State of the Arts Michael Abatemaro takes a dim view of the pro­posal to ap­pro­pri­ate monies from the state’s Art in Public Places fund and di­vert them to the Dept. of Cul­tural Af­fairs

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Michael Abatemarco

Rogues’ gallery

I don’t know much about the in­ner work­ings of state gov­ern­ment, but I know a bad deal when I see one. On April 11, The New Mex­i­can pub­lished a “Reader View” that was writ­ten by Tisa Gabriel, a for­mer direc­tor of the New Mex­ico Arts di­vi­sion of the Depart­ment of Cul­tural Af­fairs (DCA), and James Ruther­ford, a for­mer direc­tor of the Gover­nor’s Gallery. At is­sue was a pro­posal, buried deep in the House ver­sion of Se­nate Bill 159, that would ap­pro­pri­ate two and a half mil­lion dol­lars in funds from New Mex­ico Arts’ Art in Public Places pro­gram (AIPP) and di­vert them for use by the DCA for re­pairs, ren­o­va­tions, and up­grades to equip­ment and in­fra­struc­ture at state mu­se­ums, his­toric sites, and mon­u­ments. But for those in­sti­tu­tions, that amount would just be a drop in the bucket — a short-term fix at best. For the AIPP, this fund­ing is crit­i­cal. As Gabriel and Ruther­ford wrote in their op-ed piece, the loss of the funds would be dev­as­tat­ing to the state’s artis­tic com­mu­nity. Dur­ing the last leg­isla­tive ses­sion, the amend­ment out­lin­ing the pro­posal to di­vert the AIPP funds was added but died in the Se­nate. As a re­sult, no vote took place, and the bill died. But the pos­si­bil­ity of a spe­cial ses­sion means the is­sue could be brought back up again — if state leg­is­la­tors aren’t vig­i­lant.

“It’s not part of the bill that passed the state Se­nate unan­i­mously,” Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) told

Pasatiempo. “This is part of a whole ef­fort by the House Repub­li­cans to re­write the Cap­i­tal Out­lay Bill at the last minute that led to the thing blow­ing up. In the orig­i­nal bill, in Sec­tion 62, it clearly states that, pursuant to Sec­tion 13-4A-4, which is the Art in Public Places law, the ap­pro­pri­a­tions au­tho­rized in this act in­clude 1 per­cent for the Art in Public Places fund. That also was re­moved in the House amend­ment. Not only do they take from al­ready ap­pro­pri­ated money that went into this fund, they ac­tu­ally take out the re­quire­ment un­der law that one per­cent for projects — I be­lieve it’s in ex­cess of $100,000 — go into Art in Public Places. Both th­ese pro­posed amend­ments di­rectly vi­o­late New Mex­ico law.”

Sec­tion 43 of the amended bill states that “notwith­stand­ing the pro­vi­sions of the Art in Public Places Act to the con­trary, two mil­lion five hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars ($2,500,000) is ap­pro­pri­ated from the Art in Public Places fund to the Cul­tural Af­fairs Depart­ment for ex­pen­di­ture in fis­cal years 2015 through 2019.” The devil, as they say, is in the de­tails. In this case, it’s in the par­tic­u­lar lan­guage used. “That ‘not with­stand­ing’ lan­guage is an at­tempt to by­pass the law,” Wirth said. “I, as a lawyer, do not think that’s ap­pro­pri­ate. I’m cer­tainly not go­ing to sup­port it and will do ev­ery­thing in my power to make sure we don’t see lan­guage like this again.”

Most of the fund­ing for DCA im­prove­ment projects (cap­i­tal out­lay projects ) for 2015 comes from sev­er­ance tax bonds. Among the projects are im­prove­ments to the Mu­seum Hill cam­pus, the His­panic Cul­tural Cen­ter, and the Santa Fe Chil­dren’s Mu­seum. The to­tal amount for all the DCA projects comes to $4,510,290. That num­ber in­cludes the $2,500,000 al­lot­ted to AIPP pro­grams. It would be dis­con­cert­ing to see an arts or­ga­ni­za­tion that re­lies on state fund­ing for its sur­vival find it­self forced to fund projects out­side its purview. The AIPP, in ex­is­tence since 1986, rec­og­nizes artists for their work pri­mar­ily through three ini­tia­tives: the New Mex­ico Only, Ac­claimed Artist Se­ries, and com­mis­sions pro­grams. The first ini­tia­tive al­lows public sites to pur­chase ex­ist­ing art­work by es­tab­lished artists; the sec­ond al­lows for the pur­chase of ex­ist­ing art­work by New Mex­ico artists at any stage of their ca­reer. In both cases, the works be­come part of the state’s per­ma­nent public-art col­lec­tion. The com­mis­sions in­volve site-spe­cific in­stal­la­tions that are in­te­grated into the ar­chi­tec­ture of public build­ings or are made in re­sponse to the sites where they’re lo­cated.

