This past January, the Arizona Commission on the Arts invested $119,000 in 16 arts-focused ventures at regional fast-pitch events held in four Arizona cities. Over the next two weeks we’ll be checking in with some of those ventures to see how they’re progressing.

First up is Gretchen Baer of Bisbee.

Pitching against some of Arizona’s biggest and most esteemed arts organizations at the Southern region Art Tank event, Baer won over the evaluation panel and the audience with her Paint Your Town! proposal. She received $10,000 in seed-funding from the panel, as well as the $1,000 audience-selected APS Innovation Award.

Paint Your Town! is described by Baer as a “mobile, roadside art happening for young people.” Baer proposed touring to rural Cochise County in a personally decorated “art car” loaded with art supplies and hosting public outdoor painting sessions. Residents, particularly children, would be invited to paint their town. These paintings would then become a part of a county-wide touring art exhibition.

Comedian Doug Stanhope and fellow Bisbee resident Gretchen Baer pose with the van he donated to "Paint Your Town!"

Within 24 hours of receiving her Art Tank grant, Baer was approached by another Bisbee resident who donated a 15-seat van to the project and a local business owner who contributed an additional $5,000 in funding.

On Wednesday, April 15, Baer will launch Paint Your Town! in her hometown of Bisbee. She took a few minutes away from preparing for the inaugural event to speak with us about her experience at Art Tank, the support she’s received from her community and where Paint Your Town! will go next.

What was the experience of preparing and delivering your pitch for Arizona Art Tank like? 

I wanted my pitch to be colorful and entertaining, yet clear and concise. I was nervous about presenting my pitch before a live audience. Upon arriving at the venue, my anxiety disappeared and I began to really enjoy myself. I realized there was no need to worry; Art Tank is an artistic celebration and really quite a blast!

Beyond the grant, what have you taken away from the experience of preparing for and pitching at Arizona Art Tank?

It’s very important to do all your homework. I realized bullet points are far more important than reciting a prepared speech. If in the future I have the honor of presenting at Art Tank again, I will save time in my pitch to respond to the audience, and for the audience to respond to me. I will allow time to play with the crowd, while delivering a clear and well thought out proposal.

 

How has the experience of developing this venture differed from or expanded upon the work you have done in the past? 

Robert Booker, Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, poses with artist Gretchen Baer at Arizona Art Tank: 2015.Up until Paint Your Town!, I have financed all my creative projects on a waitress’s salary. The Arts Commission funding has given me room to think freely. I have more time to ask myself, “How can I do this project to the best of my ability?” without my usual concerns of “How can I do this project with no money?” It is very freeing and at the same time, it’s a brand new responsibility. It’s no longer just my project; it’s a community project; it’s our project. People in Bisbee are very excited and want to help. I had hoped to delegate jobs to people right away, but as I am inventing the jobs as I go, I haven’t been able to do this much yet. I look forward to experiencing the project with others, especially with my group of young artists called “The Art Envoys.”

 

Where are you now in the development of your venture? What’s next?

Cochise county residents participate in a Paint Your Town! event. I have spent the last few months preparing for Paint Your Town!, and there has been a lot to do–from making an art car, to creating a website, social media pages, figuring out and purchasing materials, testing the project, and now planning some of the events. So far I have arranged four events, each one completely unique: a community event in Bisbee, a children’s hospital, an art fair, and a group of hearing-impaired kids. I fully expect each event to be a different experience from the last and to learn as I go. My greatest desire is to inspire creative expression in as many people as I possibly can. My greatest hope is that Paint Your Town! will be a journey that takes us all on the road to a whole new world of creative possibilities.

Within a week of being awarded the top grant at Arizona Art Tank you had secured additional support in the form of a van and a $5,000 sponsorship. Why do you think this venture attracted so much good will and support?

The chance to share art with kids in communities that lack art programs resonates with anyone who understands the importance of creative thinking in the development of young minds. For all of us who appreciate the value of art, the thought of kids growing up without art is just horrible.

I have lived in Bisbee for 25 years and it has been my great pleasure to help bring countless artistic, musical and cultural events to our town. All of my projects engage people creatively in a way that is colorful, inclusive and fun. I think people feel it is time that I stretch out and really see what’s possible. The support I feel from my community is incredible. Words can’t express how much this vote of confidence means to me!

Baer’s first Paint Your Town! event will be held from 4:00-6:00pm on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 in Old Bisbee’s Grassy Park. Admission, arts supplies and instruction are free to all.

To learn more about this project, visit www.paintyourtown.org or contact Grechen Baer at (520) 236-6342 or gretchen@gretchenbaer.com.

Photos provided by Gretchen Baer. See more at www.facebook.com/paintyourtownorg.