Pasatiempo - - STATE OF THE ARTS - Michael Abatemarco

Ev­ery year, it seems, gal­leries in Santa Fe ei­ther close up shop in one of the city’s four main ar­eas where art venues and stu­dios are con­cen­trated — down­town, the Rai­l­yard, Sec­ond Street, and Canyon Road — or move from one place to an­other. It would be short­sighted to think that the eco­nomic col­lapse of 2008 hasn’t had an im­pact on the chang­ing land­scape of the art mar­ket, even if for a time we were in­su­lated from its ef­fects. A core group of ded­i­cated artists has re­sponded to the chal­lenge of find­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion in a dif­fi­cult mar­ket by spon­sor­ing, some­times at their own ex­pense, pop-up shows at al­ter­na­tive venues. What sets them apart? Usu­ally it’s a level of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment that re­flects the grow­ing dy­namic of sup­port be­tween artists, en­trepreneurs, phi­lan­thropists, and busi­ness own­ers. There’s pride in this dy­namic and recog­ni­tion that Santa Fe re­ally is the City Dif­fer­ent.

“State of the Arts” is a col­umn that ad­dresses the chang­ing artis­tic land­scape in Santa Fe and what it means for strug­gling, emerg­ing, and es­tab­lished artists and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives. If you have an opin­ion on the sub­ject and wish to weigh in, I want to hear from you (ma­batemarco@sfnewmex­i­ There are big changes ahead for the city, and at­ten­tion is now fixed on the most un­usual of neigh­bor­hoods, where a grow­ing move­ment in sup­port of Santa Fe’s un­der­rep­re­sented artists has taken root. I am talk­ing about the Siler Dis­trict, the area around Siler Road, on the south side of town, an industrial neigh­bor­hood where for years artists have taken ad­van­tage of cheap rents: some for living, oth­ers for stu­dio work, some for both. The big news on this front is the up­com­ing estab­lish­ment of Meow Wolf’s new art com­plex in the space for­merly oc­cu­pied by Silva Lanes bowl­ing al­ley on Ru­fina Cir­cle. Ear­lier this month, it was an­nounced that lo­cal au­thor Ge­orge R.R. Martin was part­ner­ing with the col­lab­o­ra­tive of young artists to take over the 33,000-square-foot build­ing. “Ge­orge is cov­er­ing $2.7 mil­lion worth of ren­o­va­tions — that’s roof and HVAC and elec­tric and re­do­ing the park­ing lot and build­ing all th­ese in­ter­nal walls,” Meow Wolf spokesman Vince Kad­lubek told Pasatiempo.

What sets the planned venue apart from other lo­cal in­sti­tu­tions that fea­ture con­tem­po­rary art is that it is large enough to host re­volv­ing ex­hibits, per­ma­nent ex­hibits, artist stu­dios, and ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties. That might sound a bit like what a mu­seum of­fers, but it won’t be like any other mu­seum in town. “It will be some­thing great for the youth of Santa Fe, the kids,” Martin told Pasatiempo. It should be a tourist at­trac­tion, an ad­di­tional thing to do for peo­ple vis­it­ing Santa Fe, and some­thing re­ally in­no­va­tive that em­ploys a lot of artists in a very cre­ative way. It’s a gi­gan­tic space with plenty of park­ing, which is a good thing to have. I know be­cause I have the Cocteau, which has no park­ing, so I’ve seen the other side of it, too.”

If you re­call Meow Wolf ’s well- re­ceived Due Re­turn, a large-scale in­stal­la­tion that pre­miered at the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts in 2011, then be pre­pared. The new space is large enough to fit nine Due Re­turns, and the group plans to make full use of it by of­fer­ing 19 af­ford­able artist stu­dios, an artist work space, and a learn­ing cen­ter that will be home to ARTs­mart, a non­profit that teaches art, lit­er­acy, and life skills to chil­dren through vis­ual ex­pres­sion. “The learn­ing cen­ter is a 2,000-square-foot space with the of­fices, so that in and of it­self is a big thing,” Kad­lubek said. There will also be a gift shop for the sale of mer­chan­dise from lo­cal ar­ti­sans and a project space for ca­sual pro­gram­ming sep­a­rate from the main ex­hi­bi­tion. Stu­dio artists can uti­lize the space for col­lab­o­ra­tive projects. The learn­ing cen­ter will also give chil­dren a chance to in­ter­act with artists and per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tions.

