Colorado Creatives

Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Gretchen Marie Schaefer

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What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Asking artists to create work for little or no compensation, or talking about artists as purely "gifted," which to me dismisses all of the work, commitment, finances and training invested in being a professional artist. This occurs repeatedly to me and artists I know, and I'm increasingly less conflicted about saying "no" and turning down projects that I feel devalue my professionalism, especially for the promise of exposure. I don't think people do this intending to be rude or cause offense, and you have to evaluate each circumstance in terms of what you feel is a fair exchange for you and your work.

Also, there are a number of organizations and individuals that do not ascribe to this pattern. Still, I do think there is a general perception of artists as hobbyists and gifted daydreamers, and people forget or don't realize that making art is work, takes time and expertise, and has real monetary value. I want to work to change this perception. And I'm so grateful and optimistic when I see people and institutions counter this tendency and provide fair financial support of artists.

What's your day job?

I'm the Director of the Visiting Artist, Scholar, and Designer Program (VASD) at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

I'm wary of a blank check like that because it would inevitably be attached to strings that might prevent it from being a positive thing for me. I'm more interested in fair exchange. However, my husband Kevin is one of the most generous and ethically grounded people I know, and he has wonderfully holistic, generous, and sustainable ideas if we came into a lot of money.

They include continuing to work at our day jobs, making art (he's a writer) and helping others (he's also the Team Lead Outreach Worker at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless). He would set it up so that the money fostered creative freedom for us, while also creating opportunities for other artists, people struggling with mental illness and the poor. Still, I don't trust that a mystery patron would just let us do whatever we want, it would always be their money after all, so I'd probably say, "no, thank you."

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Create funded opportunities for artists, especially in the form of residencies, and make more connections regionally. Send Colorado artists out into the surrounding region and bring regional artists into Colorado in order to expand and enrich the creative landscape here. There are a lot of self-funded opportunities for artists in Denver that I'm grateful for and have benefited from, but I think the community could invest more in its artists. The community will be happy with the return on these investments, I am absolutely sure.

And I'm optimistic when I see things like RedLine's recent grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation For the Visual Arts funding their artist-in-residency program, opening the opportunity to more artists and signaling a meaningful commitment to artists and their work. I trust that Denver loves its artists and more good things are to come.

Continue reading for more from Gretchen Marie Schaefer.
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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd