San Antonio is a city of artists, many of whom call Southtown home. We’re also home and incubator to many important art organizations. One such organization is Contemporary Art Month (CAM), a non-profit that got its start in the space now occupied by Blue Star Contemporary.
CAM is really two things: the organization itself, which was founded in 1986 to promote the arts community in San Antonio; and its namesake event, the annual, month-long celebration of local arts and artists, which is just about to get underway.
CAM: the organization
Today, CAM is completely virtual.
It has no office space. It has no paid staff. It has an all-volunteer board. And it doesn’t have a lot of funds. What it does have is a group of hard-working artists and art-lovers who are committed to supporting and promoting the San Antonio artist community, and who strive to elevate the national profile of the city’s contemporary art.
At the helm of the organization is Nina Hassele, who has served as the organization’s Executive Director since 2011. Nina — a life-long ‘art lover’ — is an art collector and curator. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York and told me that the art galleries and museums in her neighborhood were her ‘playground’ growing up. She welcomed the opportunity to become involved with CAM soon after she moved to San Antonio.
Nina says “we have an incredible board. Everyone works long and hard to make Contemporary Art Month happen every year, and most board members also contribute a significant amount of their own personal money because the donations we get don’t cover our expenses.” I’ll talk more about that in a bit.
Contemporary Art Month: the ‘event’
Every March, as part of Contemporary Art Month, there are art events every day, all over the city — exhibits, musical performances, poetry readings, literary events, 3D art displays, performance art events... the arts in all its forms. These events take place in galleries, museums, outdoor venues, studios, and other venues throughout San Antonio.
In normal (non-COVID) years, there are typically over 200 Contemporary Art Month events throughout the city. Nina says they really don’t have a good feel yet for how many there will be this year, but CAM is doing what it can to make things work. For example, it chose a venue with significant outdoor space for its awards event, which is always well attended and festive.
There are a few key events that are part of Contemporary Art Month every year and that are orchestrated by the CAM board:
CAM Kick-off: This year’s kick-off will be at Blue Star Contemporary in the Blue Star Arts Complex on Friday, March 4th from 6 PM to 9 PM.
The Kick-off will feature the CAM Breakout Series, curated by Martin C. Rodríguez and Verena Gaudy, and is sponsored by Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co. It will also feature the CAM Student Film Series, which will showcase films by students from local San Antonio colleges. This series was curated by CAM executive board member Sarah Lasley.
Nina tells me “The kick-off will be great... we’re excited about both the breakout series and the film series, and the location is right in the Blue Star Arts Complex, which has terrific dining and entertainment venues.”
CAM Perennial: This is a curated exhibit, and this year it will feature seventeen artists and will be displayed in two locations.
Since 2010, CAM has invited a curator from outside of San Antonio to curate a show of San Antonio artists. In advance, artists submit applications to participate, and those applications are provided to the guest curator, who selects the artists to include. The CAM board has no voice in artist selection.
Perennial 2022 is being curated by Lauren Cross, an artiist/filmmaker and curator from Fort Worth, Texas. The exhibition will be hosted in two venues — the Southwest School of Art and Sala Diaz. Lauren has selected the 17 artists whose work will be displayed in the exhibition.
CAMMIE Awards: Wrapping up the celebration are the CAMMIE Awards. These awards will be presented on March 27th, 6 PM - 9 PM at Space C7 (a venue with both indoor and outdoor space).
There will be three awards. The Southwest School of Art and Sala Diaz will each select an award winner and present those awards. And a third ‘People’s Choice Award’ will be presented. The People’s Choice winner is selected by San Antonio community members — anyone can cast a vote on the CAM website. Any artist in San Antonio that is participating in a Contemporary Art Month event is eligible for an award.
There’s more to Contemporary Art Month, however, than the three events organized by CAM.
The celebration is intended to be inclusive, and all San Antonio artists are invited to participate. Any artist with an event can add it to the community calendar that CAM maintains on its website.
Nina tells me “from artists, to musicians, poets, writers, performers, 3D arts and on, all are welcome to submit events to the calendar. There’s no charge this year for submitting an event, and there’s no deadline for submission. Any artist who wants to post an event can add it at any time.”
In non-COVID times, there is usually a nominal fee to submit an event, but that’s been waived this year. Nina tells me “The artist community has been hit hard by COVID so we’re doing everything we can to help them out.”
Artists can submit events to the calendar here.
According to Nina, the calendar is available 12 months a year, so artists can post events all year long — exhibition openings, artist receptions, performing art events, and so on.
The Contemporary Art Month celebration helps to bring our community together. It takes a lot of time and work all year round to make it happen — the time and work of a small group of volunteers who also contribute their own money to support the effort.
This small group of people has a big impact — both on the artists it supports, and on the residents of San Antonio who benefit from the contributions of those artists.
CAM can always use additional funds. Although it has no paid staff or facility costs, it does have expenses. For example, it covers all travel and per diem expenses for the Perennial Exhibition curator. These expenses alone are usually more than the dollars CAM has on hand, and the overage is covered by board members. And of course there are other expenses, like website hosting, printing, and so on.
CAM could use our help, and welcomes donations to support its continued efforts to bring art into our lives. If you’d like to help, you can make a donation here.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.
Contemporary Art Month is almost here!
Tuesday, February 15, 2022