Chad Plunket on CASP and making an impact with Working Artist Studios
Lubbock, Texas has a metropolitan area of about 300,000. Lubbock is also about a six-hour drive in any direction from the next major city. The isolation of Lubbock could be considered a disadvantage – limiting collaboration, diversity, and ideas. Graduates from the local university often leave the city seeking jobs and more money in bigger markets.
However, the isolation may also be one of Lubbock’s greatest assets. Lubbock has a mentality of – “if we want it, we are going to have to build it – ourselves.”
The Charles Adams Studio Project (CASP) embodies that sentiment. CASP wants some things, and they are building them.
The following is an interview with CASP project manager, Chad Plunket.
What is CASP about?
CP: You can summarize CASP in three words: working, artist, studios, and I don’t care in what order. We’re developing and building studios for working artists. We try to give artists a reason to stick around. We noticed that once students graduate from (Texas) Tech, or any university, they lose facilities, and therefore lose the ability to make the work they want to make, and the work they have been trained to make. For instance, metal fabrication studios are incredibly expensive, and require specialized ventilation. In printmaking some people can afford a small press, but a large press is often out of reach.
We’re trying to give students, professional artists and community members the ability to make the work they want to make, and hub them together to promote collaboration.[In the opinion of the interviewer – giving artists the ability to make the work they want to make is huge]
CASP seems rather unique and/or revolutionary for Lubbock. Do you think you’re making a special impact?
CP: We don’t claim to have invented any of our programs. Community studios exist, live/work studios exist, and monthly art trails exist. We try to put together cool ideas and best practices and match them to our city’s needs and our financial reality.”
Ok, so talk about that. When does a problem require revolution and/or an innovation, and when does the problem need better execution of best practices?
CP: Define revolution and innovation. When we’re launching or revaluating a program, we research similar programs all over the country and even world, and then adapt what we think will work best for our particular situation, organization, and context. I would say that is a form of innovation. Just because an artist still uses paint and canvas doesn’t mean they aren’t innovative. They can be innovative with how they use the same tools. It is certainly a talent to know what to keep and what to throw out.
And we can always execute better. I too am looking for that next revolutionary idea. But, maybe it’s several small ideas, instead of a big idea.
Perhaps we have an advantage of being so geographically isolated – we’re being really impactful to our audience in a way that might be harder for organizations in larger cities – even if they have been doing what we’re doing for longer and for more people.
So, is that a quality over quantity?
CP: I’m not passing judgment, but sometimes more art is simply more art. I think our size of city, with its limited art-specific organizations, has a very concentrated, art-hungry audience that could be difficult to garner in larger areas. But, of course, we don’t have the market other areas do. There will probably not be 3,000 sculptors in Lubbock anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have excellent sculptures.
What are you most proud of?
CP: There are moments where someone who didn’t have access to making something, suddenly makes their first piece, or makes that piece they’ve been dreaming of for years. In one of our classes we had a Tech painting professor, who had never made a print, taking a class with someone who had never made art before. Then everyone was helping everyone. There’s a magic in brining people together— it’s not big or grand, but at those times I know we’re doing something worthwhile here.
What did you learn the hard way?
CP: We can’t do it all – we have more good ideas than we can execute. I go through a full range of emotions when things aren’t able to work. For instance, we haven’t been able to do a photography studio yet, and we feel like we’ve disappointed people.
We need to learn patience. And that’s hard because sometimes our business is all or nothing – we can’t just sorta build a metals studio. And our impatience or eagerness has led us to move quicker than we probably should have. When you’re building buildings and studios – it’s really expensive to change things after the fact. Or if you want to do 8 of something, but the design only allows for 4 within budget, do you change the design and build 6, or do you do stick with the design and do 4?
One of CASP’s properties could have been divided into private artist studios that would have generated revenue for the organization. Instead, CASP used the space for public studios; print, metals, and a gallery were built which don’t bring in near the same revenue as private studios would. Talk about that decision.
CP: Look, the money would have been nice. I would like to think we’re not alone in needing a little more revenue to alleviate some stress, and yes, those private studios would have done just that. But, we went with public studios because we thought they would have greater public impact, and be more engaging. It would have been the difference between greatly impacting 4 artists, versus the 100 people taking public studio classes, and the 3-5 thousand people walking through CASP each First Friday Art Trail. I always think you should pursue ideas that you’re willing to die for. CASP is willing to die for this idea of public studios that engage the public.