The Outpost Story

In the Beginning

The original Outpost Performance Space was in the Nob Hill area on Morningside. An old print shop, with an apartment above, the building was converted into a small storefront theater seating 100, with guest quarters and offices above. For ten years, it housed close to 1,000 performances.

Outpost Productions, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, was founded in 1988 by Tom Guralnick, who remains Outpost’s Executive Director. Drawing upon his own background as both a touring musician and arts administrator, Guralnick and several associates, dreamed of an organization with its own performance space, which would offer an “intimate, informally-respectful, alcohol and smoke free” home for a uniquely eclectic mix of performances ranging from jazz to experimental to international to folk & roots and more. For several years, under the leadership of a dedicated Board of Directors and a core of enthusiastic volunteers, Outpost Productions presented world music and experimental jazz performances in various venues around town, until in 1990, a building located east of Albuquerque’s historic Nob Hill district, became available. An old print shop, with an apartment above, the building was converted into a small storefront theater seating 100, with guest quarters plus offices above and the Outpost Performance Space was born. In the fall of 1990, Outpost presented the avant-garde jazz group, Curlew, as its first event at “The Space.” Since then, Outpost Productions’ programs have grown steadily, as has its reputation as a major arts organization in the Southwest.

The New Space

The “new” Space has maintained the same intimate feeling as the “old” Space, while gaining a new level of comfort and elegance. Most of the 175 audience members sit in seats while a few choose to “hang” at the non-alcoholic bar, sipping coffee and checking out the show.

In the spring of 2000, the Outpost Performance Space moved to a new location. The NEW Outpost Performance Space, at 210 Yale Boulevard SE just two blocks south of historic Route 66, is in the heart of Albuquerque’s thriving University district. Seating 150 people, the “new” Space, which is fully handicap accessible, has maintained the same intimate feeling as the “old” Space, while gaining a new level of comfort and elegance. Outpost is proud to own a vintage 1927 Steinway grand piano plus a collection of professional-quality instruments and equipment available for use by touring artists and youth classes alike. The Outpost Performance Space is widely recognized as Albuquerque’s unique, member-supported, community-based, non-profit Performing Arts Center. In the Fall of 2011, after renting for 11 years, Outpost purchased its facility, moving the organization to a new stage of institutional permanency.

The Organization

Since 1988, Outpost has grown from an organization with an annual budget of only $10,000 to its present budget of over $650,000. A hard working board of directors, a small but dedicated professional staff (full time Executive Director plus part-time graphic artist, publicist, jazz education coordinator and intern), plus a solid core of over 125 dedicated volunteers who help with postering, mailings, staffing concerts and other tasks, make things happen. Outpost Productions has over  600 paid members and a mailing list of over 10,000 individuals. Each year some 40,000 people attend Outpost events. Recognized locally as well as nationally, Outpost was chosen by the Albuquerque Arts Alliance to receive the 2001 Bravo Award as the city’s “Outstanding Arts Organization.”

Outpost Program: Performance

Chris Calloway

Since its inception, Outpost has presented a uniquely diverse array of well over 1,200 concerts (currently more than 100 per year) by artists ranging from international music stars such as Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo or Puerto Rico’s Los Pleneros de la 21; to jazz masters Dave Brubeck and Wayne Shorter; to avant- garde jazz heroes Steve Lacy and Roscoe Mitchell; to women jazz artists Jane Ira Bloom or Joanne Brackeen; to latin jazz icons Jerry Gonzales and Chucho Valdes; to blues and gospel master Pops Staples; to folk icon Rosalie Sorrels; to singer songwriters, Lucy Kaplansky and Dar Williams; to experimental music explorers Pauline Oliveros, Fred Frith and Joan LaBarbara; to blues greats Johnny Shines or Rory Block; to hundreds of local artists, teen and youth performers, and more. Most performances are musical but other genres are represented—including dramatic readings, as well as performance art and dance, by such renowned artists as David Dorfman and Dan Froot. The spoken word is also consistently represented. Outpost’s Wordspace Series, which has presented more than 8 spoken word events each year since 1998, showcases both local and national poets, writers, and spoken word artists such as Quincy Troupe and Robert Creeley (as well as the small presses which publish them). While most performances happen at The Space, Outpost also sponsors concerts in larger venues including the KiMo Theater, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Lensic Center for Performing Arts in Santa Fe and UNM’s Popejoy Hall, as well as in public spaces such as the City of Albuquerque’s Hyder Park. In 2006, Outpost along with the Lensic Performing Arts Center and the Santa Fe Jazz Foundation, founded the New Mexico Jazz Festival, a
two-city festival presenting the top talent in jazz and world music for two weeks each July. Artists presented include McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Cassandra Wilson, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Pharoah Sanders and many more.

Outpost Program: Education & Youth

A centerpiece of Outpost’s education program is its Jazz Improvisation Workshops which were first offered in 1996. In the past 15 years, more than 2,000 students have participated in this program. Here, 3 of our Keith Gilbert Scholarship recipients, Melissa Williams, saxophone (2001), Brynn Rector, trumpet (2002) and Alan Petmecky, trombone (2003) perform at the class recital. While Outpost is an important presenter of performances by a wide range of professional artists, another important facet of the program has always been one which addresses the needs of youth in the community. Since Outpost’s inception, performance opportunities for youth have always been offered through the Kid’s Variety Shows (KG-rated. Adults must be accompanied by a child) and our Roust the House Teen Performance Nights. These shows have featured everything from East Indian dance to classical piano, to punk rock, stand-up comedy and beyond. Outpost also invites Albuquerque schools to The Space for field trip-performances by some of the same performers who played at the Space for adult audiences the night before. On weekends, children can take classes in drama, drumming, poetry, and more. A centerpiece of Outpost’s education program is its Jazz Improvisation Classes which were first offered in 1996 in a 5 week tutorial to some of Albuquerque’s finest young jazz talents. Since that time the program has grown to a year-round one with over 30 weeks of classes, three instructors, and yearly scholarships offered to worthy graduates. In the past fifteen years, more than 2,000 students have participated in this program.

