By Rick Rotante
I have been working in New Mexico for the past fourteen months, and there have been challenges that have presented themselves that have made me question my ideas about art, teaching and community. When you come to a smaller community, you find that motives and goals are quite different than what you are used to in bigger cities like New York, California or any other art mecca. Interest in art is still strong, but many here do not aspire to become worldlass or to interact on a bigger or world stage. They do not seek fame or notoriety, while willing to learn and advance the drive for acclaim and excellence is not as acute as I found when teaching in New York or California.
I have managed to offer drawing and painting classes for students wishing to add to or continue their art training in several venues here. And I have had success in bringing new techniques and ideas to many in the community willing to expand their knowledge — with several notable differences.
Aspiring artists understandably gravitate to areas where educational opportunities flourish. Where you go to get the best teachers. Where there are opportunities to see great art. Where you can commune with others of like mind and be inspired by them and by your surroundings. This was true in the Renaissance and it is true today. This has been my belief and understanding since I decided to become a professional artist and make my life all about creating art.
When I first started teaching here, I had false assumptions about how and what I would teach. Foolishly, I expected on that first day to be assailed by semi-seasoned artists ready to push forward and expand their experiences; artists who, with several years already behind them, were anxious to break new ground and work to improve their skills.
Alas, that was not what I found here.
Forgetting to consider the time and place, I failed to appreciate that I was no longer in an art mecca where seasoned artists congregate. This was not an area where one goes to expand one’s artistic prowess and expertise. I found here a community that firstly had a culture I was unfamiliar with. A culture steeped in traditions with which I had no knowledge or experience. I had forgotten to take into account I was a stranger in a strange land with a rich culture going back centuries. A history and culture where I was completely ignorant.
My wife has repeatedly reminded me that I am on my own time frame, one which may be incompatible with the reality of my situation. She is right again.
I have come to the understanding that to create opportunities for myself, I need to understand the people and the history of this place. In the end, excellence can be achieved regardless of initial ability or the lack of desire to be famous or world renowned.
Keeping art alive and vital should be my ultimate goal.