The space’s first per­ma­nent show, House of Eter­nal Re­turn, takes up a mas­sive 20,000 square feet. “We have a team of about 50 artists, pro­gram­mers, and de­sign­ers work­ing on this right now. Just as the Due Re­turn was a ship that had a fic­tional past, we’re wrap­ping sto­ry­telling into this even more heav­ily,” Kad­lubek said. When vis­i­tors en­ter the ex­hibit they will come to the front lawn of a large Vic­to­rian house. “The crux of it is that some­thing has oc­curred in this house that has cre­ated por­tals to other di­men­sions — just like ev­ery kid’s dream.” In­side the house, se­cret pas­sage­ways lead to a num­ber of strange worlds. You can crawl through a fire­place, for in­stance, and emerge into a mas­sive cave sys­tem, or you open a re­frig­er­a­tor door and a tun­nel leads you to an­other fully con­ceived world. There will be bridges con­nect­ing one area to an­other and a shan­ty­town that can dou­ble as a mu­sic and per­for­mance venue. But that’s not all. De­lin­eated spa­ces on the ground and sec­ond floors can be used for im­mer­sive mul­ti­me­dia art in­stal­la­tions tied to the con­cept of the main ex­hibit but made by in­di­vid­ual artists. “We’ll use dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, iPhone apps, and touch screens, so even though you’ll have sep­a­rate artists do­ing things in sep­a­rate spa­ces, it’s not go­ing to be frag­mented.”

All of this is a few months away from be­ing re­al­ized. Ren­o­va­tions begin in March. Meow Wolf won’t be in the space be­fore April and doesn’t ex­pect to open to the public un­til Au­gust at the ear­li­est. “We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Martin said. “The build­ing has been sit­ting derelict for six or seven years, so it’s not a turnkey kind of thing. Mar­shall Thomp­son and his crew at Con­struc­tive As­sets are go­ing in there to bring the build­ing up to code and re­pair­ing the things that need re­pair­ing.”

Meow Wolf’s ini­tia­tive bodes well for the upand-com­ing art dis­trict, but it isn’t the only ma­jor project in the works in the area. There is also a pro­posal to turn the old solid-waste treat­ment site on Siler Road into work­ing stu­dios and af­ford­able hous­ing

What sets the planned venue apart is that it is large enough to host re­volv­ing

ex­hibits, per­ma­nent ex­hibits, artist stu­dios, and ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

for artists, a pro­posal that, if adopted by the city, could be years away from com­ple­tion. How­ever, New Mex­ico In­ter-Faith Hous­ing has al­ready part­nered with Cre­ative Santa Fe, which has a con­tract with the city to as­sess project devel­op­ment. Artists have also be­gun turn­ing industrial work spa­ces into venues for con­tem­po­rary art. Foundry owner-turned-gal­lerist Dwight Hack­ett was among the first to do so when he opened Dwight Hack­ett Projects ( no longer do­ing public ex­hi­bi­tions) on All Trades Road. Now, Michael Freed’s stu­dio on Trades West Road, off Siler, dou­bles as Of­froad Pro­duc­tions, a space for quar­terly cu­rated shows. “It takes way too much time for me to pro­duce four shows a year,” Freed said, “so I asked peo­ple I know that have a good cu­ra­to­rial eye to do three of the shows. They’re bring­ing in artists I might not know about.” Of­froad’s lat­est ex­hibit, I Want to Be­lieve ( maybe), was cu­rated by lo­cal artist Erika Wa­nen­macher. Pre­vi­ous shows have been cu­rated by ArtBeat’s Kathryn M. Davis, artist Jen­nifer Joseph, and Cyndi Conn, Cre­ative Santa Fe’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor.

Freed uses only 20 per­cent of sales to cover ex­penses such as se­cu­rity, a bar­tender, cater­ing, and a spe­cial event li­cense. An­other 20 per­cent goes to pay the cu­ra­tors. Th­ese are lower per­cent­ages than most gal­leries take. “I don’t re­ally care if I make money on this. It’s about this void de­vel­op­ing in the art world that’s hap­pen­ing ev­ery­where from coast to coast. The av­er­age gallery used to have some al­lowance for up-and-com­ing artists and un­proven artists. It’s all go­ing away.”

Freed has em­braced the term SiDi, short for Siler Dis­trict, in recog­ni­tion of the neigh­bor­hood’s grow­ing artis­tic vibe. Of­froad’s shows are a chance to view imag­i­na­tive art, and at this early stage it looks like the re­cent en­deav­ors in the dis­trict will fa­cil­i­tate this ef­fort on a grander scale. “I think it’s all play­ing into this idea of re­defin­ing spa­ces,” Freed said. “The way it looks to me is that the art that’s not in the gallery arena is the art that’s grav­i­tat­ing this way.” All of this is a po­ten­tial boon, not just for artists al­ready living and work­ing in the area but also for young artists and res­i­dents, for whom the his­toric gallery dis­tricts are too ex­clu­sive and high-end.

Above, ren­der­ing of the David Loughridge Learn­ing Cen­ter at Meow Wolf’s art com­plex

Left, Caity Kennedy’s ren­der­ing of Por­tals Ber­muda Op­po­site page, ren­der­ing of the art com­plex’s ex­te­rior mu­ral

Images cour­tesy Meow Wolf

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