Contemporary Art Month: 29 Years of “CAMunity”

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If it’s March, it must be time for Contemporary Art Month (CAM). Of course, this wasn’t always so. The month-long celebration of the San Antonio contemporary art scene originally kicked off in July of 1986.

According to the CAM website, “Started in 1986 by the director of Southwest School of Art and Craft (now Southwest School of Art) in what is now the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, CAM became an independent project in 2003.”

It was a grassroots movement born in a storm of controversy alongside its fraternal twin, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum. When the San Antonio Museum of Art made the the decision to cancel a contemporary art show in 1985, the art community rose up and took control of their own destiny, and the scene hasn’t been the same since.

Conan Chadbourne and Mark T. Hansen exhibit currently on display at Nord Gallery. Photo by Page Graham.

Conan Chadbourne and Mark T. Hansen exhibit currently on display at Nord Gallery. Photo by Page Graham.

Through triumphs and tribulations, CAM has continued as a grassroots event, some years more successful than others. The organization is currently in a very positive mode. Co-directors Nina Hassele and Chris Sauter lead the board of directors of this nonprofit organization, and there is an army of artists who contribute to the melee that keeps CAM humming.

Keep in mind that the organization creates several “key events” that provide a basic framework that the month hangs on.  All other events are contributed by our art “CAMunity” – the 2014 CAM call to action.

Art studios, galleries, and institutions are all invited to link up with the organization, creating a diverse web of events happening throughout the month.

There is a nominal fee to participate, however, inclusion by individual art studios for the “Open Studio Day” on Sunday, March 23, is free. Note to artists: it is not too late to sign up to be included. CAMunity!

One of the new first time events this year is the CAM Contemporary Art Auction and Reception at Vogt Auction Galleries Tuesday, March 4.

There was a great collection of work, all of which was auctioned without reserve. 75 percent of the sales price went to the artist and a portion of the proceeds to benefit CAM. This was a great opportunity to mix, mingle and add to one’s contemporary collection – or start it, for that matter.

Mat Kubo and Miranda Fermin, Miss Cam Antonio 2013. Photo courtesy CAM.

Mat Kubo and Miranda Fermin, Miss Cam Antonio 2013. Photo courtesy CAM.

The Official CAM Kick-off Party happens at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum on Thursday, March 6, 6-9 p.m. It is an evening of art and revelry. One of the refreshing aspects of CAM is that it never seems to take itself too seriously. Yes, the goal is to shine a light on the amazing community that makes art happen all year long, and that is an important message.

But this message is delivered lightly and with good humor. It seems there is always room for laughter and silliness – equally important in our day-to-day lives.

 “Miss” CAM Antonio will be crowned. Food truckers Say.She.Ate.The Institute of Chili and Rockerdogz will be serving up the eats. Blue Moon Brewing Co. and Silver Eagle Distributors will be slinging the beer and wine. And just to ensure a groovy vibe, DJ Sneaky le Sneak will spin the vinyl. While you are at Blue Star Arts Complex, poke around a bit. If you haven’t been in a while, there are many old and new friends to see.

"Cock Stare" by Wesley Harvey at Fl!ght Gallery. Photo by Page Graham.

“Cock Stare” by Wesley Harvey at Fl!ght Gallery. Photo by Page Graham.

Of course, there’s the party and then there’s the art, keeping in mind that these things are not mutually exclusive. Be sure to duck into the new exhibitions debuting at Blue Star including works by Mira Hnatyshyn, Paul Rodriguez, Clair Watson, and Rosane Volchan O’Conor.

Throughout the month of March there will be opportunities to interact with the artists including the popular “Black Box Lunch Series” (with O’Conor on March 7, and  Hnatyshyn on March 26) as well as “Gloves and Glasses” with Watson on the evening of March 12. Check out bluestarart.org for all the details and how you can get involved.

The first weekend was overflowing with opportunities to see great art around town: the Conan Chadbourne and Mark T. Hansen opening at Gallery Nord, Paula Owen’s “Vague Chatter” opening at REM Gallery, Seven Minutes in Heaven at the Fox Motel, Clamplight @ Fl!ght, and Miniature Curiosa at the 1906 S.M.A.R.T. barbeque fundraiser.

My head spins just thinking about it now. There is no shortage of art to experience. And the upcoming weekend is no different. Your mind and your assumptions will be challenged.

There are seven events on the schedule for Friday, and no fewer than nine listings on the calendar for Saturday, most of which will take place in the SoFlo/Lone Star Arts District.

The Aesthetic of Waste cast takes in "Seven Minutes in Heaven" at Fox Motel. Check out their performance, "The Waste Machine", in the Wong Grocery basement this Saturday, March 8. 35mm film photo by Page Graham.

The Aesthetic of Waste cast takes in “Seven Minutes in Heaven” at Fox Motel. Check out their performance, “The Waste Machine,” in the Wong Grocery basement this Saturday, March 8. 35mm film photo by Page Graham.

If you are interested in film, you might check out the scene at Urban-15 on Friday, when they will screen the critically acclaimed “Everyone’s Going to Die.”  Or take a look at what Luis Valderas and Kim Bishop are doing at 3rd Space Art Gallery on Saturday evening with their newly-minted “Movie Night.”

Local arts nonprofits are also taking the opportunity to host some big fundraising parties this weekend.

On Saturday, Chef’s Cooperative and Edible San Antonio will join forces to throw the cocktail party of the year at Dorćol Distillery to benefit the San Antonio Film Festival,a 501(c)3 nonprofit, now celebrating its 20th year – Cocktails For Cinema. This should be a great evening featuring some of the best chefs and bartenders in the city.

Bartender Nick Kenna mixing a cocktail at Dorćol Distillery. Photo by Page Graham.

Bartender Nick Kenna mixing a cocktail at Dorćol Distillery. Photo by Page Graham.

Also on Saturday, the Artist Foundation will host their Moveable Art Party. Beginning at Blue Star, this is a progressive event that will show the work of 30 local artists – Artist Foundation recipients in action. It sounds fascinating and has the potential to be the arts event of the year.

To quote Nancy Fullerton, former associate curator at San Antonio Museum of Art, “This is the most fun and unique fundraiser! It supports a great organization which in turn benefits great local artists in every field.”

According to the Artist Foundation website:

Image courtesy Artist Foundation.

Image courtesy Artist Foundation.

“The Foundation is the creation of Bettie Ward and Patricia Pratchett. As founders they share a vision of a community where artists help shape the identity of our area by influencing how we look, sound and feel both to residents and visitors. In every sector of town the influence of artists should be evident in public art, galleries, school art programs, symphonic and conjunto music, private collections and community centers. That is to say, art is manifest; art is expected in everyday life. To make this happen, the individual artist must be assured continued opportunities and support.”

What a wonderful credo this is. The Moveable Art Party is an opportunity to support these goals.

So, there you have it. The first week of Contemporary Art Month in a capsule. It is nonstop. It is exhilarating. It is fun. Whether you hit one event or try to hit them all, remember the words of Auntie Mame: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

So, get out there and breathe it in. Don’t waste a moment. Keep tabs on what’s going on with CAM all month long at the Rivard Report and at ArtBlogSA.com.

Live music at the 1906 warehouse. Photo by Page Graham.

Live music at the 1906 warehouse. Photo by Page Graham.

*Featured/top photo: “In the Open” by Larry Graeber. One of the works auctioned at Vogt Auction Galleries. Courtesy image.

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