Earlier this month, Bennett Williamson and I went down to El Paso, Texas, to curate and create programming at Cuadro, a new temporary satellite space run by LA-based Machine Project and the Rubin Center at the University of El Paso. The space, physically, is located in an Art Deco skyscraper in the eerily empty downtown El Paso, blocks from the international border with Cuidad Juarez. Contextually, the space is situated in a fairly complex urban nexus of economic and cultural revitalization efforts, as well as daily influence from the metropolis across the border. We spent a good amount of time trying to wrap our heads around the conditions that had shaped downtown El Paso, and in the end Bennett and I built a collaborative walk project out of fragments of downtown-centric narrative drawn from El Pasoans past and present. (More on Downtown Visions: Time Warp City Walk coming soon.) We were also there to offer creative support to a group of very awesome local artists who were realizing their own participatory, performative, and workshop projects within the space.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun and it was a very interesting and generative experience to get to know, even briefly, this crazy strange cool place tucked between Mexico and New Mexico. Below is the re-cap that we wrote for the Rubin.
Thank you to Andres Payan, Kerry Doyle, Machine Project, all the artists especially Cynthia Evans and Ruth Zehntner, and of course Bennett, for inviting me to El Paso.
Photo of Cuadro by Andres Payan.
After weeks of planning and talking, and a few late nights painting, sweating, and installing, suddenly it was all happening! Once the door opened Saturday morning, Cuadro started to fill up with people, energy, and fun. Curious El Pasoans wandered over from Chalk the Block, asking what was going on. There was A LOT going on…
Saturday kicked off with mellow vibes — free iced coffee in the giant fridge, and intimate candle-lit nail art sessions in the Cozy Confessional. In the evening we led El Pasoans on a walk of their own city, stopping at sites along the way for readings and guest speakers. We crowned a new Miss Downtown, mourned many failed nightclubs at the old train station, and finished at dusk with a local musician singing “Hello Walls” on the eighth floor of the empty Bassett Tower. By the time we got back to Cuadro, the party lights were on, and the place was packed for Lotería for Sextet. We scrambled to find extra folding chairs for everybody. Melons and arañas were won, and at the end, a woman asked, “When’s the next one?”
All weekend the Trigger Finger Lemonade cart rolled around downtown, inducting new members into El Paso’s oldest secret society. The Members Only lounge at Cuadro freaked out a few kids who thought they might be the next ones to have their fingers embalmed in ancient lemonade.
The Makey Makey workshop was three solid hours of synth-banana drum sets and play-doh guitar chords. An artist named Brett drew impromptu portraits in the fridge. After a brief siesta, we spent the evening learning to dance salsa, cook salsa, and then munching on chips and fresh salsa while chatting with some of El Paso’s leading food culture advocates, about local food politics.
And just like that the weekend was over. The wind picked up and all the chalk got hosed down. But what remained was the buzz of a generative, collaborative experience, and the warmth of the welcoming, supportive, El Paso community. We’re so happy to have helped kick off all the fun at Cuadro, thanks for having us!
With love from California,
Nicole Lavelle and Bennett Williamson
Machine Project Visiting Artists
Hey, mine and Sarah Baugh's 2013 newsprint guide project Spirit of Windsor is in this group show in Michigan, curated by Ben Gaydos. Here is the show description, it sounds pretty tight. If you are in Lansing between now and December 7, go see it!
SUBSTRATE: Printed Matter from the Rust Belt
10.24 – 12.07
(Scene) Metrospace, 110 Charles St, East Lansing, MI
Opening Reception: October 24th, 6-9pm
With the decline of large scale manufacturing in post-industrial America, there is a desire by many to reclaim small scale production. The past several years has seen a rise of independent publishing across the United States with increased visibility and availability of zines and art books, and a DIY ethos which embraces exploration, technique and radical production methods. SUBSTRATE explores the politics and poetics of print in the Rust Belt, asking the viewer to think about the relationship between landscape, the material environment, and printed matter.
Hello, I am in Texas. With my friend Bennett Williamson, I’m a visiting artist to a new arts space called CUADRO in downtown El Paso. The space is an initiative of the University of Texas El Paso’s Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, and is a collaboration with Los Angeles-based Machine Project, El Paso’s Museums and Cultural Affairs Department, and the El Paso Community Foundation. Working with local artists, we’ll generate programming for three days next weekend. We’re helping them shape their events/performances/workshops, and Bennett and I will probably make some of our own work, too.