Some re­cent ex­am­ples of AIPP-funded com­mis­sions are Santa Fe artist Ni­co­las Gad­bois’ il­lu­mi­nated bas-re­lief on the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico-Los Alamos; three stained-glass win­dows de­signed by Vir­ginia artist Mau­reen Melville for the New Mex­ico School for the Deaf; and Southeast-based artist Ivan Toth Depeña’s In­side/Out, an in­ter­ac­tive light in­stal­la­tion that pre­mieres at the WisePies Arena

(the Pit) at the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico on Fri­day, May 8, dur­ing UNM’s grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies. The AIPP also spon­sors TIME (Tem­po­rary In­stal­la­tions Made for the En­vi­ron­ment), a bi­en­nial ex­hibit se­ries that has com­mis­sioned more than 50 works since its in­cep­tion in 2005, in­clud­ing last year’s Pull of the Moon col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Navajo artist Bert Be­nally and Chi­nese dis­si­dent artist Ai Weiwei. Since 1986, the AIPP has placed more than 2,500 works of art through­out New Mex­ico’s 33 coun­ties.

Erin Cur­rier, a lo­cal artist rep­re­sented by Blue Rain Gallery, ap­plied to AIPP two years ago and learned last year that she was a fi­nal­ist. The artist was re­cently no­ti­fied that the state is in­ter­ested in ac­quir­ing her work. In a let­ter to leg­is­la­tors, the gover­nor, and Veron­ica Gon­za­les, the DCA’s sec­re­tary, she out­lined the many ways in which artists con­trib­ute to the state’s econ­omy. “I know first­hand the eco­nomic chal­lenges and un­cer­tain­ties that the life of an artist en­gen­ders,” she wrote. “The pur­chase of my work through the Art in Public Places pro­gram not only con­trib­utes to Blue Rain Gallery’s earn­ings — and the many peo­ple em­ployed there — and sus­tains me for a 3-6 month pe­riod while I con­tinue to de­velop my own work, it also di­rectly sup­ports the larger lo­cal art econ­omy in the sense that nearly half of my an­nual earn­ings are spent pho­tograph­ing my work with a lo­cal pho­tog­ra­pher, hav­ing pan­els built by a Taos crafts­man, buy­ing art sup­plies lo­cally at Valdez and Ar­ti­san (both owned for gen­er­a­tions by lo­cal fam­i­lies), scan­ning draw­ings at the lo­cally owned Vi­sions Photo Lab, even buy­ing small works by my col­leagues through gal­leries and pri­vate stu­dios in Taos, Santa Fe, and Al­bu­querque.”

Had it passed, the bill would have re­sulted in a rob­bing-Peter-to-pay-Paul sit­u­a­tion, though, in this case, Peter and Paul are friends. “Those of us who sup­port artists and sup­port mu­se­ums are one and the same,” Ruther­ford told Pasatiempo. “We un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the qual­ity-of-life en­hance­ments that art pro­vides. We must re­sist be­ing pit­ted against one an­other. One of the real ob­jec­tion­able things about the way they tried to do this in the House amend­ment was to take from artists to fund mu­seum re­pairs.” Cur­rier likened it to tak­ing fund­ing from lo­cal farm­ers in or­der to ex­pand the Farm­ers Mar­ket build­ing. “Artists and mu­se­ums are mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and in­ter­de­pen­dent on one an­other,” she said.

Right now, the $264 mil­lion fund­ing for cap­i­tal out­lay projects statewide is on the ta­ble. Clearly, the House amend­ment was short­sighted: Funds that have al­ready been al­lo­cated and, in some cases, al­ready con­tracted out to in­di­vid­ual artist projects, can­not be re­claimed and sent some­where else with­out caus­ing a ruckus. House Repub­li­cans ac­cepted Gov. Martinez’s plans for some projects and made cuts else­where. The shame of it is that the AIPP law it­self was the re­sult of a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort. “You can’t just ig­nore state law by say­ing you’re do­ing it, and that’s what the House amend­ment tried to do,” Wirth said. “For­tu­nately, that failed.”

Left to right, Bert Be­nally: Pull of the Moon (de­tail), 2014, mixed­me­dia in­stal­la­tion cre­ated for Tem­po­rary In­stal­la­tions Made for the En­vi­ron­ment (TIME); Fed­erico Mue­las: Blue Flower/Flor Azul, 2013, Pearl Hall, Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico; Shawn Trent­lage and Darcy Fer­rill: Signs + Sym­bols, 2014, Con­nor Hall, New Mex­ico School for the Deaf Con­nor Hall, 2014

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