Outside, a million people streamed through the streets in revolt. Inside, a million thoughts swirled through my head.
On May Day, 2006, protestors across the country took to the streets tofight a tough immigration bill working its way through Congress. I was in Los Angeles where the largest protests took place. I only saw a sliver of the demonstrations — either from my 5th floor window or, later, through my camera’s lens as I followed the marchers and flags weaving through the city — and it still seemed huge.
My own life had been in upheaval all spring. Five weeks into the new year, my mom had passed away, joining my father in death. New possibilities slowly overcame grief as I realized I was no longer constrained by caregiving duties.
I had traveled to LA for my first ever National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP), a conference for people whose duties and challenges were similar to my own at Popejoy. I was re-energized by hundreds of colleagues, all puzzled by the same daily issues.
As I sat in that Los Angeles conference room, my mind sucked in new information even as it flashed through the highlight reel of the past several weeks. Most surreal was the memory of standing on a small stage in the Kennedy Center, accepting an award for a script I’d written. It was the same theater in which I’d seen Shear Madness years earlier. Some vague parallel between that title and my life stretched just beyond my grasp.
I had been granted a week of classes in Washington as part of the award. The whole experience poked pinholes into my consciousness. Light streamed in.
In Los Angeles, presenters were battering down walls, built in isolation, and creating new doorways and windows. Air and light, all at the same time.
The most enlightening possibility from NAMP was the notion that to attract people to new art forms — forms that are new to them — they first have to learn more about them. No one wants to feel like the show they’re attending is all one big inside joke and no one let them in on it.
From that notion, we started preparing performance previews for all our shows at Popejoy. They still ring our circular kiosk as you enter the main lobby for UNM’s Center for the Arts. Certainly it makes sense for a university entity such as ours to focus on education. That the impetus sprang from marketing is perhaps at odds with expectations.
Last year, at another NAMP, one of the presenters mentioned that younger generations need enlightenment in the arts more than ever because arts programs in our schools were cut when they were students. Now in their twenties and thirties, these young adults gained less knowledge about different art forms — and the arts generally — than any generation in recent history. That means more education to gain market share.
So many people tell me they want to go to an event at Popejoy. They want to hear about the shows we’re bringing to town. Then I never see them in the hall.
Certainly, as I found, you have to be receptive to new information, new experiences. Then, for some, the best way to learn about an art form might be immersion. Come on in, you're always welcome. Otherwise, our performance previews are waiting to open doors for you.
Terry S. Davis