A tile crafted by women of the MujerArtes collective form an ofrenda to the Juárez women who have lost their lives in the past 10 years.
As Contemporary Art Month wraps up, many remain unsure about the event's future. A plan outlined by the City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs proposes a move of CAM 2004 from the traditional July to October. The proposed October 2004 CAM would be incorporated into a "Fall Arts Festival" that includes other community staples such as Jazz'SAlive, the Accordion Festival, and Day of the Dead. This agenda was recently discussed in an impromptu public forum at the main library.

The attractive prospect of swapping sweaty balls for the relatively mild days of October seems like a non-issue, but aside from the Blue Star Art Space and various other city-funded folk, the community (as represented by meeting attendees) seemed evenly split on the issue, with many suggesting that the cultural affairs office simply institute its own fall arts "festival" and leave CAM where it stands. The Office of Cultural Affairs, which is funded entirely through tourist-generated hotel taxes, maintains that a block booking of arts-related events would make it easier for them to solicit potential corporate event sponsors whose monies could be rolled into a massive marketing campaign. This open-ended, three-month target marketing extravaganza will be aimed at attracting the "cultural tourist," a tricky demographic that falls somewhere between the self-selecting habitual gallery goer and avid fans of free jazz in the park and turkey on a stick.

Practicing artists, retailers, and independent gallerists seem to comprise the bulk of the "nay" vote on the topic. Even institutions like Say Sí and the Southwest School of Art and Craft expressed concern, explaining that a move would cause them problems since their programs are scheduled well over a year in advance. Unlike the Blue Star Art Space, artist-run spaces do not see financial reward for the sheer quantity of people who may or may not pass through their doors. They don't rely on a head count of daytrippers but on a small, discerning audience of art collectors to survive, and an even smaller pool of visiting critics and curators to succeed. For our precious few commercial galleries and arts-related retail spaces, the switch may create a new financial hole in the already slow sales crater of summer. For still others, this issue is personal - a moral rallying point on questions of ownership, authenticity, and artistic independence. The matter remains unresolved.

In other news, in a brief letter to affiliated editors and contributors, Perla founder and managing editor Elaine Wolff announced last week that the fledgling San Antonio-based art and culture magazine is taking a hiatus of undetermined length. Wolff is optimistic that the magazine will eventually be able to put out its already completed fourth issue, either electronically or at a later date, but specifics are yet to be determined.

Lastly, the second annual Automatic Downtown Studio Tour is on Saturday, July 26. The tour embodies the original DIY attitude that has, to date, made CAM such an overall success. Drop by Espuma on South Alamo for a map of participating locations. Artists include event co-organizer Katie Pell, sculptor Riley Robinson, and multimedia maven Cruz Ortiz. This self-guided tour is free. •


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