Tag Archives: Arts Funding

Laguna Beach’s Sawdust Art Festival; Rocket Science & Plein Air!

1235327_10201862646150037_273817503_n“All art shows….contribute to our creative sides.”  ~ Tom Klingenmeier, General Manager, Sawdust Art Festival

California Roll.

Thanks to good friends, I was recently lucky enough to visit the city of Laguna Beach, CA . It’s a wonderful arts city, crowded with tourists and locals alike, just as Jackson is during our high summer season. We went to an art fair I’ll never forget: the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival on Laguna Canyon Road. Set against a cliff in a eucalyptus grove, Sawdust is a world unto itself, wildly creative, funky and welcoming. A waterfall splashes off the cliff into a rocky pool.

Sawdust is open two full months during the summer, late June through early September. Participating artists must be from Laguna. Close to 200 artists build their own booths each year. Booths must be constructed of wood frame and roofs, built strictly to code, and they can be as imaginative as artists wish, resulting in a fair that feels like a pop-up fantasy art village. Booth spaces differ in size, so Sawdust artists must scale to fit. Artists are responsible for taking booths down and restoring the three acre grove to its original natural state. Booths come down after Sawdust’s Winter Fantasy Show; a holiday-themed show taking place the last two weekends in November and the first two in December. Offices, meeting rooms, a glass-blowing center and arts education “classrooms” remain up year-round.

A very broad array of price points means there’s affordable art for everyone.

Sawdust blew me away! From the moment I walked in (entry fees for adults are in the $7-$8 range) I wondered how Laguna pulls this fair off; it’s 47 years old. I made a note to contact Sawdust, ask pesky questions about its structure and history, and report to you! Tom Klingenmeier, Sawdust’s general manager sent a generous response. I’ve edited my questions and Tom’s replies for length.


Tammy Christel: How did Laguna Beach galleries initially respond to Sawdust? Was there trepidation? How do galleries feel about Sawdust today?

Tom Klingenmeier:  When we began only about a third of  the galleries Laguna currently has existed, and there was some resentment. Soon, though, gallery owners, hotels and restaurants realized that Sawdust generated over a half-million visitors in a short time. They quickly adapted and embraced the shows. They now rely heavily on the traffic we generate. Some of our galleries collaborate, featuring local artists in Laguna’s three summer festivals. Some artists conduct co-ops, taking turns being in their space to cut down on sales personnel. It also affords the artists more time to share art experiences with visitors, leading to more affordable art and knowledge for the buyer.

TC: How is Sawdust paid for?

TK: We sell tickets, and if you saw all three shows you had the chance to buy our “Passport to the Arts” ticket for all those shows, all summer long; it includes one-time parking in a large lot served by free tram service that goes all over town. We charge very nominal booth fees, have a retail shop that sells only Sawdust T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, and we charge rent for the five food concessions we lease. We have a saloon, selling wine and beer.

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Walker Cake; Mountain Trails; Artists in the Environment

"Cruise" by Travis Walker

“Cruise” by Travis Walker

“Stability is something we all seek. That’s why we’ve built things up. You can find amazing classes to take, but carving out your own space is another story. We don’t have a central place for that, and that’s the demand.” ~ Travis Walker

Now for that cake. This interview reflects Travis Walker’s views developed from years of working independently and otherwise in Jackson’s art scene.

“The way we’ve built our arts scene, it hasn’t been community based,” says Jackson Hole artist and newest NEA grant reviewer Travis Walker. “We have a great commodity. Galleries are lined with paintings and artwork. But when we built the Center, we forgot about the cake. The cake is artists. Without them, nothing works. If you don’t have people in classes, if you can’t afford to live here, you’re not invested, and you have to move. We’re finite, and we deal with the same people.”

(Insertion: The Center for the Arts and the Art Association are two different entities. As you’ll see, Walker realizes that the expense of real estate is a heavy mantle for arts groups here. Classes represent grass roots efforts, touch countless lives, create indelible memories, and are highly formative for Jackson’s young people, as well as adults. The point is there are many currents at work; every class listing represents vast numbers of people of all ages either making, observing or leading a class.)

studioPeople of means who can afford studio space or industrious, hard-working people like John Frechette, whose business is expanding, are doing well. But real estate is a big problem, says Walker. We need to make space affordable—it’s difficult, yet very desireable to be here. The only way to attract people is to create affordable space, and now we’re back in a situation where decent space is hard to find.

