Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in an event for artists called the Creative Collective. The event was exactly what I had hoped it would be – a meeting of the minds to discuss how to help the Nogales artist community grow. The event was planned and executed using the philosophy that if we can build up the local artist community, then we can bring Nogales some sorely needed economic relief.

The conversation inevitably veered off in some rather wild directions – what else would you expect from a bunch of musicians, painters, writers and actors? But at the core of the discussion was the feeling that Nogales is failing its artists, particularly the youth. Whether due to a lack of understanding of the arts and what it takes for an artist to succeed, or if it boils down to people just not placing value in artistic expression, the fact is there are very few resources to allow a young artist to thrive in Nogales.

That’s not to say that there is nothing going on locally to help young – or experienced, for that matter – artists to create, and occasionally even display their art. We have the Hilltop Gallery, which often hosts classes and events. The artist-run gallery inside the Quality Hotel Americana also hosts a monthly “open mic” style event where local artists of all sorts can come and put their work on display. The Mexican Consulate consistently hosts expositions supporting the arts. And County Superintendent of Schools Alfredo Velasquez has hired artist Nick Mansfield to run the county’s arts in education program.

All of these things, though, are small pieces of a much larger puzzle. There are people here who get it; people like Mansfield and Jacksubeli Gonzalez of the Border Youth Tennis Exchange and co-organizer of the Creative Collective. There are even people who get it that aren’t artists, like Velasquez. But certain forms of arts education seem to have been placed on the backburner for some local schools. Local theater arts programs are not what they once were. That doesn’t mean that talent and desperation for artistic expression don’t exist here. Those are two of our most abundant resources. So why not utilize them properly?

What can you do to help Nogales artists? I think the most important thing any of us can do is ensure that the arts, in all their various forms, remain in the schools. “We are all just one generation away from losing our craft,” is how Mansfield put it at the meeting. And he’s right. If we don’t encourage artistic expression to our youth, then the arts die with us. And when we lose art, we lose everything.

(The Wright Idea is a new monthly column created by Nogales author Joe Wright in honor of his father’s long-time NI column, The Wright Stuff. Contact him at josephw575@gmail.com. Opinions expressed here are his own.)

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