By Kristin Feldkamp, Editorial Content Intern
As 2015 draws to a close, and the holiday season kicks into overdrive, we find ourselves both nostalgic about the year’s end and excited for a new beginning. This sentiment is captured quite neatly in the song Auld Lang Syne, traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve. We express gratitude for the past year and make plans for a new and better year ahead. In this spirit, the Clyfford Still Museum (CSM) has been hard at work developing programming for 2016 that, among many things, fosters learning and creativity through community involvement.
In the coming year, CSM will continue to offer educational and public programs free of charge. Free admission for youth under eighteen—and for everyone on Fridays from five to eight p.m.—will also continue, along with free inStill Gallery Experiences for schools. There are exciting new programs too. One of those new programs, Moxie U, is a collaboration with the Art Students League of Denver and RedLine. I had the pleasure of talking with Sonia Rae, Director of Audience and Community Engagement, about this new program, her role at the Museum, and CSM’s commitment to community engagement.
Kristin Feldkamp (KF): Can you tell me what audience and community engagement means to you and why the Museum thinks it’s important?
Sonia Rae (SR): It’s interesting. The original title of my position was Director of Audience Development. But the more we spoke about what the function of the position was going to be, the clearer it became that a big impetus was going to be seeking connection with community members on a more personal level. I think everyone in the Museum feels strongly that it’s a special place and it’s important to share it with the wider world but especially with Denver. It’s the city’s collection, and we want everyone in Denver to feel welcome and proud that Denver has this jewel. It’s one of the best single-artist museums in the world.
KF: It’s interesting that you point out the collection belongs to the City of Denver and thereby to the people of Denver.
SR: Our job at the Museum is to care for the collection and create thoughtful exhibitions that give people a new perspective on the work and Clyfford Still. We look for ways to find touchpoints, ways to engage people in the work.
KF: Can you tell me about Moxie U and why the Museum wanted to be a part of it?
SR: We really want to connect with the artists’ community in Denver and find a way to make artists, in particular, feel welcome in the Museum. Still was an artist. We are an art museum. We understand the creative drive. Artists are a special group of people. Moxie U came about from a conversation I had with Louise Martorano, the Executive Director at RedLine. I suggested that we collaborate on a series of professional business development workshops for artists. The Art Students League of Denver was already working on a similar project and had named it Moxie U. We teamed with them to develop the program further. Everyone involved is very enthusiastic. We’re hoping to reach more artists through the collaboration. There will be nine workshops, one a month except for July, August, and December. The workshops will be two hours and cover topics like how to write an artist statement, PR 101 for artists, grants, and how to price your artwork. The one I’m most excited about is next October. It will be at CSM, and we’re calling it Horror Stories and Other Fables. There will be 10-minute TED-style stories about things that went wrong and the lessons learned.
KF: Is there a community engagement project at CSM of which you are most proud?
SR: Wow. That’s a tough question. I’m just proud to be part of such an amazing place. This is not a sales pitch. I’m genuinely blown away by the place and the people and so happy that I work here.
Rae’s energy and enthusiasm for CSM’s future in Denver’s cultural landscape is contagious. One of Rae’s favorite quotes, from musician Daniel Barenboim, illuminates what she feels she should strive to accomplish in her job. Barenboim said, “Every great work of art has two faces: one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity.” In 2016, Rae has big plans to drive the Museum’s quest to uphold the legacy of Clyfford Still for current and future generations. I can’t wait to see what she has in store.