Arts foundation hopes to spark creative rebirth with $500 grants

Applicants are encouraged to think creatively

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Connie Gotsch Works project will award $25,000 in $500 grants.
  • Organizer Mick Hesse said the project is intended to prime the pump for a rebirth of the local arts scene.
  • The project is patterned loosely after the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.

FARMINGTON — Mick Hesse doesn't harbor any illusions about the impact the money his arts foundation is about to hand out will have on the personal lives of the recipients.

"Five hundred bucks isn't going to make or break anybody," said Hesse, whose Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation's Connie Gotsch Works project on March 1 will offer those grants to San Juan County recipients for a total of $25,000 in awards.

There will be 50 grants to painters, musicians, dancers, photographers, sculptors, actors, filmmakers, writers and other creative types in San Juan County in the weeks ahead.

Instead, Hesse hopes the project primes the pump for a rebirth of the arts scene in the county once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Recipients will be asked to produce something — a concert, a painting, a short film or story, or a dance recital, for instance — that was enabled by the grant.

"Let's get people back into the art business and a plant a seed that will slowly bring art back into the community," Hesse said, explaining the thinking of foundation members in launching the initiative.

Mick Hesse of the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation is one of the organizers of a new project the organization has launched to put money in the pockets of local artists, performers and other creative types.

Hesse said members of the foundation — named for and funded by the estate of the late Connie Gotsch, an ardent Farmington arts supporter and radio show host — had been exploring some way to put money in the pockets of San Juan County creative types for several weeks. But they couldn't figure out how to do that in a way that satisfied them.

Hesse wanted to avoid making applicants who really needed the money feel awkward about having to describe their financial situation to the foundation, but he didn't like the idea of simply giving people money, either. The foundation's Maria Kompare and Peter Deswood had joined him in exploring ideas for distributing the funding, and it was Kompare who floated the idea of crafting the project along the same pattern as the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal federal agency that put people to work during the Depression on public works projects.

The Connie Gotsch Works project is designed to spark a rebirth of the arts scene in San Juan County when the pandemic is over by paying creative types to perform concerts or create works of art.

"Of course, that was on a national scale, and it was not just art," Hesse said. "But it was about putting people back to work through projects not unlike this. Maria thought it would be a cool idea if we tied the money to things in the community that needed to be done."

So Kompare, Deswood and Hesse came up with the idea for Connie Gotsch Works, which will allow applicants to propose specific projects that will benefit the community in a positive way. That could be the creation of a downtown mural, holding a family art night at a local nonprofit organization, playing a free concert at a local club or providing a music workshop at a public school.

Hesse emphasized that applicants are not limited to those ideas. In fact, he said, they are encouraged to think as creatively as they can.

"All we ask is that it be a new thing — a new concert, a new painting, whatever," Hesse said.

The effort is intended to jump start the local creative scene when the pandemic has ended and folks are allowed to gather in large numbers again. Instead of musicians waiting for bars or other venues to start booking live bands again, Connie Gotsch Works will pay those groups in advance to plan a show they will perform later. The only requirement is that the recipients be county residents.

"This was an effort to try to get artists back into the swing of things," he said.

Organizer Mick Hesse describes the Connie Gotsch Works project as a "win-win-win" situation.

Hesse said he was aware of many other organizations throughout the state that have tried other ways of providing funding for artists and performers during the shutdown. But he believes Connie Gotsch Works is the first effort of its kind.

"As far as we know, this is unique to us, but we don't know that for sure," he said. "We had the money, and we wanted to go with our mission statement, which is to help with the arts and artists in San Juan County," he said. "And because of the pandemic, we have not been getting many applications lately (to help fund projects)."

Interested parties will be asked to fill out a two-page application that is highlighted by a description of the project they intend to complete, an overview of their experience in their chosen field and digital links to examples of their work. The process is intended to be simple, Hesse said, so that the awarding of grants can begin quickly.

"It just seems to be a win-win-win," he said of the idea. "We don't see a drawback in any way."

Hesse said many of the local artists and performers he has spoken to about the project seem amazed about the opportunity the foundation is offering them.

"I think a lot of them are blown away that we would do it," he said, laughing. "In a sense, we're commissioning art. We know that doesn't happen very often on a local level."

Those interested in applying for a grant can receive an application by emailing Hesse at or kompare at Completed applications can be sent to or mailed to Connie Gotsch Works, P.O. Box 6475 Farmington, NM 87499.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.