Arts & Culture
Una Noche en la Gloria’s Funky Foundation
Published: October 9, 2013
Velasquez continued, “I can get in a lot of hot water if I would talk art with the artists. [Because] then, we are talking about opinions. There’s no way to quantify what the value of your product is except that there’s a consumer waiting to buy it. This project is about subversively forcing the artist into my dialogue.” And this dialogue isn’t all about art. If it was, Citibank wouldn’t be sponsoring it. They “aren’t art funders” according to Velasquez. This is where the workforce development spin comes in, making Una Noche attractive to donors even if they don’t dig art in public or on paper.
Instead, artists are free to talk business. Insert awkward pause here, because coming up with the value of an artist’s work is level one of this game and that’s a tough call in any market.
Take for example fashion designer Agosto Cuellar, age 50. On Saturday, Cuellar will present the local fashion component, Runway en la Calle, for a fifth go. When I met him at his West Side home he admitted to being panic-stricken at the negotiating table. Well, at least he used to be pre-Una Noche.
“Yes, I have been scared,” he confessed. “It’s a value thing. It’s a worth thing. We don’t know where our value is because no one has taught us our value. We’ve taught ourselves our value.”
But it takes two to tango. “When we put our value out there, people in this city go, ‘Really? You’re asking for that much?’ But I know I’m worth that much.” Cuellar adjusted his signature horn-rimmed glasses. “‘Why can you not give me that respect?’ It’s because they’re not trained.”
Velasquez’s aspiration to train artists extends to schooling the city’s talent buyers as well. “There has to be drivers on both sides,” he said. “Once you put a price tag on it, you’re not an artist anymore. You’re a businessman,” he continued.
Velasquez believes that educating young artists about the importance of healthcare and a retirement plan is absolutely essential. “They don’t know anything about the fate of being a painter,” he said.
It’s not just the visual artists that he feels could use some mentoring. “Some bands don’t have a bank account!” he exclaimed. “At the end of the night you pay all your players and you’re the one stuck with the tax bill.”
He then switched back to telling me more about Una Noche, pulling out his Mac as an aid.
When I visited the free event’s official website and clicked on the thumbnails of the 30 “organizers” (the artists involved in Una Noche, including Velasquez as a DJ), many of them didn’t have hyperlinks, seeming to have missed an important point in Velasquez’s directive. If potential clients were interested in their work, they’d hit a digital brick wall if they couldn't easily contact them via internet. When I asked him why most organizers didn't have hyperlinks, he seemed disappointed.
“That’s a really good question,” he said. “Some of the artists aren’t quite up-to-date with the importance of getting their information out there. I’m trying to get them to know that they have this opportunity.”