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Mel Casas (left) and Alvin Martin
photograph by Myron Brody 
[[image - photograph]]

an organization, you win their support.
AM: To their credit, the artists' coalition here has had something to do with lobbying and effecting the interest of a number of businesses in forming this businessmen's organization.  Now whether that will take root and develop, I don't know, but so far so good.  But it is very embroyonic.
The new museum will open with about a hundred five thousand square feet, but it has a potential which will develop in stages to three hundred thousand square feet - which is quite a substantial musuem.  I know that they have in mind something similar to a sales and rental gallery and a projects room which will be devoted to the region.  Again it is a question of not whether, but when...probably two years down the road.  I believe the momentum is all here to make something happen.  I don't think it has happened yet.  The University of Texas at San Antonio in its MFA program is producing...most of their people come from here and many of them stay here or at least in Texas.  We have had very good luck so far with good students coming out and taking their place essentially in the art community here.  I think that will help in the long run.
Mel, will that be fine arts or also, commercial and graphic?
MC: Fine arts.  We have both departments.  Advertising art and fine arts.  Right now we are very, very lucky. We are placing all our people very, very well. Going back to this problem of exposure of the art. Most of the artists want to sell their work. This is one of the biggest problems in the community, and a sense it is a cultural problem, because when the community acquires the term culture it also acquires information to go with it; by that I mean, once you understand art as being culture, they you have all the answers. And then if it is new, it is difficult to break into. Therefore, it is a matter of convincing people that there are other ramifications. As Martin was saying, it is beginning to happen. I am, in a sense, on the sidelines, because I am not interested in showing. I am not interested in selling, but most of the artists are. 
It's very personal for you.
MC: I make my money teaching and that's it. Besides, everytime I show I have problems. My paintings are basically satirical. They are not the kind of paintings people want to hang up in their living room. 
They're not decorator specials. 
MC: They don't sit quietly.
Fifty percent of your population is of Mexican or Spanish descent. How does that play into the community? Is that a divisional factor in the arts.?
MC: I think it used to be a divisional factor. I think now we have bilingualism and a bivisualism too; in other words, it is a matter of being aware. There has been a lot in infighting; but finally out of all the slumps that we get in, we are beginning to realize that we are here to stay together, and we might as well work at that. This is a new growth center, and it is like a family. One of us might be out of whack, but he is part of the family. Before it was a sort of blind orientation as to who is who and what is what, and now it is more democratic. 
AM: I think we feel fairly positively about what is likely to happen in the next ten or fifteen years around here. And I think more happens every year. There are about half a dozen educational institutions around. Most of them have some kind of exhibition space. Then I think the Museum when it comes into line with its rental and sales gallery will make a great help. When I first came here, there was only one gallery really very interested in exhibiting contemporary or local art, and now there are at least two or three more. 
I would like to do away with the word "local." I recall bringing George Segal and introducing him as the local artist from New Brunswick, New Jersey. It is true a person is local, but it's if you're local you are not express. 
MC: Why bring in people from New York? We have artists here who work just as well. And they are not seen. They are seen with jaundiced eyes, because they are local people. 
AM: Well it is true still among the collectors around here, the experts are from out of town. 
I am convinced that there is just a terrific abundance of creativity throughout America. 
AM: I am working on an exhibition for the new museum now and we tried to get people from all over the country in it, and I think I've done a fairly good stab of mixing people that are household words with some newcomers who are not so widely known. Obviously, many of the people we are going to have in this exhibition are represented in New York, but the thing that astonished me is how many of them don't live there, even though they have galleries representing them in New York. I think the New York galleries are discovering life does exist beyond the Hudson.
Well, it sounds like from the conversation things are very similar to Kansas City, and if you gentlemen ever want to come to Kansas City, look me up and we will make things as hospitable as we can for you. 
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