State of the Arts Michael Abatemarco dis­cusses the bur­geon­ing arts dis­trict around Baca Street

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Michael Abatemarco

Santa Fe is fast on its way to be­com­ing one big arts dis­trict. OK, not really, but wouldn’t it be great? Al­ready, though, it’s not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that Santa Fe has a lot more art neigh­bor­hoods than most cities and prob­a­bly the most for a city of its size. It seems as though the art com­mu­nity takes over an­other neigh­bor­hood off Cer­ril­los Road each year. The Baca Street Arts Dis­trict, an area that’s slowly giv­ing way to art gal­leries, de­sign stores, vin­tage cloth­ing stores, and art stu­dios, is sit­u­ated be­tween down­town and the Siler Road Arts Dis­trict. With the forth­com­ing open­ing of the Meow Wolf Art Com­plex, the Siler neigh­bor­hood has al­ready gained trac­tion — and Baca is only a hop, skip, and a jump from Sec­ond Street, an­other Cer­ril­los-adjacent dis­trict where artists have dug in.

In Septem­ber, the city pre­sented plans to the pub­lic for the con­struc­tion of a tun­nel be­neath St. Fran­cis Drive, in­tended to pro­vide safe pas­sage for pedes­tri­ans and bi­cy­clists cross­ing the six-lane high­way. The nearly $4 mil­lion project con­nects the Railyard with the Ace­quia Trail Ease­ment at the in­ter­sec­tion of St. Fran­cis Drive and Cer­ril­los Road. The Ace­quia Trail abuts Flag­man Way, off Baca Street, at the southern end of the Railyard. But there’s enough dis­tance be­tween the Railyard proper and Baca Street, un­der­pass or no un­der­pass, that the Baca Street Arts Dis­trict feels like its own unique cre­ative cen­ter. How­ever, “un­der the radar” is a his­tor­i­cally apt de­scrip­tion for Baca Street, home to a grow­ing num­ber of funky es­tab­lish­ments spring­ing up amid long­time busi­nesses like the al­so­funky Counter Cul­ture Café (930 Baca St.).

Baca is in a unique po­si­tion in re­la­tion to other lo­cal arts dis­tricts, ex­ist­ing at a nexus be­tween the other dis­tricts. Re­cently es­tab­lished busi­nesses in the area such as Ar­ti­fact (930 Baca St.), a hip vin­tage cloth­ing store and gallery next door to Counter Cul­ture, and Yares Art Projects (1222 Flag­man Way), re­cently re­lo­cated from Grant Av­enue down­town, couldn’t be hap­pier. “We had no hes­i­ta­tion com­ing down here be­cause of what’s al­ready been hap­pen­ing here with the arts,” Yares’ di­rec­tor Manuel Gar­cia told

Pasatiempo. The gallery needed to va­cate its for­mer ad­dress, where it had been sit­u­ated for 22 years, when the Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe Mu­seum, which owns the build­ing, an­nounced it would be tak­ing the space over for its Ed­u­ca­tion An­nex. “An­other rea­son for the move is that we wanted to cre­ate a space that is con­ducive to the art we rep­re­sent and we wanted to able to start from the ground up,” Gar­cia said. “Ev­ery­body passes by here. Ev­ery­body uses Cer­ril­los Road as an artery to get from point A to point B. The amount of foot traf­fic has far ex­ceeded our expectations.” The gallery, which houses works by He­len Franken­thaler, Hans Hof­mann, and Joan Mitchell, and rep­re­sents the Mil­ton Avery es­tate, boasts a newly de­signed in­te­rior fur­nished with con­tem­po­rary met­al­work by Gabe Rip­pel, co-owner of Santa Fe Mod­ern, lo­cated in the same build­ing.

Ar­ti­fact, which of­fers an eclec­tic mix of hig­h­and low-end fash­ion and ac­ces­sories, cel­e­brates its one-year an­niver­sary this month. Own­ers Michael Gull­berg and Jen­nifer Row­land main­tain a small art space in back of the shop called Ar­ti­fac­tory, pro­vid­ing a venue for younger artists and col­lec­tives. “We opened an art gallery in Los An­ge­les in 2001,” Row­land told Pasatiempo. The gallery, which opened four days af­ter 9/11, also fea­tured younger artists. “But we weren’t sell­ing any art; we were sell­ing mer­chan­dise,” she said. Now, op­er­at­ing Ar­ti­fact with a small space re­served for ex­hibits has thus far been sus­tain­able for their busi­ness. “And it al­lows

Baca Street to­day is a hub of cre­ativ­ity. The dis­trict known as “the SoHo of Santa Fe” is en­trenched, and there are signs that nearby neigh­bor­hoods are get­ting in on the ac­tion.