Outpost Program: Visual Arts

Since the fall of 1995 Outpost has featured visual arts exhibits in its Inpost Artspace Gallery, an integral part of the Outpost Performance Space. Located in a corner of the original Outpost Performance Space, the move to the new space in 2000, allowed expanded exhibitions on spacious, museum quality walls which surround the audience seating area and make for a perfect complement to the sounds which fill the room. Local artists act as Inpost Artspace curators for 1-2 year terms putting together month-long exhibits which have, in the past, featured many of New Mexico’s finest professionals such as Alan Paine Radebaugh; Paul Akmajian; Susan Linnell; Richard Hogan; Reginald Gammon; Leo Neufeld; Elen Feinberg; and Frank McCulloch, as well as special Outpost Member exhibits, Youth Art shows and more. Exhibits, often previewed and reviewed in the local press, are always accompanied by artist receptions attended by devoted visual arts fans. Due to their location in the performance space, art shows are seen by a more diverse audience than most exhibits around the state.

The Community

Outpost is an integral part of the New Mexico community and beyond, and prides itself on the numerous partnerships which it has forged. Dedicated to a mission of linking regional nonprofit performing arts organizations, Outpost collaborates with an ever growing number of groups. Outpost Director, Tom Guralnick, is active in the New Mexico Presenters Alliance and is a founding member and President of the Board of Directors of the Western Jazz Presenters Network (WJPN). Through this involvement, Outpost has generated numerous statewide and region-wide artist tours. For several years, Outpost hosted weekly rehearsals by its own resident, 17-piece “composer’s orchestra” — the Outpost Repertory Jazz Orchestra (ORJO) directed by bassist-composer, David Parlato. In addition, the beautiful Outpost Performance Space is available for rent at reasonable rates, to community groups, arts presenters, arts organizations, private teachers and individual performers.

Some of Outpost’s presenting partners include the following:
516 ARTS  •  ABQ Slams  •  African American Performing Arts Center • Albuquerque Academy  •  AMP Concerts  •  City of Albuquerque  •  KiMo Theatre  •  KUNM 89.9FM •  La Alameda Press  •  The Lensic Performing Arts Center  •  The National Hispanic Cultural Center  •  Nob Hill Mainstreet  •  NM Literary Arts  •  NM Presenters Alliance  •  Nonsequitur  •  PADMINI •  Santa Fe Jazz Foundation •  SITE Santa Fe  •  South Broadway Cultural Center  •  St. John’s College Music on the Hill  •  UNM College of Fine Arts  •  Taos Jazz Bebop Society  •  VoxLox Documentary Sound Art  •  Western Jazz Presenters Network & More!

What Makes Outpost Unique

For audiences and artists; staff and volunteers, Outpost is a special organization and a special place. Numerous performers comment that there are few similar venues in the country — indeed, in the world. The intimacy of the space, the interaction between audience and artist, the informally-respectful atmosphere which is created, and the beauty of New Mexico — all these factors draw performers year after year at the same time as Outpost audiences and volunteers are drawn night after night. Many people come to feel that they have become a part of “The Outpost Family” and that without Outpost their lives would be significantly less rich. This is the beauty of Outpost.

Outpost Support

Outpost Productions is annually supported with a diverse revenue base—earned income from ticket sales, workshop fees and rental income; donations and memberships from individuals; and corporate sponsorships. Outpost has also received major grants, from many local and nationally recognized funders (both government and private foundations). In the Spring of 2000, Outpost was selected to be a part of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s 5 year JazzNet Initiative. The Doris Duke JazzNet Initiative helped Outpost build a $500,000 endowment to support jazz activities in perpetuity. Outpost has also received support from the Nonprofit Finance Fund Midsize Presenters Intitiative, the Lila Wallace Readers Digest National Jazz Network, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Live Program, the National Endowmernt for the Arts, the National Performance Network, and many more.

Some of Outpost’s funders, past and present, include the following:

  • Albuquerque Community Foundation
  • City of Albuquerque Urban Enhancement Trust Fund
  • Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
  • Elliott Family Foundation
  • EMA Foundation • Fund for Change
  • Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund
  • McCune Charitable Foundation
  • Miriam F. Meehan Charitable Foundation
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • New Mexico Arts (a division of the Office of Cultural Affairs)
  • Nonprofit Finance Fund • Nonsequitur, Inc.
  • Santa Fe Jazz Foundation
  • Western Jazz Presenters Network (WJPN
  • Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF)

The Future

With the purchase of its facility in 2011, the future is bright for Outpost. Upcoming physical improvements to the space  will ensure that artistic presentations will be offered in an environment of comfort, elegance, and state of the art sound. In upcoming years, we have no doubt that Outpost will continue to be known as “the jazz capital of the Southwest” — an organization and venue which also offers a full range of arts activities beyond jazz. Just as importantly, in the next ten years we will work to ensure Outpost’s financial stability, to increase staff support, and to continue to develop relevant, exciting and forward-thinking programming all of which will make Outpost an outstanding example for other organizations — locally,nationally and internationally — well into the 21st century.

The Outpost