How is the project operated?
516 ARTS is a nonprofit 501c3 organization located in Downtown Albuquerque. The staff members are all artists themselves.
How long has it been in existence?
516 ARTS was founded in late 2006 with support from the McCune Charitable Foundation and local business sponsors. The building was remodeled as an exhibition space in the early 1990s, and has been a destination for contemporary art ever since. Over the years it was run by various for-profit and nonprofit entities before 516 ARTS was founded.
What was your motivation?
516 ARTS was founded as an arts and education organization to bring art and audiences together, to serve as a “flagship” for the arts in the revitalization of Downtown Albuquerque, and to utilize one of the best exhibition spaces in the state.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
There are 4 full-time staff members, 4 regular consultants, 9 members of the Governing Board of Directors, 25 members of the Advisory Board, and numerous volunteers and interns who help operate 516 ARTS.
How are programs funded?
As a nonprofit organization, the largest part of 516 ARTS’ income comes from grants from both local and national foundations and government. A portion of our budget comes from individuals who contribute annually either to membership campaigns and/or special projects. Currently, the smallest portion of our budget comes from business sponsorships and earned income (art sales, gift shop, workshop and special event fees). Almost all of our programs are offered free to the public, so we don’t have income from ticket sales or admissions. Although we do sell art from many of our exhibitions as a fundraising activity, art sales are not a driving force for the organization since our mission revolves around education.
Who is responsible for the programming?
516 ARTS develops exhibition programming by inviting guest curators and organizations to work with us, as well as by pursuing ideas from the staff, Board, colleagues and community members. We take a collaborative approach with most things we do. We often form project planning committees made up of a wide range of arts professionals from museums, academia, arts and community organizations as well as local government. 516 ARTS welcomes submissions from independent curators and artists for group exhibitions on an ongoing basis.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
516 ARTS is open year-round except for the installation periods between exhibitions. On average, we have three exhibition slots annually, usually about 3 months each. Since the two-floor gallery allows us to present 2 exhibitions at a time, we present 3-5 exhibitions per year.
What kind of events are usually organized?
516 ARTS programming revolves around our exhibition themes and includes public forums, artist talks, the 516 WORDS poetry series, screenings, workshops, performances, educational tours, curriculum materials for teachers, public art and outreach projects with schools and community centers. 516 ARTS has become known for leading large-scale collaborations involving a wide array of partner organizations from near and far, such as LAND/ART in 2009, STREET ARTS in 2010, Latino Imaginary in 2011 and ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness in 2012. Collaborative events and outreach projects have included land-based art projects in the landscape, a series of street art murals in Downtown Albuquerque, an international conference on electronic art, a Downtown Block Party and more.
How is your programming determined?
Programming is determined by our Executive Director, Staff and Board. We all keep our ears to the ground about new, relevant and exciting art and ideas, and also bring our own areas of interest to the job. We strive to present work that addresses current issues in world culture through innovative and interdisciplinary exhibitions, events and educational activities in a variety of art forms.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
We accept proposals from artists and curators on an ongoing basis. Guidelines are available at www.516arts.org. Additional inquiries can be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We value inquiry, diversity, collaboration and accessibility. We seek out work that inspires curiosity, dialogue, risk-taking and creative experimentation, and we showcase both established and emerging local, national and international artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Recurring areas of focus for 516 ARTS have been around social, cultural and environmental issues. We research and seek out artists who are doing work that challenges our perceptions and offers alternative ways of seeing and thinking about the future.
Working with independent curators diversifies our approaches to curatorial practice and is a wonderful hands-on learning experience. Each project is unique. Sometimes we are in a mentoring role with emerging artists and curators, and sometimes well-established guest artists and curators teach us new methodologies and perspectives. In all cases, there is a process of learning, sharing, collaboration and dialogue.
What’s working? What’s not working?
Being a small organization has both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, being small allows us to be agile, work fast, be non-bureaucratic, respond to needs in the community and make things happen in a grass-roots and often spontaneous way. We have filled an important niche for our City and State with our role in leading large-scale collaborations, and we have successfully fostered and managed a wide array of partnerships among arts organizations, museums, universities, government and business entities. We have accomplished so much as a small organization, largely due to the teamwork and dedication of our staff (Rhiannon Mercer, Teresa Buscemi, Claude Smith and me [Suzanne Sbarge, Founder/Executive Director]), as well as our openness to partnering and sharing resources through collaborative programming and marketing.
However, we are perpetually challenged by fundraising to keep our doors open. This unstable financial state makes it difficult to do long-term planning. That said, we understand that this is the norm for small nonprofit organizations, particularly in New Mexico. Somehow we make it work on a project-to-project basis, by pursuing all opportunities for support, juggling and negotiating. Our goal is to develop financial sustainability for the future of 516 ARTS.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
Since it was founded over 6 years ago, 516 ARTS quickly became a leading contemporary arts venue and presenter in our community. We have always showcased local talent alongside national and international artists, which is an important part of our philosophy. Showing local artists exclusively would be too insular and only further isolate them from the larger art world. By mixing it up, local artists make connections with artists and curators from all over the world, and the resulting dialogue and relationships are expansive.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
In the summer 2014, 516 ARTS will present Digital Latin America, an international exhibition and series of events. An outgrowth of the Latin American Forum we presented as part of the ISEA2012 conference, Digital Latin America looks at the ways in which artists negotiate the complex terrain between global and local, virtual and real, and political and private, in the creation of work that proposes alternative understandings of technology, art and cultural exchange. We have launched a call for entries which is going on now through the September 27, 2013 deadline. For information, visit www.516arts.org.
Images courtesy of 516 Arts.