THE NEW ARTS AGENDA
LET’S throw a figure out there, and that figure is $71 million. That’s the amount a number of cultural institutions around the city are seeking for new construction, as well as for renovations and upgrades to existing facilities. The various projects discussed below are being paid for by the public through capital campaigns. Some of the fundraising goals are well underway, particularly for projects at Santa Fe Opera and SITE Santa Fe. However, all of this money changing hands raises the question: How did we get to this point so soon after the nation’s deep recession? In Santa Fe during those years, galleries and shops closed, construction all but halted, and the number of homeless on the city’s streets seemed to increase. The time may be ripe for a SITE expansion and a brand new contemporary art museum (or two), but have we already reached a point where we’ve recovered enough to make such bold requests for funding?
Santa Fe, while always an art-friendly town, seems to be developing an art-based infrastructure — maybe even an industry — despite the loss of some state support for the arts that followed the election of Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez halted the tax incentives that brought the film industry to New Mexico when the state was developing the infrastructure to sustain it and allow for post-production as well as production work. Had the wind not been knocked out of the filmmakers’ migration, perhaps in time, Tamalewood would have given Hollywood a run for its money. Now the film industry has to get back on its feet, but there are signs that a reemergence is underway. During the recession, Santa Fe saw a rise in artists working together and supporting one another and now that the recession is over, the artist collaboratives that formed during those years remain strong.
The cultural landscape is changing. Amid this transformation from art destination to art mecca with a capital “M,” art collaboratives that started as grass-roots organizers of creative “happenings” and imaginative pop-up exhibits are now creating new museums such as the Meow Wolf Art Complex, slated to open in 2016. Art districts are emerging all over town. While it still sometimes feels like a no-man’s land and some of its storefronts still sit empty, the Railyard District continues to grow, and much of that growth supports and employs local talent. Graphic design firms, art resource centers, and marketing firms are opening their doors, and local art and culture venues are among their major clients. There even seem to be a few more millennials sticking around these days, but maybe we’re just getting older.
So we do have an industry, and its product is art. The capital campaign projects being planned or already in motion might test our willingness to invest in an art-based infrastructure, but ultimately, we should be sure that this renaissance is sustainable, and that we’re not getting ahead of ourselves or stretching ourselves too thin. — Michael Abatemarco