Latest Artists’ Town Hall event shows importance of planning, connecting, acting

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– Nancy Zastudil


That’s how Nancy Zastudil, owner of the contemporary art gallery Central Features in downtown ABQ, summed up the Artists’ Town Hall #2 earlier this week.

Artists’ Town Hall #2 took place at Tricklock Company’s TLab on December 12th with about one-hundred people gathered about the stage, in the seats, and around the room as representatives from local organizing movements presented their work and discussed how artists and activists can keep fighting for social justice in the months and years ahead.

Poet Laureate Emeritus, Jessica Helen Lopez, spoke about creating and organizing from a Chicana Feminist Poet’s standpoint. Lopez displayed her poetic prowess after expressing her passion for women’s rights, issues, and access. She is one of many organizing Albuquerque’s version of the Women’s March on Washington next month.

RELATED: If you’ve not seen Jessica perform before, check out this video:

Lopez used the ATH platform to ask for fellow “marchers” participation in the January event — more than 20 people signed up before the night was over.

“I felt the Artists’ Town Hall meeting was a very pragmatic yet creative approach to connecting artists that are also activists within our community and communities at large.” – Jessia Helen Lopez.

Lopez’s passion also preceded a pressing issue in higher education currently being confronted on New Mexico’s university campuses.

Rafael Martinez, a UNM American Studies PhD student, along with Froilan Orozco, spoke at the meeting about the “We Are The Core” and “We Are The Seeds” movements. Both are student and faculty organized efforts on campuses of educational institutions across the state. They are currently fighting the removal of ethnic studies programs from core curriculum requirements for graduation at all New Mexico higher learning institutions.

The conversation about the need to pull the issue off of campuses and into the community was a focus at this week’s Artists’ Town Hall meeting.

RELATED: Orozco and Martinez have also been integral in the push for the University of New Mexico to be designated as a “sanctuary campus.” The UNM Board of Regents recently heard statements of support on this issue but sadly declined to comment or further the conversation. Watch video below:

Orozco and Martinez thanked the audience for their time and attention, and expressed the fact that decisions like the one proposed at UNM have a ripple effect in our communities. University students are not the only ones at risk and the implications of such a decision are frightening for a majority-minority state like New Mexico that prides itself on cultural diversity.

“We were impressed by the reaction and immediate support expressed by the artist community with the #WeAreTheCore movement. Plenty of folks approached us about collaborating & helping out the movement. Artists seemed genuinely concerned about the issue of core curriculum at higher education & its effects on our communities. This was a great event to bridge the gap between institutions and community.” – Rafael Martinez

These ongoing Artist Town Hall meetings are developing into a place where people who are motivated to keep moving our state forward can seek out collaborative partnerships, ask for access to resources and like minds, and otherwise seek support and safety in unsure times.

Anyone familiar with ProgressNow NM or our general political environment knows the thirst and enthusiasm for action is palpable — especially in a room full of artist activists.

When talking about the future of these Artist Town Hall meetings, community organizer, poet, and journalist Bill Nevins said it best. He said that he feels “encouraged to experience a positive spirit of community optimism in this uncertain time.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Stay tuned for the announcement of January’s Artist Town Hall meeting, the third in a series and the first of many in 2017!