Walker believes the way to start anything is to create work space.

The Factory was a place for artists to work, the rent was cheap, and people —kids, too—could come in and see how art was made. We did have to shut down, but for reasons unrelated to this core need. We all had a common goal,” he says. “At this stage in my career I don’t need classes. But now what? Artists who know their craft like classes, but not every month. The demand for affordable studio space, though—that’s something artists pay for every month. It’s steady income for the building occupied.”

Walker is giving away his plan. Is he ok with that? Yes.


“You have to know how to approach all sorts of people, and I’m not sure that is something you can learn in school. Things change. Our Latino citizens are, as of the 2010 census, almost 30% of our population. Those kids are in my classes. It’s organic; we have to change. I’ve changed. People have not known what the hell I was doing; we were all fluctuating violently in reaction to our crashing local economy. We’re still seeing the fallout.”

Maybe THAT will change. The desire is present. Arts work together.


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Travis Walker’s Keys to Art’s Kingdom


Jackson Hole artist, entrepreneur and mover-shaker Travis Walker spends as much time searching out opportunities to house artists as he does creating his own art. It’s a driving mission, and now Walker may have been handed, as he says, “the keys to the kingdom.”

Walker is one of only five artists in the country chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) “ARTIST COMMUNITIES: Art Work” program to review, score and make in-depth comments on 56 projects submitted for NEA grant money. He has three weeks.

shot_1313720245080-300x300Walker is the “new kid on the block,” reviewing requests that could receive as much as $250,000 from the NEA, the largest arts funding group in the country.  An incredible opportunity says Walker; these projects are the best applications from the best development teams in the country. It’s a gift to review, understand and learn from them, as well as a starting point for Walker to submit his own requests. If he were ever chosen to receive such a grant, the NEA needs to know, down to the tiniest detail, what Walker’s project would be.

“After we score all the applicants there will be a review panel held in Washington DC in June,” Walker explains. “I’ll be with senior panelists and two NEA specialists work with us. They contacted me; I did not request to be considered. The NEA must have found me on line; they were looking for someone from Wyoming, which is validating, and the NEA picks panelists they want to encourage to apply for grants themselves at a later date. Going through this process will teach me the process, I’ll learn so much about how national organizations like this one work.  If I were successful, it would be an awesome cornerstone to start building something—for the Art Lab to build something.”


It’s also important, says Walker, that NEA panelists don’t have a whiff of conflict of interest when reviewing projects, ruling out many major artist communities. (There are federal laws about that for non-profits, and you can read them—just click on that link up there.) Walker took part in a conference call with the other panelists so they could introduce themselves to one another. The call gave Walker a chance to ask questions about the system. And away they go!

Walker’s excitement is understandable.

“I have a waiting list of artists that’s so long I can barely keep track of it; and no space to give them. Right now we pay our landlord rent. We have to raise about $20K every year to balance out our rent budget,” says Walker. “Five years ago I didn’t think I’d see people pay $800 to rent studio space, let alone $300; but people are doing better jobs of trying to make their businesses work. I don’t know yet where we’d build a new space, but I know I could raise the money.

"Snow King" - Travis Walker

“Snow King” – Travis Walker

I think what this kind of grant does, it gives people living where studio space is difficult to afford a place to work. That takes significant public funding. Every year I have to go out and ask for grant money to subsidize these projects. What I should be doing is getting money to build something that is rent controlled; we own it. It’s an asset, we’re not paying into it every month.

cherry-birthday-cake-300x450If something cost, say, only a $1,000,000, a plan could go forward. I wouldn’t have to wait for a ton of public approval and appropriations. I’ll start with the cake. I notice that even with the concerts and things we’ve been doing, momentum isn’t building because we still don’t have the cake. We don’t have it built correctly yet. What’s missing is a real artists community. A place that’s only about artists studios, where they work and interact with each other, do the work they want, have time and space to do it.”

