Name: Carlos Contreras
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Topics: Art, Poetry, Albuquerque, Collaboration, Economic Development
Quote: “Get out and experience your city! Plug yourself into an art scene. You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from it. It’s healing in all ways.”
My name is Carlos Contreras. I was born and raised here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m a son of two amazing parents, and one of three sons. I’m 32 years old. I have a daughter now. I’m a full-time working person in Albuquerque; a poet, an artist, and a human being. I always say that, so that’s crazy that Humans of New Mexico and I have found each other. I just work to make this a city where I want to live because I am not going anywhere. I joke – I was born here and I will die here! If that’s the case, then I definitely want to enjoy that time here.
Albuquerque is interesting, it’s not like any other place I have been, so growing up I didn’t leave a lot until I was like 17 years old. I really had not been out of Albuquerque. Finding poetry and the poetry slam world, competitive slam poetry actually put me on the road. Getting on that road, I realized how special Albuquerque was. We might not have a lot of things and sometimes people try to find all the bad things and say what we don’t have. Going on the road reminded me of all the good things I had to come to. Albuquerque is a place where I love to leave a lot, but it’s always a place I like to come back to.
In high school, I found the competitive slam poetry scene by way of a librarian in Menaul School. She was a competitive slam poet and I went to school there. I took an extra curricular course and the rest is kind of history. That speaks to the strength in the poetry community in Albuquerque. At 17 years old I wanted a place to be and they created on. So, 15 years from that it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously in creating that experience, that space for young people, for adults, for all communities in general.
Everybody that I know about in my family was born and raised here in Albuquerque. Maybe that’s why I’m so tied to it. We are generations deep. A lot of the stuff I do comes out generations deep. Rest the souls that are no longer with us, they use to show up. It’s a place that is very prideful; it’s very proud of who it is, if you come from here you are expected to be proud of where you are from. There’s some dissonance in that. There’s some interesting texture and nature to that, because not everything we have is a whole lot. Albuquerque is a place where I think people learn to be resilient, resourceful, helpful, humble, and grateful. And if you don’t… it chews you out and spits you out. It will send you somewhere else. If you come here and you have those ideals and bind to them, it will hug you and embrace you just the same.
I dabble in visual arts and I was playing with merchandise and clothing really early on at 17 years old, branding stuff.Immastar Production became the brand and I built it into a lifestyle brand; a personal brand, and a community events and engagement thing. So really, Immastar is what people want it to be and it’s really one of those things that everyone should be able to feel like a star. Everyone should say that once in their life, whether they are an amazing chef or a mechanic or a mother or a father, whatever it is they are a star of something they do. That’s the pitch, it’s not about being a poet or a graffiti writer or a Hip-Hop artist or any of those things… in some of those things I dabble in, but it’s really about being the best you can be and whatever that is. Immastar productions certainly supports that. It supports incredible people and organizations and doing things in community.
“I’ll Drink To That” is a variety show that aims to poets, musicians, comedians, and artists of all kinds in the same building. Really it parades as a show and an event but it’s really a networking event that cross pollinates crowds on a Sunday. It’s traditionally not a day in which artists gig on. It get’s a large artist turn out and artists get to see community. And that’s just important for me; collaboration is key to me. Art is economic development in Albuquerque, but unless you create a possibility for those connections and those experiences then we don’t move forward. “I’ll Drink To That” has been that vehicle. November 4th and 5th, we are doing a show called, “Just Speak, Just Listen, Just Move,” it’s a three-part show. It’s taking the “I’ll Drink To That” model and cleaning it up and really staging it in a beautiful way. It’s the first ticketed event in a variety nature that I’ve done in a long time. It aims to pay artists what they are worth in Albuquerque. To me, “I’ll Drink To That,” has created an artist platform for exposure. Now Immastar Productions is attempting to pivot and use that platform to pay artists more what they are worth.
I think it’s me being crazy and my brain never turning off… if I can put all these people together in a stage and a space… will they do it? And will the city come? And I did that with this show. Now the missing piece is will the people show up? Because everybody that I have approached collaboratively has said “yes.” It just kind of happened. I didn’t have the $20,000.00 that this show was going to cost, I still don’t have the $20,000.00, it doesn’t matter. Unless you make something happen, it will never happen. This is an attempt.
I think that Albuquerque is so small that when you talk to people in the first 5 minutes people always ask where did you go to school? If they answer that question in a certain way you know that you think of family and friends. That points to the responsibility that we have to each other. It’s a big family in Albuquerque, so take care of family, take care of artist, go out to local places, support the local events. Rather then buy the keg for your party, tell everyone to bring the beer and book local artists. I think we all have a responsibility to look out for opportunities. That’s how we can look out for each other. That extends to your “Mom’s and Pop’s,” the food service, the breweries, or whatever it might be. Anything that you can do local, do it as local as you can. We’re all trying to eat.
It’s funding (biggest challenge in Albuquerque). Everybody is going to say that. It’s the first thing out of people’s mouth. I get rid out of that obstacle by ignoring it, figuring it’s going to figure itself out. Beyond that it’s just a scarcity model, bring people to thinking about collaborating. To look at collaboration not as a form of exposing competitive threats. Get people asking how do we work with each other? Do our own thing, but do it together. Maximizing crowds, creating visibility, ticket sales, all of those things are a challenge, but they are a challenge in any city. You got to look at them as fun obstacles. Set some goals and see if you can hit them! Set some goals and see if you fail! I have failed at number of things in my life. It’s all about trying.
I hope it’s inspiring and motivating to them (the youth). At 17 years old I found a community that gave me some chances and places where adults took a shot. It really made me the adult that I am. It’s an extension of a hand out; and not a hand out really, but a hand up. It’s reaching down a ladder where these young people are climbing up rather quickly, and rather then stepping on their heads, it’s pulling them up. It’s telling them to help us out but also get your shine on, too. And let’s all do that together and figure out how to support the future of the city.
Get out and experience your city! Plug yourself in an art scene. You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from it. It’s healing in all ways. Experience an event, get to see some musicians and poets and get to see them express emotions and feelings you probably have. There is therapy in that too. So spend your money on a therapist or go see a show?! You decide! Go see a show!
November 4th and 5th, Keshet Center for the Arts; that’s Cutler, Carslisle and I-40 basically. Friday night is a 7 o’clock show, Saturday night a 6 and 8:30pm shows. There’s a bar open before each show, and each show is different so there’s a reason to come to each show.