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State of the Arts Symposium brings RFV arts organizations together

This Tuesday, artists and arts organization representatives from all over the valley came together at The Arts Campus At Willits for the very first State of the Arts Symposium. KDNK’s Hattison Rensberry has more.

The event came about because Roaring Fork event planner Amy Kimberly needed a final project for her Colorado-State Change Leadership Program. Her goal was to cover the role and impact of the arts in the region and provide an opportunity for people to get more connected and be inspired by each other. Here’s Kimberly on some of her takeaways from the symposium: 

"With the funders panel, learning about how they are trying to transform funding to be easier to access, to be more equitable, was exciting to hear and something I think we've all hoped for for a long time. But you never know if it's really happening and it sounds like we're getting there.
We're all collaborating so much more, and that's what I'm coming away with. And more ways for us to be able to communicate easily, to share our resources, share our needs within our earth. I mean, one of the biggest things sustainability has to be with not collecting more stuff. And you know, it's more about sharing the resources and having less stuff.
So I feel like this is a start towards that."

Keynote speakers were Christine Costello of Colorado Creative Industries, Meredith Badler of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, and Michael Stout from Carbondale Arts. Panels for the event included local government officials, heads of Roaring Fork arts organizations, funding aficionados, and artists from the valley’s spanish-speaking community. One of those artists and panelists is Claudia Pawl, the founder of Mezcla Socials Dance and founder of interpreting company Convey Language Solutions. When asked about ways that the arts community as a whole can be more inclusive to spanish-speaking individuals, Pawl had this to say.

"My philosophy would be like, why would you reinvent the wheel? Right? It's already happening. There's already a lot of wonderful things happening in the community, and we all talk about inclusion, inclusivity, equity, and all those. Um, Buzzword as far as I'm concerned, unless there is a really driven commitment behind them. So I would want to encourage the community, the organizations, the donors, everyone to have a committed relationship to getting to that goal of reaching to the community.

Per se, as an example of the Spanish speakers, we wanna ask them what they want out of the things that are already happening versus telling them, come to my party. I, you wouldn't go to somebody's party if you didn't know them necessarily. Not everybody's in that comfort level. Mm-hmm. So, With us being communities and being the larger number, we want to try to have some sort of relationship before we bring them in.

So yes, the translation interpretation is wonderful, but as some of my colleagues were mentioning, we wanna have that one-on-one connection. So having people that are bilingual at the event, even if they are. Uh, primarily liaisons or, uh, allies from other organizations. I would have things that make sense.

So if I'm gonna invite you to, uh, Spanish talk from a poet, for example, and I feed you pizza, that's a bit of a disconnect there. So it would be wonderful if we would circle around Howles and maybe or something. So then that keeps warming up the heart of the ones that are coming in and it makes them feel that you're thinking about them.

Uh, if you come to my party, And you're gluten free. I'm gonna have gluten free cookies for you because I want you to feel special in my home and welcome, and I want you to come back. So I think it's as simple as that, just being kind and and considerate and thinking about their experience before what we are trying to achieve.

So we need to come together with that connection of the relationship. The breaking down of the barriers, whether it's language, whether it's financial, whether it's the inconvenience of driving all the way from parachute to come to an event in Basalt, then that would be amazing. We're just not used to it.

And I think if all the organizations can continue to do the work that they do and then add this little nugget to what they already do, which is just having an additional piece of the puzzle, which is budget for inclusion, then we could have better results. And we can see the community come in to situations where they're usually not a part of."

Halfway through the day, artists went into break-out sessions according to their interests. They chose between Performing Arts and Media, Visual Arts, or Education. Concerns brought up in those groups were everything from marketing needs to ticket sales. Individual artists and representatives for arts organizations had nearly 7 hours of information and group conversations to process by the time happy hour rolled around, so we caught up with one local artist to find out some of the information she found most impactful. Elise Hillbrand is a multi-disciplinary artist that also works as the Marketing and Communications Manager for the Carbondale Clay Center.

"I have new insight about how to connect with the Latine community because if we want to reach out, we don't wanna tokenize.
So it's just really reassuring, like hearing that panel speak. About like us just reaching out to them and seeing who's interested from the community and like finding a better way. So just kind of opening our eyes to that and how we can be more inclusive and that it's possible and that people want to get involved.

These events are important, especially like the group conversation. Even if we didn't like come away with a new solution, we at least know where other organizations are running into issues or where they're succeeding and how we can be a part of that."

After sitting in on the in-depth panels and conversational work sessions, it’s clear that the local arts community looks towards a future of inclusive, bilingual programming and a lot of collaboration between funders, the public, education, and the many types of art that call the valley home.
For KDNK, I’m Hattison Rensberry.

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.