“We've painted a lot of things black in the last year,” Steven Serrano laughed as he, Edward Phillips and I huddled around the yellow velvet couch in the window of Corpus Arts nearly one year after they were handed the keys for the first iteration of the queer-centric arts and community hub, then on Sixth Street. “A lot has happened since Corpus opened,” he continued, not least of which was the project's move to Seventh Street NW, now occupying number 123, where the north wall is painted a signature matte shade of black. “[That first space] was a testing ground for us. We said, we'll open our front doors and if people show, they show. If not, well, maybe Albuquerque wasn't ready for something like this … They were ready for it.” The year that followed was full of triumphs—from the array of events they've hosted, to the move to a bigger space, to their new a status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The city was ready for Corpus' brand of community-building through the establishment of safe, queer and radical space.
“Our mission is still the same,” Phillips clarified, “but it's been broadened.” The space, as ever, features a library of rare books, a huge archive of zines, a mixtape making station and free access to copiers for members (and it's only $20 per year to join). Now that they have more space to meet a growing demand for the resources offered, they also have the ability to “focus on displaying art … [and] to focus on publishing now that we have more resources in-house,” Phillips explained. Resources which include not just copiers, but an offset printing press, which both Phillips and Serrano are being trained to use in the new year. “A year from now, we're going to have a bigger archive of published work,” Serrano envisaged. Currently, Corpus Press has issued six individual publications including “Boy Dirt” by B.J. Cook, “24 Poems” by Abbie Normal and “I Saw You at the Library: Six Months of Missed Connections” (which gleefully muses, “the missed connection, a bite-sized blend of erotica, memoir, and journalism, simultaneously fantasy and reality, unbridled through its anonymity, has established itself as a literary genre in its own right.”) “We really wanted to enhance Corpus Press … I think it's really important to be able to print people's work [and] work coming from New Mexico,” Serrano summed up. As Phillips and Serrano reflected on the significance of the space, it was very apparent that Corpus Arts has consistently illustrated a fine-tuned read on the needs and values of the community, addressing them through events that offer up not just the physical location—just plaster and wood and paint—but something more elusive and vital—a site for solidarity and celebration, too.
“Our mission is still the same,” Phillips clarified, “but it's been broadened.” The space, as ever, features a library of rare books, a huge archive of zines, a mixtape making station and free access to copiers for members (and it's only $20 per year to join).”
Kicking off on Thursday, Dec. 15, Corpus will host a series of events to raise money for the legal fees of the water protectors at Standing Rock. Thursday's invocation starts at 7pm with an open call for artists to read their written work, followed by a music line-up that includes Baltimore-based electronic pop duo Matmos, who are on tour with Jeff Carey, preceded by Gallup's Ryan Dennison. If you like to pair your electronica with snacks (as I do), a queer bake sale will satisfy your sweet tooth as long as supplies last, so get there early. On Saturday, Nov. 17, Chapter House will host a night of music at Corpus featuring New Mexico musical heavyweights like Lilith, Antro & Béeso, WEEDRAT and The Flossies.
“So much has happened in the past year,” Serrano mulled—mentioning tragedies like the shooting in Orlando and the recent Ghost Ship fire—both of which have the two individuals who stand behind Corpus thinking about the necessary quality of what they offer as an explicitly queer, alternative project. “[We're] thinking about how we can utilize our space more, or how we can occupy more space,” and making sure that the resources they offer—whether it is the sustaining words of a novel or a place to stand during a show—are always accessible, especially to queer people, people of color, women and those who have been historically pushed to the margins.
As such, Phillips and Serrano work with great intention, and it shows. As they piece together their calendar for 2017, they unpacked the details of what's going on the walls (MFA projects, and a series donated by a patron who has been collecting queer art from around the globe for more than 50 years), what's going on the calendar (There will be events like queer town halls, radical vegan potlucks and reading groups, and monthly movie nights, though Phillips is quick to mention, “I'm excited for people to come here with their ideas, it would be great for people to know that they can use this space.”) and what members can continue to make (mixtapes, zines and more). As Corpus Arts continues to expand their mission, reaching more and more members of the community who find resonance within those iconic black and white walls, one can only guess how much we'll all have to celebrate in another year's time.