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 today. 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 and 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 160 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 – 210 Yale Boulevard SE – just two blocks south of historic Route 66, in the heart of Albuquerque’s thriving University district. Seating 160 people, the “new” Space (now 20 years new!), which is fully handicap accessible. The Outpost Performance Space regularly sponsors events in other venues (including larger venues for events year-round and during the NM Jazz Festival, etc.) but it is “The Space” “itself” which is Outpost’s primary base of operations, housing its business offices, meeting rooms and the performance space itself. A warm, intimate, alcohol and smoke-free, informally respectful setting makes “The Space” “ideal” for audiences interested in the many forms of performance that Outpost offers. Outpost is proud to own a beautiful reconditioned 1961 Steinway B grand piano, which was donated in 2016 by the Feld Family, as well as a vintage 1927 Steinway A grand piano. Outpost also has an extensive 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 (New Mexico’s?) unique, member-supported, community-based, non-profit Performing Arts Center. In the Fall of 2011, after renting for 11 years, Outpost purchased its building (moving the organization to a new stage of institutional permanency) and in October 2013, in recognition of the generous donations made by Bumblebee Bob Weil and his family, the performance auditorium at The Space was named “Weil Hall.” Since its inception in 1988, the Outpost Performance Space has sponsored more than 3000 events at “The Space” “and” beyond. Consistently high-quality presentations and a friendly atmosphere created by staff and volunteers have made the Outpost Performance Space a favorite haunt among music lovers from eight to ninety-eight.

The Organization

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, Outpost has, since 1988, grown from an organization with an annual budget of only $10,000 to its current budget of over $850,000. A hard working board of directors, a small but dedicated, hard-working professional staff of 4; numerous independent contractors ranging from teachers to technicians; 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 800 paid members, a mailing list of over 5,000, and an email list of more than 3,000 individuals who have attended Outpost events. Each year, some 60,000 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

Since its inception, Outpost has presented a uniquely diverse array of well over 3500 concerts (currently more than 100 per year) by artists ranging from international music stars such as tabla Maestro Zakir Hussain, or Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo; to NEA Jazz Masters Dave Brubeck, Wayne Shorter, and Dee Dee Bridgewater; to avant-garde jazz heroes Steve Lacy and Roscoe Mitchell; to women jazz artists Myra Melford and Eliane Elias; to latin jazz icons Jerry Gonzales and Chucho Valdés; to blues and gospel masters Pops Staples and Johnny Shines; to folk icons Mike Seeger and Odetta; to singer songwriters, Lucy Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson; to experimental music explorers Pauline Oliveros and Fred Frith; 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 spoken word performances with the annual Albuquerque Slam Championships. Outpost’s Wordspace Series presented more than 8 spoken word events each year and showcased both local and national poets, writers, and spoken word artists such as Quincy Troupe and Robert Creeley. 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 Performing Arts Center, and UNM’s Popejoy Hall, as well as in public spaces such as the City of Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza. 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 hundreds more. The Festival also includes Route 66 Summerfest, an event that draws upwards of 50,000 people to the streets of Nob Hill and is presented in partnership with the City of Albuquerque Cultural Services Department.

Outpost Program: Education & Youth

A centerpiece of Outpost’s education program is its Jazz Improvisation Classes. Founded by NM jazz education and woodwind icon, Arlen Asher, the program was first offered in 1996 in a 5-week tutorial to some of Albuquerque’s finest young jazz talents. Since that time, it has grown to include classes for adults as well as youth, Latin Music Classes, Nothin’ But The Blues, and Music Together for very young children and their families. Outpost’s education programs are offered year-round with over 30 weeks of classes, five instructors, and yearly scholarships awarded to worthy graduates and class participants. In the past twenty some years, more than 2,000 students have participated in Outpost’s education programs. 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 that addresses the needs of youth in the community. Since Outpost’s inception, performance opportunities for youth have been offered through the Kid’s Variety Shows (KG-rated. Adults must be accompanied by a child), as well as our monthly Roust the House Teen Performance Nights. These shows have featured everything from East Indian dance to classical piano, to hip hop and 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 play at the Space for adult audiences.

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 with 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, over the years, featured many of New Mexico’s finest professionals, 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 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 to 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  •  John Aaron Lewis Legacy Project • KiMo Theatre  •  KUNM 89.9FM •  Lensic Performing Arts Center  •  National Hispanic Cultural Center  •  NM Literary Arts  •  NM Presenters Alliance  •  PADMINI •  Santa Fe Bandstand • Santa Fe Music Collective • 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 • & So Many 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, and the beauty of New Mexico — all these factors draw performers year after year as well as Outpost audiences and volunteers 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 continues to receive generous support from hundreds of businesses and individuals in the community, plus numerous government entities and private foundations

Just a few of Outpost’s major funders, past and present, comprise the following:

  • Albuquerque Community Foundation
  • Chamber Music America
  • City of Albuquerque Cultural Services Department
  • City of Albuquerque Mayors and City Councils
  • City of Albuquerque Urban Enhancement Trust Fund
  • Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
  • Kaman Foundation
  • Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund
  • McCune Charitable Foundation
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)’’
  • New Mexico Arts (a division of the Office of Cultural Affairs)
  • New Mexico Tourism Department
  • National Performance Network (NPN)
  • Nonprofit Finance Fund
  • 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