Contemporary Art Month is officially born via proclamation at the hands of then-Mayor Henry Cisneros in honor of three major exhibitions of contemporary art. The first to open, the Blue Star Exhibition, on the site of today's Blue Star Arts Complex, was curated by Steve Bradley, fired earlier that year from the San Antonio Museum of Art for insubordination, according to an article from the Express-News
(by Dan Goddard. Hi, Dan!). Maybe 250 art fans were expected for the opening, says Blue Star Director Bill FitzGibbons, who dug a handful of stories out of his archives for us, but 2,500 showed up. SAMA featured "Open/86" (juried by future director George Neubert) July 6, and the now-defunct San Antonio Art Institute (where FitzGibbons later served as an instructor) opened "San Antonio Circumference," showcasing works by emerging local artists.
Ringleader Jeffrey Moore, then at the Southwest School of Art & Craft, became the first director of Blue Star Art Space, which traces its birthday to those same events. This is why Blue Star's annual CAM (usually group) show is referred to as, i.e. "Blue Star 23: Playing With Time." Mystery date
: Art in America
, Texas Monthly
, and the Current
have reported 1985 as the year of the first CAM, but the Express-News story announcing the "history-making cooperative venture" between SAMA, the Art Institute, and the Blue Star space, is dated May 11, 1986, and a subsequent article announcing Cisneros's proclamation appears to be from the same year based on exhibit titles. 2004
During Carla Stellweg's tenure as Blue Star director (1997-July 2001), the Office of Cultural Affairs took over the calendar and promotions for the poorly run annual event, but Stellweg's husband registered "Contemporary Art Month" in Blue Star's name, according to FitzGibbons, who replaced Stellweg one year later. In 2004, OCA approached Blue Star about moving CAM to October to coincide with its new Fall Art Festivals initiative. The Blue Star board gave its approval, but when FitzGibbons and OCA Director Felix Padron took the idea to the artists, galleries, and artist-run spaces, they met with stiff resistance (read: torches and pitchforks). Artist, designer, and Wiggle Room proprietor Robert Tatum registered CAM in his name, and with then-partner Anjali Gupta initiated CAM as the independent, artist-run month we know now, which currently revolves primarily around camsanantonio.org. 2008
Tatum moves to Houston for work (keeping a house in SA), and approaches local arts organizations Southwest School of Art & Craft and Blue Star for help with CAM, leading to rumors that he is giving up running the event. Tatum asks FitzGibbons if Blue Star will consider serving as the umbrella for an independent CAM steering committee. FitzGibbons says he's interested if the arts community supports the idea. FitzGibbons approaches the Convention and Visitors Bureau's Scott White and Padron, which leads to a facilitated public meeting attended by some 30 people, including artists, gallery operators, and City folk. Among the goals the group reached consensus on: grow the national and international audience, and form a steering committee.
Tatum responds that he is rebuilding his CAM board, and they will negotiate with Blue Star to become the official sponsor, and move the annual event to March, a more popular month with the CVB, OCA, and people who have to walk between galleries. FitzGibbons reiterates that he'll only consider it if the community as a whole supports Blue Star's involvement.
Another stakeholder meeting is set for the first Saturday in August. Contact Robert Tatum
and Justin Parr
if you're an arts-community stakeholder.