us to just put artists in that we like,” she said. “It’s not about sell­ing art; it’s about show­ing in­ter­est­ing art, art that wouldn’t nor­mally get shown in a high-rent dis­trict.” Re­cent shows in­clude No Land by the Strangers Art Col­lec­tive, a group of emerg­ing lo­cal artists and writ­ers, and From

Vir­tual to Re­al­ity, an In­sta­gram photo ex­hibit. The shop has also hosted sa­lons where young artists and writ­ers come to­gether to dis­cuss art and ideas. The ex­hibit Ob­serv­ing the With­drawn, an in­stal­la­tion by Todd Chris­tensen, opens at 4 p.m. on Satur­day, Nov. 14. “In Santa Fe, there’s the old-school art world and now there’s this new — I don’t want to call it un­der­ground — but it’s an al­ter­na­tive kind of scene,” Gull­berg said. “There’s an au­di­ence for more con­tem­po­rary work and stuff that’s push­ing bound­aries a lit­tle more.”

Ar­ti­fact and other busi­nesses ben­e­fit from the pop­u­lar­ity of Counter Cul­ture Café. “If you’re in the Railyard al­ready, it’s in walk­ing dis­tance,” Row­land said. Ar­ti­fact also helmed the first Baca Street Bash fes­ti­val in July, which had the par­tic­i­pa­tion of lo­cal small busi­nesses, artists, and mu­si­cians, and drew hun­dreds of peo­ple, thus en­sur­ing a re­turn of the fes­ti­val next year. “In at least the last 30 years of its history, this has al­ways been an arts neigh­bor­hood, and it’s just come and gone in terms of be­ing rec­og­nized as such,” Row­land said. “There’s a new group of young peo­ple look­ing for a place to plug in — and that’s a good thing.”

The Baca Arts Dis­trict is home to other shops that sell hand­made ob­jects of art, as well as jew­elry, pot­tery, and con­tem­po­rary fur­nish­ings. There’s Re­flec­tive Im­ages Jew­elry at 912 Baca St., Mol­e­cule De­sign at 1226 Flag­man Way, and Gray Mat­ter at 926 Baca St., which of­fers vin­tage ob­jects as well as orig­i­nal works of art. Pop-up shows and short-term ex­hibits or­ga­nized by Baca Art Projects (922 Baca St.), a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween artists Michael Lu­jan, Tim Jag, Ann Jag, and Chace Haynes, have also en­livened the neigh­bor­hood.

Lo­cated at 926 Baca St., next to Gray Mat­ter, is Liq­uid Light Glass, a hot shop and show­room owned by glass artist Elodie Holmes. “I bought the build­ing in 2000 and Mark Choyt, at Re­flec­tive Im­ages, which is three doors down, and I are sort of co-chairs of what we deemed the Baca Street Arts Dis­trict. I soon dis­cov­ered there were many artists up and down the street. We called a meet­ing and we thought we could do some­thing to­gether. The first thing we did was an open stu­dio tour.” Fif­teen years on, the dis­trict is still host­ing an­nual hol­i­day tours. The next one takes place over the first week­end of De­cem­ber.

Holmes sells her work na­tion­ally. She does glass-blow­ing demon­stra­tions, teaches classes, and hosts in­ter­na­tional artists who also come to do demon­stra­tions or­ga­nized in con­junc­tion with Glass Al­liance New Mex­ico. Holmes rents shop time to other artists at Prairie Dog Glass, a stu­dio she co-owns on-site at Jack­a­lope (2820 Cer­ril­los Road). “If our classes are full here, I can send them over there to work, too.”

Years be­fore open­ing Liq­uid Light Glass, a car accident left Holmes un­able to work. She didn’t know if she would ever be able to blow glass again. “Dur­ing my re­cov­ery pe­riod, I dis­cov­ered I could do flame-worked glass, which is where you have a propane oxy­gen torch and you can shape rods and tubes of glass in the flame.” It was the be­gin­ning of a re­turn to glass-blow­ing. “Dis­cov­er­ing all the other artists up and down the street was an added bonus,” she said.

Baca Street to­day is a hub of cre­ativ­ity. The dis­trict known as “the SoHo of Santa Fe” is en­trenched, and there are signs that nearby neigh­bor­hoods are get­ting in on the ac­tion. City of Mud at 1114-A Hickox St. is a gallery and shop spe­cial­iz­ing in vin­tage ar­ti­facts, wear­ables, and home dé­cor that has also ex­hib­ited prom­i­nent lo­cal artists such as Paul Shapiro. The gallery cel­e­brated its grand open­ing this fall. Maybe we really are on our way to be­com­ing one big arts dis­trict, but I, for one, am A-OK with that.

From left, Santa Fe Mod­ern, file photo; Yares Art Projects, photo Lynn Lown

Map and illustration by Daniel Bish & Steve Oles © 2015 Santa Fe Railyard Com­mu­nity Cor­po­ra­tion

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