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Nina Kotova and Barrett Wissman

Interview: Nina Kotova and Barrett Wissman Unveil W Preserve, A Refuge for Musicians, Artists and Dreamers

There’s a place for artists in Montana, called W Preserve, “a haven for performers, visual artists, writers and thinkers alike.”

What’s unique about it is its singular scope, untainted by crass commercialism, institutionalized mediocrity, rules, or political agenda, along with its dominant trait, a passion for artistic creativity and free expression. It’s a place of overwhelming calm. Its philosophy revolves around spiritual tranquility that is not passive.

W Preserve is the creation of Barrett Wissman, philanthropist, impresario, Chairman of IMG Artists, and Nina Kotova, internationally renowned cellist and composer.

Blogcritics contacted Barrett Wissman to find out more about W Preserve, its inspiration, its mandate and its guiding principles of association.

What was the inspiration for W Preserve?

Over the years, we saw that artists and creators were often performing at the whim of presenters, whether it was a festival, individual concert series or a theater. The same was true for artists: they are often controlled by their galleries and commercial pressures. We wanted to start a place that was created for the artist, as well as giving them a place not only to express their artistic vision but help them with their non-commercial and non-profit interests. A commercial presenter isn’t going to give them a platform to perform and also the ability to convene a group of people interested in their non-profit vision. At W Preserve, ticket prices will either be nonexistent or will be minimal just to cover the basic costs. Artists won’t be paid fees, which will clear the air for everyone to do what they want and not what they have to do because of artistic boundaries or the pressure of bending to what the public may want.

The programmatic vision is to have leaders in the performing and visual arts come to be in an immersive experience. They could have a show, a talk, a roundtable, bring guest speakers, have a meet and greet, really anything they want to do. It’s up to them and up to us to help to make it possible.

Why did you choose Montana as the location?

We have had a place in Montana for almost 25 years. There is a dramatic pristine beauty, openness and silence in the area that is striking. This has a tendency to focus one on the matter at hand, free of the distractions of the city or even the social distractions of resorts like Aspen or Sun Valley.

What is the ultimate goal of W Preserve?

The ultimate goal is to bring attention to matters that are of utmost importance to the future of the human race and the earth through the arts. I feel that sometimes artists can bring this attention better than any politician.

What sorts of projects are now in preparation?

We are now working on the first project which includes a couple of great musicians, one visual artist and one writer. We intend on using the natural surroundings as a gallery for the visual artist. We will address a couple of environmental issues through the musical artists, helping them get across the message they are focused on with an opportunity not just to perform but to discuss and answer questions about their cause.

What type of infrastructure and facilities will be available?

At the W Preserve itself, we have large spaces which can host concerts, talks, lectures, and performances. Nature is the best gallery for exhibitions. We, as well as local ranchers and property owners, will put up artists and guests. Several of the local communities have theaters and other venues that can be used depending on the purpose. The local communities of Red Lodge, Roscoe, Absarokee, and Big Timber are all colorful and historic places that participants will enjoy.

How is W Preserve funded?

W Preserve is a project of the Del Sole Foundation for the Arts and Humanities, a non-profit entity. We are benefactors and we also welcome others to participate in helping with donations. Ticket sales won’t be a substantial source of revenue for the project as events will either be free or at a very low cost. We are currently developing ideas for other potential revenue sources.

According to W Preserve’s website, artists submit project proposals for consideration. Who evaluates the proposals and what are the criteria? How long is the evaluation process?

Right now, the foundation evaluates the proposals. Both of us have been presenting, organizing and performing in arts festivals for many years as well as raising money for artists’ and performers’ Foundations (therefore the experience is there). Over time, we will develop an advisory board of artists who will also be involved.

How did you and Ms. Kotova come to collaborate on W Preserve?
We have both been dreaming about doing something in Montana for years, as it has been an inspiration, home and respite for both of us. That dream is now becoming a reality.

“Artists, musicians and thinkers.” That’s pretty wide open. Let’s say I, as a writer, wanted to submit a proposal. Are submissions restricted to “by invitation only?”

Of course not, everything is possible and everything is open. We will be very careful in the first year to make sure everything is done correctly operationally, so we won’t accept a lot of new proposals, but as the years progress, new artists and participants will be the lifeblood and future of the project.

Will the public be invited to showings, exhibitions or performances?

The public will always be invited. This project is meant to be inclusive, not exclusive. We, of course, have capacity restrictions, so there will be limits, but I imagine we will be operating on a first come, first serve basis.

Find out more about W Preserve at the official website.

Image credits: W Preserve

About Randall Radic

Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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