Oklahoma, Kansas and more. The theme is "Crisis, Community, and
Performance: Building a Resilient Society." And this sequence of showcases and panel discussions are meant to act as catalysts. Crawford says, "I hate passivity, entertainment that lulls people to sleep."
So we are invited to WAKE UP and pay attention to the state of our community now and examine what artists and audience and community members can do to help combat contemporary concerns and celebrate our community's strength and resilience--because, as Crawford says, "We have a fine arts scene here." It offers a strength we can all tap into as participants and producers and audience. "We have a real opportunity to grow and learn," says Crawford who invites you to take that opportunity by coming out to the conference.
On Friday night, events kick off with a power-packed set of performances at the Kimo that will "Bring it all back home." Catch the likes of Hakim Bellamy, Margaret Randall, Demetria Martinez, Jessica Helen Lopez, Sharon Doubiago, Jenifer Vernon, Jason Yurcic, Sasha Pimentel Chacon, Mary Oishi, Shirley Geok-lin Lim and others. The box office opens at 6 p.m., and the performance runs from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $12, $9 for students and are available at the Kimo and all Ticketmaster locations.
Panels begin with the case for cultural activism Saturday morning at the Harwood Art Center
September 4th and then go on to explore everything from trauma and immigration to traditional story, plus race, class, gender, even new media performances and social networking. See this link for the complete schedule
So this is a call to action:
We call upon organizers, writers and artists, and progressive journalists,
teachers, and dreamers from all cultures to join us in building a new society
while addressing the failures of the old. We will take up the vital issues of
creating a just world through hard work, alternative forms of education,
and new images of cultural transformation. Political, social, class, race,
and gender issues will be addressed. Attention will be paid to critical topics
including nuclear establishment, the people and the land, border crossings,
cultural memory, and festivals of the oppressed.
I'll be attending, even reading a bit and participating in a panel discussion that looks at transforming trauma to resilience. I'm hoping lots of folks come out and join the discussions and see what doors can be opened for Albuquerque's future.
[Notes: Banner is an excerpt from a Diego Rivera mural at the National Palace in Mexico City. Source wikipedia.
Photograph shows John Crawford and his wife, poet Pat Smith, who passed away recently on July 11th. My thoughts are with John and his family as he simultaneously grapples with grief and embraces our community.]