Jen­nifer Goes to Things & Does Stuff

Canyon Road is for all of us. Art is for all of us. You don’t need a pass­port. Just go.

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Jen­nifer Levin

Jen­nifer Levin strolls down Canyon Road dur­ing Pass­port to the Arts

No one asked to see my pa­pers

There is more to Canyon Road than bronze an­i­mals, Kokopel­lis, and paint­ings of desert vis­tas and In­dian braves. You will see quite a bit of this kind of art if you en­ter Canyon Road at Paseo de Per­alta and far less of it if you en­ter far­ther up, near Palace Av­enue, where gal­leries veer to the con­tem­po­rary. Of course, there is plenty of clichéd South­west­ern art to be had, but over­all the strip of 100 gal­leries is packed with high­qual­ity, imag­i­na­tive work in many medi­ums, free for the look­ing, and not just for tourists and wealthy col­lec­tors.

As the kick­off to the sum­mer art and tourism sea­son, the Canyon Road Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion held Pass­port to the Arts on Fri­day, May 8, and Satur­day, May 9. It’s the third year for the event, and though it’s not quite there yet, with the right co­or­di­na­tion and pro­mo­tion, Pass­port to the Arts has the po­ten­tial to be the artsy street fair that many Santa Feans would love to at­tend while also at­tract­ing those im­por­tant tourism dol­lars. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal artist Bon­nie Teit­el­baum, who par­tic­i­pated in the Quick Draw event — in which artists com­plete a paint­ing or other work in just two hours — on Satur­day morn­ing for Canyon Road Con­tem­po­rary, the event also so­cial­izes the artists. “We never get to see each other paint,” she said.

I at­tended Fri­day night gallery re­cep­tions as well as the Quick Draw with my hus­band and our dog. (Gallery own­ers on Canyon Road seem to love dogs, so it’s a great des­ti­na­tion for a stroll with your four-legged friend.) There were also si­lent and live auc­tions and mu­si­cal per­for­mances by stu­dents from some of the lo­cal schools. A por­tion of the pro­ceeds from the sale of work made dur­ing the Quick Draw ben­e­fited the Santa Fe Public Schools Mu­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram. While gallery hop­ping, we learned about an Instagram-based scav­enger hunt in the gal­leries and that “pass­ports” with clues were avail­able, but we were un­able to lo­cate any pass­ports or any­one who was par­tic­i­pat­ing. When I later checked the event in­for­ma­tion on www.vis­it­canyon­road.com, a para­graph about the hunt men­tioned par­tic­i­pants meet­ing in the “sculp­ture gar­den” at Canyon Road Con­tem­po­rary, but the lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion was vague and Canyon Road has at least a dozen sculp­ture gar­dens. If I’d known to click on the site’s blog link, I would have found a bit more in­for­ma­tion, but links from the event page to Instagram would have been very help­ful. (The hash­tags used were #Cany­onRoad­Pass­port and #Sim­plySan­taFe.)

The Fri­day-night vibe was, in a word, ex­cel­lent. The mixed-me­dia Pat­tern and Rhythm ex­hi­bi­tion at ViVO Con­tem­po­rary (725 Canyon Road) fea­tured all lo­cal artists, in­clud­ing Joy Camp­bell, Danielle Shel­ley, and Ro Cal­houn, with work that is tac­tile and of­ten three­d­i­men­sional — and ut­terly un­ex­pected if you as­sume all you’ll find is Santa Fe kitsch. Win­terowd Fine Art (701 Canyon Road) was crowded with lo­cal artists and their fam­i­lies en­joy­ing the evening, in­clud­ing Sarah Bien­venu, whose con­tem­po­rary land­scape paint­ings were on dis­play.

I asked the gallery owner, Karla Win­terowd, why the event is called Pass­port to the Arts. Do peo­ple need trav­el­ing doc­u­ments to feel in­vited to the gal­leries? Is this a mar­ket­ing ploy to fur­ther ex­oti­cize Santa Fe for tourists? Win­terowd ex­plained that, ac­tu­ally, peo­ple come to Santa Fe and spend all their time on the Plaza and never re­al­ize that they’ve com­pletely missed out on the Canyon Road gal­leries. The “pass­port” is re­ally just a clever gallery guide. The manager at Nüart Gallery (670 Canyon Road) agreed that the event was pos­i­tive, but nei­ther gallery had artists par­tic­i­pat­ing in the twohour Quick Draw. “None of our artists work that fast,” Win­terowd said.

The morn­ing of the Quick Draw came with stormy skies and light snow. Artists, paint­ing with their gloves on, were set up at easels and ta­bles in front of many of the gal­leries. A range of artists, many but not all from Santa Fe, were par­tic­i­pat­ing. Plenty of bright New Mex­ico sun­sets were un­der­way, but that wasn’t all that was hap­pen­ing. At GVG Con­tem­po­rary (241 Del­gado St.), owner Blair Vaughn-Gruler had three artists work­ing on paint­ings; all were chilly, but none seemed to con­sider the time limit gim­micky or hard to work un­der. It was ex­cit­ing to see so many artists in mo­tion, lost in con­cen­tra­tion. Per­haps chang­ing the name from Quick Draw to “Plein Air Fes­ti­val” would make it sound less like com­pet­i­tive fine-art mak­ing for the ben­e­fit of out-of-town gawk­ers. Buskers and mu­si­cal groups scat­tered up and down the street, as well as food trucks, would re­ally make this event stand out.

We ex­plored some of the more tra­di­tional gal­leries at the bot­tom of Canyon Road, and though there is some­thing un­nec­es­sar­ily fussy about all the heavy gilt frames in those spa­ces, and many of the high­est-priced paint­ings don’t seem all that orig­i­nal, the artists who make them have su­pe­rior tech­ni­cal skill. I didn’t find a sin­gle piece of art that felt ama­teur­ish or be­longed in a stu­dent gallery. I think it all comes down to per­sonal taste. What we find trite — too Santa Fe-style — of­ten be­comes that way due to prox­im­ity. We see th­ese images so fre­quently that we for­get peo­ple from far away might see them with fresh eyes. There is also some­thing to be said for de­vel­op­ing your own aes­thetic out­side of mu­seum set­tings. Know­ing what you think is schlock might be the first step to know­ing what you love.

In short, Canyon Road is for all of us. Art is for all of us. You don’t need a pass­port. Just go.

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