This is a three part post. Part 1 lays the foundation for the articles. Parts 2 and 3 are features are some outstanding Burquenos.
Art Fight showcases local talent while building community
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said “Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained.” If that holds true, it is great to see so many young Hispanic artists on the move in New Mexico. I recently had the chance to sit down with a few up and coming talented artists who are making moves in the art community at an exciting local event called Art Fight.
James Montoya, is the creator of Art Fight, a three hour, live art competition hosted by Tractor Brewing Co. in the historic Wells Park neighborhood near downtown Albuquerque. The rules of engagement are pretty simple. Each artist pays a modest entry fee, brings a blank canvas and supplies. Art Fight has a different theme for each night and the artists have three hours to create a piece associated with that theme. They can use any size canvas and create with any medium. At the end of the evening, each artist’s work is auctioned off and the winner gets the pot of all of the other participant’s entry fees. Previous themes have included breast cancer awareness, hip hop, and animals. Some of the Art Fights have been charitable events with proceeds going toward local causes, including a recent event which benefited People’s Anti-Cruelty Association.
James came up with the idea for Art Fight while attending a similar event in Phoenix. He wanted to create a friendly competition because he believes it brings out the best in the artists. What really sets Art Fight apart from bigger venues is the voting system that selects a winner. During Art Fight, Tractor patrons receive a ticket for each beer they purchase and can then vote for their favorite piece with their ticket. Drinking local craft beer and watching amazing artists paint is what I call win-win.
Ask any of the participating artists and they will tell you that while winning Art Fight is the ultimate goal, the best part is meeting other artists. The building of the art community is what James is most proud of. Growing up in Santa Fe near Canyon Road, James was exposed to a lot of international artists in school. While Santa Fe is renowned for its art scene, it is not always the easiest to break into. Galleries there typically want to feature artists that are established with a reputation and multiple shows under their belt. Art Fight gives up-and-coming artists a venue to show their talent.
The benefits of this type of event are plenty. Art Fight provides more opportunities for people to see each artist’s work. It also introduces art to people that might not normally go to a gallery or consider themselves to be art connoisseurs. Holding these events in a bar makes them more accessible to the Duke City’s working class. You can come enjoy some of the best beer in Albuquerque’s growing brewery scene and buy an original piece of art. Most people don’t normally get to see the creative process in person, so this event is unique and well worth making the trip down to Tractor. It gives people a chance to see what goes into creating something. This event is truly about building community and connections. Of course, the benefit for the artist is getting their name out and having people who might not normally be interested in their art take an interest, and maybe even purchase it, or at least get their contact info for a commission. Painting is usually a very solitary activity, with the artist isolated in a studio. Art Fight is a great way to build camaraderie between local artists and expand their network in the art world.
An added benefit is that it gives these artists the chance to earn money. Galleries will sometimes ask for up to sixty percent of the sale for a piece and don’t always do much to promote the artworks. These artists invest a lot of time and money into their craft. James believes it’s important for them to be recognized for their talent.
Art Fight isn’t as easy as these artists make it look. As with any competition, the level of talent can be a little intimidating. The three hour time limit also forces many artists out of their comfort zone. The short amount of time can make painting a little more stressful, but it also makes it fun. The artists try to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t and know that it’s meant to be a good time. For James, the challenge of organizing the event, getting entertainment lined up, and promotion can be daunting, but the fruits of his labor are surely worth the effort when he sees everyone networking and the art community growing.
Each of the artists I spoke with took a different journey to get where they are and it’s incredibly exciting to hear where they’re going with their art. The one thing they have in common is that they all started practicing art as a kid. As a child, James had participated in the Spanish Colonial Arts Society Youth Market. He asked for an airbrush when he was 10 or 11 years old after seeing airbrushed t-shirts at the New Mexico State Fair. He attended The University of New Mexico to pursue an art degree and began attending art markets. James’ art is inspired by women and “the way they have an almost indescribable power conveyed through a certain look or glance.” He also works with ideas of space and time. It allows him to explore “traveling at the speed of light; what that means in terms of light, color, and reality.” He tries to challenge himself with his newer work and doesn’t do as much in terms of personally inspired themes. He’s found that those aren’t as easy to sell and are sometimes harder to part with. James is conscious of the fact that you have to know your audience depending on the venue and art form. What may be appropriate pricing and placement for a gallery might not work in a bar. James paints, does print work, and creates purses and jewelry. He recently participated in the 64th Traditional Spanish Market and won a prize for a purse he created with his mother. James spends most of his time creating art and works part time at Masks y Mas where his creative efforts are supported and encouraged.
James believes there are a lot of super creative, talented and under rated artists in the community that don’t always know how to get their art out in front of the right people. He encourages these up and coming artists to come paint live at Art Fight. James believes that if he shares everything he knows with other artists, they will share what they know and they can all learn from each other.
