“Would you call this a collective, man?” a perplexed Micah Wesley (Werewulf Micah) asks Matthew Tsoodle outside an unremarkable warehouse space on the south side of Santa Fe.
Tsoodle thinks a moment, takes a drag from his cigarette and says, “There are the four organizational people that are the organizers, but apart from that we’re there to support each other and support other artists that want to hang out with us. So in a sense we’re a collective, but we’re not as official as a collective would be.”
With this, The Humble, a four-member nexus of artists and musicians, is defined—sort of. Visual artists and musicians Cannupa Luger Hanska and Rose B Simpson complete the group, which has been conceptualizing and promoting art happenings and music shows since October 2007.
The Humble, much like its location, sits on the fringes of Santa Fe’s visual arts and music establishments. If history serves us correctly, it’s an ideal perch; margins are often the best places to observe, assess and respond accordingly to stale institutions. Culturally speaking, The Humble suggests a healthy community, one that mobilizes and responds with a fitting alternative when it is unsatisfied.
The art/music space has a lot on its plate as it hosts the brilliantly weird folk group Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, rapper/producer MURS and the group art show My Way, among other shows. MURS is the brains behind the Paid Dues Independent Hip-Hop Festival and is the underground hip-hop world’s equivalent of The Neptunes or Timbaland.
It’s hard to imagine how these shows will fit, considering the size of The Humble, which I consider cozy. The space currently holds a drum set, two turntables and a ladder that leads to a loft where Hanska lives. A mixed bag of furniture lines the space, various pieces of art hang on the walls and a blue felt pool table rests next to the roll-up door, which brings a cool draft into the muggy interior.
“Me and Cannupa came up with the idea for The Humble in September 2007 over a sandwich. We were like, ‘Hey, we should have a show,’” Wesley notes. That show, Process, debuted in the art space in the following month.
The Humble was inspired in part by the frustration and disinterest the artists witnessed in the local art and music communities.
“We weren’t getting any invites to go do shows or anything like that,” he continues between swigs of ginger ale. The major component of The Humble is a do-it-yourself philosophy. Rather than waiting for an invitation to play music or display work in a gallery, the artists pool together resources and creative energy, grassroots style. The result is unequivocal control of the projects the collective decides to promote.
“We didn’t like how people cut into the money,” Wesley says about the traditional percentages kept by the galleries upon the sale of artwork. “We wanted to keep things at wholesale prices and affordable to people who really like our work. There’s a whole younger generation of people who really like art but can’t afford it…we don’t keep any percentage if our artists sell something.” This practice keeps The Humble at the mercy of donations. Still, the indie band Cabinet and the hip-hop act 2Mex chose to have their upcoming gigs at The Humble.
“That was one of the reasons I joined the group so wholeheartedly,” Tsoodle says. “I thought that these guys were really serious about reaching out to everybody.”
This is the second component that makes The Humble so intriguing. It supports artists and musicians equally. Rather than focus on the strength of a single artist, it supports the group, no matter how disparate. It’s a concept that Wesley likens to socialist theory: “We kind of think of it as communist-type thing. We want to build on community.”
Tsoodle concurred, adding, “The cool thing that has been really nice has been pulling people in from all over. A lot of artists that I know have been leery about getting into the game. As it is, you can’t really trust anybody, but we’re trying to make it different. If you need help with a project we’ll be there to help or if we need help with a project we like having people around who have the know-how. Why not have that kind of system when it works so well?”
As individuals, the artists of The Humble have made it into the larger local art scene. Simpson is taking part in the 2008 SITE Biennial and, along with Wesley, has participated in Indian Market. But as a group, The Humble is navigating largely un-chartered territory. Whether or not it considers itself a collective is irrelevant.
Frankly, it would be a shame to see it evolve into something more formal. For a group that makes its decisions over a sandwich or a smoke, collects no money from the artists it supports and has a difficult time defining itself, The Humble may be what we’ve all been hoping for from the contingent of young artists who are too often overlooked.
Cabinet of Natural Curiosities
6 pm, Monday, June 30, $5
Murs, Anacron and Himself
7 pm Saturday, July 5, $5
2Mex and the Smob
7 pm, Saturday, Aug. 2, $5
5 pm, Thursday, Aug. 21, $5
1572 Center Drive Unit C