Art meets history: NM museums provide cultural education for artists

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Artists are encouraged to look into their own history for a new, four-week educational program designed to foster the integration of history into contemporary art practices. The Artist Lab: Art Meets History in New Mexico is a collaborative effort between 516 Arts, the Albuquerque Museum and the Kolaj Institute, an organization that focuses on collage art as a medium based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ric Kasini Kadour of the Kolaj Institute is the director of the Artist Lab initiative. He said artists who apply and are accepted into the labs will learn how to work from their own people’s history, to confront that history, and to imagine a future that offers justice for all people. “One of the basic things that we do is give artists is an introduction to being historians,” Kadour said.

One of the things that he’s learned from doing these labs is that artists are already inclined to do their own research, so he structured the labs to guide them in the right direction. They then work with the artist on strategies to help them get their art in front of their intended audience.

516 Arts Executive Director Suzanne Sbarge said it was important for the organization to facilitate this type of event to help artists connect with their own personal heritage. “Artists will really be able to delve into history to bring that into issues we all have on our minds at the present, things we’re seeing now within our state. It’s a wonderful learning experience for local artists,” Sbarge said.

Alicia Inez Guzmán, a local storyteller, art historian, and Arts Lab faculty member, said New Mexico has the potential to learn from its own history and create a more positive future moving forward. “Especially in New Mexico, I think there is a lack of profound knowledge about history and how complicated it is. When we are able to talk about how complicated it is and be okay with it being complicated, then we are able to craft a new way of understanding and a new narrative about it,” Guzmán said.

New Mexico pioneers and miners by Charles Goodman (1843-1912), both of which are used by Artist Lab faculty member Alicia Inez Guzmán in her lectures.

Guzmán said she hopes to help artists sharpen their critical thinking skills “I think it would be really incredible for artists to walk away with a sense of their place within history,” Guzmán said. “The goal is to become critical thinkers and to understand your place in this community. When we understand our place within community and history, that’s a really powerful tool.”

Kadour said he encourages artists in the workshop to use their art to represent their heritage in a meaningful way. “There are times artists are speaking for a larger community, so what does that mean to do that, and how do you do it ethically? We end up talking a lot about that in the lab, and how to be good with the history and the people of the past, and the people of the future? Those are all good things for an artist to wrestle with,” Kadour said.

There will also be two lectures during the workshop that will be open to the public. Guzmán is one of the lecturers and will discus land use histories and will draw on some archival materials from the Albuquerque Museum Photo Archives to show some of the visual aspects of those topics. New Orleans-based photographer L. Kasimu Harris will discuss his personal works in how they relate to capturing art and history as it happens.

The deadline to apply is Feb 28. 516 ARTS is providing a limited number of scholarships to artists from New Mexico, artists from Mexico whose work focuses on the US/Mexico border, and artists who are Native American, Alaskan Native, or First Nations. A goal of the lab is a proposal for a body of artwork to be considered for a group exhibition at 516 ARTS in 2022. For more information on how to apply, visit their website.

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