Celeste Garcia, also known as Spoken, is one of the up and coming artists who has benefited from Art Fight. Like James, she’s always considered herself an artist, but really began to take it seriously about five years ago; prior to that she mostly worked on black book sketching and graffiti. Celeste’s stepfather is also an artist. Growing up in Albuquerque, she often found herself taking any art class she could. Her favorite medium is drawing, but she’s found that most people are more interested in paintings. With the help of folks like James, she has started to do more shows and network in the art community. Celeste feels that the community is really starting to boom and she appreciates all of the motivation and support she has received. She has felt welcomed with open arms and appreciates that everyone is treated like equals. In general, art can be a tricky scene to break into, especially for someone like Celeste, who describes herself as a little on the shy side. She has felt invited in and knows that everyone wants to see each other succeed. Celeste considers her art to be multimedia and creates based on whatever speaks to her. Starting off, she felt discouraged by galleries in Santa Fe that said you need to find your one thing. She didn’t want to limit herself to just one thing and knows that not everyone is going to like what you create.
Celeste is currently working on a clothing line called Squish ink with some partners including Josh Wilkinson. She also has some works featured at El Chante Casa de Cultura here in Albuquerque. Celeste is staying busy with commissions, working full-time at T-Mobile US, going to the gym, and spending time with family and friends. She knows that if she wants something, she’s going to have to work hard for it and push herself. It might mean being tired, but she knows it’s worth it. She thinks about taking time off, but just can’t. She’s too motivated and blown away by what she has accomplished so far. Celeste has a dream to open her own gallery and shop, where artists and crafters can have a place to sell their work.
As an artist, Celeste feels that emotion plays a big part in her work. She’s a Cancer and says that how she feels makes a huge difference from what colors she uses to what she creates. She used to do more graffiti art, but has “moved a little more to realism and the natural world incorporating some abstract art.” Celeste enjoys experimenting as an artist, for example, she’s exploring magnetic graffiti. She enjoys seeing the changes artists make over time and loves to challenge herself. As a result, she has several half-done projects, but loves being able to go in different directions if she likes.
Allan Armenta, whose artist name is Alarment, is another local artist that has recently started participating in Art Fight. Growing up on Bloomfield, NM, Allan enjoyed creating stories through drawing and sculpting. His interest increased as he grew older and was influenced heavily by comic books and cartoons. Allan excelled in art throughout school and knew he wanted to pursue art in college. He attended The University of New Mexico and earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in Art Studio. It wasn’t until attending UNM that Allan was introduced to painting and computer animation. His interest in technology led to Allan obtaining a Master’s of Business Administration degree from UNM with a concentration in Management Information Systems. His keeps busy as a Systems Analyst for the City of Albuquerque and enjoys introducing art to his two young children. Allan continued to be creative after graduation, branching out into sculptural art and focusing on urban vinyl art toys. There isn’t much of a market for that locally, so Allan began participating in shows across the country in places like New York, San Francisco, Dallas, and Santa Fe. He’s also had works on display in Italy, London and Singapore. Participating in Art Fight has allowed Allan to get back into painting.
Allan considers his art to be abstract with some elements of realism in it. His art has been described as having an organic feel with sexual undertones. He is influenced at times by dreams and likes to invoke feelings from dreams in the abstract spaces he creates. Allan finds the local art scene to be very diverse, with some artists tending to have a more traditional, New Mexican style. He noted that “several local artists have Native American or Hispanic styles while incorporating pop culture ideals.”
Art Fights have been happening in Albuquerque for about a year and the momentum is clearly building. For the upcoming one year anniversary, James plans to host an invitational for artists that have previously participated. He also wants to get some additional sponsors so that none of the artists have to pay an entry fee. James has been in talks with producers to have a reality show based on Art Fight. Other ideas include doing a traveling show or regional competition in LA, Phoenix, Denver and Albuquerque. This is great exposure for Albuquerque.
While not all of the participating artists are Hispanic, it’s great to see our young Hispanic artists showcasing their talent and equally exciting to see the art community in Albuquerque starting to thrive. Art Fight creates a venue for artists of all backgrounds and talent levels. It gives artists valuable exposure and practice. Even though it’s a competition, make no mistake, this is a friendly fight. While there may be a winner of each Art Fight, the larger community wins by connecting people and sharing art.
Art Fight showcases local talent while building community
Albuquerque has some talented Hispanic artists who are making moves in the art community at an exciting local event called Art Fight.
James Montoya is the creator of Art Fight, a live art competition hosted by Tractor Brewing Co. The rules of engagement are pretty simple. Each artist pays a small entry fee, brings a blank canvas and supplies. Art Fight has a different theme for each night and the artists have three hours to create a piece associated with that theme. At the end of the evening, each artist’s work is auctioned off and a winner is declared. Some of the Art Fights have been charitable events with proceeds going toward local causes, including a recent event which benefited People’s Anti-Cruelty Association. During Art Fight, Tractor patrons receive a ticket for each beer they purchase and can then vote for their favorite with their ticket.
Ask any of the participating artists and they will tell you that while winning Art Fight is the ultimate goal, the best part is connecting with other artists. The building of the art community is what James is most proud of. Allan Armenta and Celeste Garcia, known as Alarment and Spoken respectively, are two artists that have recently competed. Come see these incredibly talented artists paint at the next Art Fight!