The cake. More about Walker’s take on cake soon.  www.nea.gov










Leadership at Teton County’s Non-Profits; A Resource for Arts Strategies

Some 158 connections make up my Linkedin network. If you’re on Linkedin, your connections probably come from all walks of life, do all sorts of jobs,reached various of levels of success, or work solo. My connections are a split of long-time friends, and friends I’ve made through work. I’ve worked for non-profits with missions connected to arts, education and media. I worked with one of my connections during my years at WGBH, Boston’s flagship public broadcasting station. In those years, he was the station’s V.P.; now he’s President and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Recently he posted his intention to attend the National Arts Strategies’ (NAS) Chief Executive Program, “The New Nature of Money.” The program “will challenge participants to be as creative about their business models as they are about their programs. The capital market for nonprofits is rapidly and dramatically changing. This event will explore what a thriving financial model looks like tomorrow for a mission-driven organization and will help participants rethink their own financing strategies.”  

An upcoming NAS workshop, taking place this fall at Harvard, is titled “The New Nature of Relevance.” How is value defined today? “The event,” says NAS,”will give participants access to the latest, most useful thinking about societal dynamics, getting beyond the noise of the 24-hour news cycle to gain insight through meaningful research and models. Participants will look at critical currents in U.S. social structure and context, and explore effective frameworks for designing organizations and programs to thrive in this new context.”

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MADE Gallery Opens in Gaslight Alley; “Arts for All” Grants $$

john-frechette-strapped-090722The tide rolls out, the tide comes back in.

Lots of closings around town lately, and people moving on.   So sad.   But there is new growth as well, buds of activity and new operating models.   Two new galleries are opening; one, Heather James, I’ve mentioned and will write more about soon.

The other is a gallery with good potential for locals:  MADE. (Brilliant name!)  It opens soon, in Gaslight Alley, just down from Valley Books and Brookover Photography, across the alley from Crazy Horse Native American Jewelry and next door to Bet the Ranch.

MADE’s proprietor is John Frechette, owner of Strapped, his own line of belt buckles fashioned from colorful, translucent fused glass.  Frechette plans to load up the shop with handmade “products from around the country.”  I take that to mean his goods are manufactured in America.

Frechette’s space will be home to Strappedglass.com.  It will also be a new venue for local artists, with space dedicated to local work.  Frechette plans buckles1to feature local artists on a rotating basis, spotlighting products for week-long intervals during peak tourist seasons.  Artist “weeks” begin Thursdays and end the following Wednesday.  Opening night parties happen on Thursdays too.   Frechette says it’s mandatory for artists to attend their own opening nights, but they are not required to be on premises for the full week.

Artists need to apply to Frechette to be considered.   Those who are scheduled pay $175 rent for the week, and all sale proceeds go directly to the artist; no commission is paid to MADE.   The fee also pays for opening night refreshments, e-invites and flyers advertising the event.  Extra ads beyond what MADE supplies are at the expense of the artist.

Interested?  Contact Frechette by emailing him:   info@strappedbelts.com. Provide the following information:  Name, Business Name, Website, Mailing address, Phone, email, estimated number of invitees for your opening night, and your first three choices for an exhibition week.

Hurry, because as you might imagine, slots are filling fast.

A phone number has also been supplied:   307.690.9019

At this writing, May 20-27 is the first available artist exhibition week; Frechette has dates available into September, 2010.

    Item #2

    huge315845The Cultural Council of Jackson Hole has announced that 2010 Arts for All grant applications are currently available.   The Cultural Council is a non-profit arts organization that “strives to bring together arts and cultural organizations that are supporting the communication, collaboration, and promotion of cultural life in our valley…”   The Council administers the program.

    Grants are available to both arts and culture organizations and individual artists.   All!

    Potential grant awards are generous.  Up to $6,000 may be awarded to either an individual or a group, but all grants must be matched 1:1 by the applicant.   Arts for All distributes social service tax dollars from the Town of Jackson and Teton County for arts education, says the Cultural Council’s Alissa Davies. The program’s mission includes “producing and presenting opportunities and public projects by artists that have a strong community benefit.”

    Completed applications are due by June 1, 2010; there are no exceptions for late applicants.

    Davies notes that no support will be provided to organizations already receiving public support from Town or County funds. Arts for All funds are allocated to the Cultural Council at the discretion of the Jackson Town Council and the Teton County Board of Commissioners.

    Davies emphasizes that there are no guarantees elected officials will fund beyond this cycle.

    For more information about the Arts for All program, to receive an application and guidelines, or for information about the Cultural Council, please contact Alissa Davies at 307.690.4757,  or email culturalcounciljh@gmail.com.