“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.)
People 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.