One person feels that Santa Fe embraces young artists. Another says that you have to learn to market yourself here. A third believes that the city offers no motivation for young creative minds, while another says it’s the place to be as long as you want to work and grow— and not worry about whether or not you get paid.
The 13 artists profiled in Pasatiempo this week, ranging in age from 16 to 26, don’t share a common thought as to whether Santa Fe is the place for them to spread their artistic wings. That makes sense, according to Sabrina Pratt, executive director of the Santa Fe Arts Commission: “For some people it works to stay here. Others want to go away, have a different experience, and maybe come back later. Others come from elsewhere because Santa Fe has some sort of inspiration to help them.”
Yet Pratt and other veteran arts administrators, teachers, and mentors agree that the city should nurture young artists in an effort to get them to contribute to the economic development of Santa Fe — a tough challenge, as the recession is taking its toll on both artists’ salaries and artistic nonprofits. A recent arts and economic development survey cited in a November edition of The New York Times reported that more than half the national artists surveyed said their income dropped from 2008 to 2009, while in Santa Fe the Center for
IContemporary Arts announced it would close by year’s end if a financial angel didn’t come to the rescue.
Yet opportunities to learn or work in the arts community exist. Most local theater groups take on interns as administrators or performers. SITE Santa Fe offers several youth-oriented programs, including Young Curators, Visual Thinking Strategies, and internship opportunities. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s educational outreach program provides workshops, classes, and exhibitions to benefit young artists. The New Mexico School for the Arts, slated to open next autumn, will offer free tuition to selected high-school students. Warehouse 21 hosts an array of classes in various mediums.
But more and more, young artists are creating venues— and opportunities— for themselves. An ensemble of students from the Institute of American Indian Arts established a youthoriented exhibition space called The Humble. Twenty-somethings Zac Scheinbaum and Meghan Tomeo ran Pennbrick Gallery from May to September; they hope to revive the project in the future. High Mayhem, a multimedia-arts venue, is headed toward its 10th birthday. MeowWolf, headquartered in a warehouse-type space off Second Street, celebrates its second anniversary in February. All these entities play a role in shaping Santa Fe’s future as an arts center.
“Young people who are trying to start here have to create their own environments to make art,” said Mark Herndon, an IAIA faculty member who works in jewelry and metals. “If this town is going to be redefined, it’s not going to happen because of the older crowd. It’s going to happen because young artists make their own statement and try not to emulate what the Santa Fe art scene is now.” Herndon bemoans the fact that the city has no educational institute offering a Master of Fine Arts.
There seems to be agreement that young visual artists have a better chance of drawing attention to themselves than performance artists do here. “Visual arts makes a lot of sense here,” said Catherine Oppenheimer, founding artistic director of National Dance Institute of New Mexico and chair of the New Mexico School for the Arts. “But we really don’t have a strong, viable theater and dance community here. I think you can get great training here, but then you have to move on. If you want to be a ballet dancer at 18, 19, 20, you have to get a job, and to do that you have to go out of state.”
María Benítez, who runs The Institute of Spanish Arts and has taught flamenco dance for about 30 years, agrees, but she thinks dancers need to branch out as educators too. “Young people want to be performing, not teaching, but they have to teach to make sure they have a roof over their head,” she said. She pays her adult dancers, musicians, and technicians and is looking for a way to provide stipends for her Next Generation young performers. She encourages her young dancers to go elsewhere for a career— at least, in the beginning. “I tell a lot of them, you’ve got to leave and feel what’s out there, and then you can come back.’ ” Still, she thinks young artists should understand, “In Santa Fe there are numerous opportunities to study dance, theater, painting, music, etc., with top-notch teachers, but Santa Fe is not required to provide you with making a living in the arts — it has to at least start with you.”
Mentors, teachers, directors, and young artists agree that self-producing and self-promotion are two vital elements to success. Santa Fe native Quinn Tincher, 25, one of the founders of MeowWolf, believes this city is a creative paradise for artists his age. “If you’re trying to break into the selling market, this may not be your town, but if your motivation is to change
attitudes in the social community via art, Santa Fe may be your bubble,” he said. Older, established artists have helped MeowWolf survive, but Tincher acknowledges that no one within the organization has the time, talent, or desire to learn about money matters such as incorporating as a nonprofit or writing grants. He’d like to see the city or state come up with a “giant project for emerging artists” or hire a fundraiser/grant-writer who could help the under-30 art crowd raise funds.
Ana Maria Gallegos y Reinhardt, executive director ofWarehouse 21, thinks it’s time for a city-wide summit on youth artists and economic development. “Santa Fe wants to find ways to keep young people here, but what is the approach? It’s all about jobs. We have to be employed to survive, and today teenagers are having a hard time finding work. Most of the people I have worked with over the last 25 years have left Santa Fe. In 10, 20 years, where will all those young people who are here now be? What’s going to happen to the art scene in Santa Fe if we’re not cultivating that talent now?”
Toeing the line at the National Dance Institute of New Mexico
Institute of American Indian Arts class