Friday, June 26, 2015

Building a Community Through the Arts

With the closing of Angel Fire’s two galleries artists in the Moreno Valley formed the Artists Guild of Northern New Mexico to seek and support venues and opportunities to display the work of artists on this side of Wheeler Peak. The 30 plus artists found support in the Village of Angel Fire’s Visitors Center. But a venue to hang work is only a fraction of the issue for arts in Moreno Valley.

Paintings and sculpture and pottery are just one aspect of the arts. There is theater, music, poetry readings, and workshops for young and old. Angel Fire was once alive with all those arts. The Angel Fire Repertory Theater Society put on performances every summer from 1980 to 1994. They persisted in bringing theater to the locals and visitors even when they had their theater space sold out from under them they moved to a 40 x 60 foot tent. Arts are persistent and in 1999 the Angel Fire Mountain Theater brought Texas Tech productions every summer. But always to someplace new. With the support of the Moreno Valley Arts Council they adapted performances to the barn at East Moreno Ranch, the Business Center, Cove arts Center, Angel Fire Resort Children’s Ski School to list a few.

Be it theater or music or visual arts or workshops for young and old there has always been a scramble, sometimes at the last minute, for a space or a reliable temporary venue to list in advertising or area calendars of events. Without a permanent space it is hard to know six months in advance where the Missoula Children’s Theatre will be held. The Community Center was suppose to be a solution but its focus is now primarily on sports. Artsfest has been relocated due to calendar conflicts and the once annual quilt show is no more. Groups like the Quilting Quild, Artists Guild of Northern New Mexico (AGNNW), the Angel Fire Garden Club, and MVAC are constantly looking for just meeting space.

Julia Margaret Brigham, well known painter, has lived in the valley for 27 years. She was a member of the Angel Fire Repertory Theater and is now a member of the Artists Guild of Northern New Mexico. Julia Margaret says, “Angel Fire has always lacked community and places where you can build community. We need the infrastructure to build community. And community builds the economy.”

Angel Fire is a new town surrounded by very old towns concerned with not dying. The Angel Fire Resort and Ski Area was opened in 1965 at the Cieneguilla Creek head waters. What is now the Village of Angel Fire was just a collection of support businesses for tourists at the foot of the mountain. It was incorporated in 1986. Historically few people actually lived in the Village year round. Landowners with roots are south into Black Lake settled in 1860's or north toward Eagle Nest. The economy was totally based on the seasonal activities of the resort. In the US Census of 2010 the population of the village was 1216 with an additional 800 seasonal residents.

When the AGNNM began seeking a place for workshops in the arts for the summer it partnered with MVAC.  MVAC is celebrating 35 years of assisting other art based organizations to grow and establish themselves. It fostered Music From Angel Fire now beginning its 32nd season. And established Angel Fire ArtsFest which will be 34 this year. The arts events are older than the Village. And yet they have no permanent home outside of a post office box. Long time residents will know even the post office has constantly sought infrastructure until lately. Linda Trujillo, a MVAC board member and a resident of the valley for 35 years says, “I have seen an acute need for a location to hold events.  Missoula Children's Theater has performed for at least that long in the ski base lodge, old country club and various school buildings.  Art shows and musical performances were held wherever space could be obtained, usually limiting seating to a minimum.  Kids art programs have been cancelled because the schools can't use teaching time for art programs and there is no other facility to hold them.”

Aware of these problems, the board of MVAC decided to purchase a place where the arts would not be kicked out or scheduled over. A permanent home for the arts, all arts, would provide the infrastructure for artists, be they painters, musicians, dancers or poets to interface with people of all ages interested in arts of all kinds. “It would build a cohesive community for the youngest to the oldest,” says Carol Rupp, long time resident of the resort.  And, as many towns have already proved, build the economy.

Infrastructure takes capital and so MVAC board voted, with the support of other arts groups to begin a campaign to raise funds for the acquisition of “Our Very Own Permanent Home” for the Arts to serve not just Angel Fire but the broader community of Moreno Valley. Through matching funds and future grants for expenses and maintenance Angel Fire could have a key piece of infrastructure to become a real community. An Arts Activity Center would provide a focus for locals and part time residents as well as tourists from Black Lake to Eagle Nest.

Just Picture, says Trujillo, “a space to hold theater performances, kids art classes, art workshops, musical performances.  Wouldn't you want to come?

A Permanent Home for the Arts in Angel Fire