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September 21, 2006

Heading: ArtBeat, photo of Rumblepeg gymnast, by KATHERINE ALMY

The Ink People —
Past, Present, Future


The past couple of years have been hard on non-profits in general, especially for arts programs. Thus, I was heartened to receive an e-mail with the subject line: "Good News for Local Arts," an announcement of two grants to the Ink People Center for the Arts from the Humboldt Area Foundation totaling $11,000.

The Ink People (TIP) has weathered some hard times, but they are "still here," as Executive Director Libby Maynard puts it. Those hard times include 2003 when the California Arts Council (CAC) was all but abolished. This was a major funder for a lot of small community organizations. The dismantling of the CAC went along with a general trend of scaled back funding and disappearing. So The Ink People redefined its goals and hung on.

At the beginning of this year, the Ink People's board took a hard look at its stated mission and updated it a bit. "We found our greatest strength in helping people do things rather than doing them ourselves," says Libby. The organization had always helped in the development of other nonprofits by sharing knowledge and resources. Through something it dubbed the DreamMaker Program, TIP became an incubator of sorts, supporting and serving as an umbrella for small groups that have a dream — thus the name — of a class or service that they want to provide. Rather then go through the process of incorporating with nonprofit status, groups use the administrative and technical expertise of TIP staff in exchange for an administrative fee, TIP membership and recognition on promotional materials.

Focusing energy on these programs is a good move for The Ink People. There's nothing like it elsewhere in the community, and it's relatively low cost. Since it first opened its doors in 1979, TIP has generated several arts organizations that now fill gaps that existed in the early days. As Libby said, now they can rely on other organizations to be some of the things they were trying to be to the community, and still conserve resources for what they do best.

And now they have $8,000 more with which to do it. That's the amount of one of the HAF grants that was given specifically for the DreamMaker Program. The other $3,000 went to one particular program, Rumblepeg.

"Rumblepeg is a collective of dancers, performers and visual artists committed to experimenting within their art forms," said Leslie Castellano, the director. She was one of those people who discovered when she wanted to start her organization how much was involved with getting a nonprofit status. She knew she had to find a better way. Friends told her about Libby and The Ink People, and she found it a perfect match for what she was trying to do.

Leslie is a performance artist who does trapeze, among other things, and she runs the Synapsis Gallery, which houses Rumblepeg. Her dream was to make free or low-cost dance, performance and art classes available to the community. With the grant she received for Rumblepeg, Leslie hopes to bring in residents of the Eureka's Commercial and Third street area of Eureka (Synapsis' neighborhood), many of whom are homeless. The grant will also help with a street fair in the neighborhood scheduled for Oct. 14 and 15 that "will feature local artists, dancers and performers, as well as work by the class participants."

In all, there are about 36 DreamMaker programs focusing on art and community-building, youth, cultural events, performance and technology. Some examples are the Fire Arts Center, the Placebo and Comite de Madres, a group that brings the traditional Mexican Dia de Los Niños to Humboldt County.

Some programs, like the Discovery Museum, started up under the wing of the Ink People and went on to become independent organizations when they were ready. Others never intend to get bigger, and by working with the Ink People they can stay small and still thrive.

"People need to know what we're doing," says Julian Lang, who recently took over as board president. Julian told me that the board is planning on being more active, lightening the load for staff (which is thin of late) and getting out into the community with news about The Ink People. They're working on a new website and more activities for the community; a music series will be starting in October.

The Inkers have been around for a long time and by fostering these various small organizations, they've influenced Humboldt County more then many of us realize. So it's very good news that they're still here and a hopeful sign that they are getting the some funding they need and deserve.

Got an exhibit or art event you think would make a good story? Send your art news (six weeks in advance) to or write in care of the Journal at 145 G Street, Suite A, Arcata, CA. 95521.


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