Love Jen. Love Clifton. Love this essay. Love Portland design. Thanks for sharing, DWP!
Share Document is a collection of writings on design, edited by Clifton Burt and Nicole Lavelle, and published by Ampersand on the occasion of Design Week Portland 2013. The book is available for purchase here. With big thanks to the editors and contributors, we’re sharing the essays that were published last year here on the blog.
Ten Lessons Graphic Designers Learn That Every Artist Should Understand
By Jen Delos Reyes
I have spent the past five years co-directing an MFA program at Portland State University focused on art and social practice. The program is based on a foundation of access, community, collaboration and engagement. It values and acknowledges multiple forms of knowledge, and embraces an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art. The mantra of the program could easily be that art and social practice starts and ends not in rarefied spaces, but out in the world. The program educates and activates students to develop and utilize their artistic skills to engage in society. It is the kind of learning that creates engaged citizens.
I believe that the fairly recent interest in and proliferation of art programs that focus on what is being referred to as either art and social practice, public practice, or community arts is in part because these programs propose not only alternate forms of sustainability for an art practice outside of market constraints, but promote the multitude of ways artists can function in the world. However the majority of these programs are at the graduate MFA level only, which is highly problematic.
I believe that an artist’s relationship to and placement in society should not be an area of specialization, or afterthought, but instead a core component of the education of all artists. Because I believe that all artists need to contemplate and consider context, publics, and relationships, I have recently been making the argument that art and social practice needs to be taught at a foundations level. As much as artists are pushed to develop craft and hone in on concepts, they should be thinking about context, publics, and social function. This should be the basis of all art education today.
In 2007, the brilliant Jen Delos Reyes founded the Open Engagement conference. Since 2011, I’ve been the designer for the conference branding and identity, with Sarah Baugh. This year, web wizard Alex Harris of Internet Studio built a new website for OE 2015, which will take place in Pittsburgh.
The website launched this weekend, woohoo!
Love collaborating with these brilliant people.
SUMMER HOUSE PHOTOS now available on Flickr.
There might still be a website or a catalog on the way, who knows.
Summer House was a mellow art residency in Lagunitas, California that took place in August at the old Lavelle family summer cabin. There was a haul of magic people that popped in, for days or a week at a time. Lots of clay, salad, paint, adventuring, swimming, and fireside chats.
Thank you, all you dreamy people, for coming to the woods to spend time and creative energy together.
BREAKING NEWS: the photo of Sarah and me in our VISITING ARTIST sweatshirts is finally made public.
Here is a short interview we did with the Carville Annex, about the mag and its context.
I took a picture in Nevada City on this disposable camera that Cortney sent me in the mail. Then I mailed it to Taryn Cowart. Excited to see the rest!
the disposable camera for CCOOLL’s Adventure Club 2014 project has returned!
photo contributors: Ike Edeani, Nicole Lavelle, Taryn Cowart, Kevin Novales, Nichole Gawalis, Martine Syms, Debbie Carlos, Amanda Jasnowski, Matthew Feyld, Erin Gilkes, & David Barclay
Here is a postcard I designed for Southern Exposure's Mission Voices Summer program. The premise for this session is very cool: What if sometime in the past, kids took over the city? I would like to find out. The opening is coming up on Wednesday, I’m going to go. Maybe you will too?
Thank you Sarah Hotchkiss for the opportunity to work with this rad program within this rad institution!
Last winter and spring I wrote a lot of postcards to Mary Rothlisberger, and she wrote a lot to me. It became a collaboration project called THAT MOON THIS PLACE WHICH WAY that Mary installed in an exhibition called I THINK OF YOU ON MOUNTAINTOPS at the New Gallery in Calgary, Alberta.
It’s about place, space, landscape, longing, remembering, and moving forward. I met Mary in the desert in the winter after we had narrowly missed crossing paths like, 100 times prior so this was a nice, fullfilling, long-time-coming kind of thing.
You can read all of our postcards (if you want to) in this PDF that Mary made.
We are pleased to announce that we’ve sent the Green River Magazine to print. Thanks to a 2013 Sappi: Ideas that Matter grant and the incredible generosity of Epicenter, we will soon have a printed document of a lot of hard work in the town of Green River, Utah.
People, would you like to receive a copy in the mail? Use this form to give us your address. We’ll ship them until our shipping budget runs out, at which point you’ll have to travel to Green River to pick up a copy.
Photo by Miles Mattison