How Santa Fe’s Multicultural, Multimedia Arts Landscape Is Becoming Even More Diverse

On sunny Saturday afternoon in early spring, the music spilled over Santa Fe’s Railyard District from the Cowgirl, a barbecue restaurant with a band playing on its peach-colored adobe-walled patio.

One of the Sky Rail trains, which offers passengers an immersive experience of improv theatre, quick cocktails or an evening under the crystal stars of the Galisteo Basin just south of the city, already had its engine, painted with the smiling jaws and folded ears of a wolf, pointing south along the railway line that gives the Railyard District its name. Santa Fe Farmer’s Market vendors were folding up the white tent tops and tables of the morning market, where spring’s first greens had been laid out among bundles of dried chili peppers from last fall.

Tables at two nearly adjacent breweries in the Railyard, Second Street and Bosque Brewing, were packed with patrons sipping Indian lagers and munching on nachos, while diners in the high seats of Opuntia Tea House overlooked the still snow-capped mountains. east of town. Wrought-iron sculptures faced the doors of the art gallery, and a lattice-work metal bow marked SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art museum home to light and space movement artist Helen Pashgian. Attendance an installation formed of ethereal spheres and luminous pillars of light.

I entered the Blue Rain Gallery, where Rimi Yang’s jewel-toned portraits of near-fairytale characters met Preston Singletary’s cast lead crystal sculptures of figures from his Tlingit culture, an indigenous tribe of Alaska: a “Fog Woman” and a translucent blue “Raven”. and the daylight box. Shelves of kachinas, small statues carved from poplar roots and traditional-style pottery by contemporary Aboriginal artists faced Doug West’s oil paintings of nearby landscapes – Ghost Ranch and the Sandia Mountains – and Erin Currier’s mixed portraits of activists and athletes. . I thought those times when new takes, modern figures, and traditional arts come together are an integral part of Santa Fe’s DNA.

The Unesco “Creative City” has been recognized for its longstanding role as a destination for arts commerce, a hub for Native American art, dance and jewelry, and a place where crafts brought in the Americas centuries ago by Spanish settlers is still practiced. It ranks among the top visual arts markets in the United States, with more than 250 galleries and one of the highest per capita rates for museums and arts-focused jobs in the country, including some of the highest percentages the highest of professional artists and writers. .

Santa Fe Railyard is a hot spot for food and drink

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But cultural overlaps are not always easy to achieve peacefully. On summer evenings, blues, country and American music alternates with traditional mariachi and flamenco at the bandstand in the town square, while people dance in the cobbled square or sit on blankets thrown on grass, near where a hollowed-out pedestal marks a toppled obelisk. by protesters on Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly Columbus Day) in 2020. The pillar recognized the “heroes…fallen in the various battles with the savage Indians in the territory of New Mexico”, and had already been changed once by an aboriginal man who punched the word ‘wild’ from his sign. After neighboring tribal communities protested the obelisk’s continued celebration of their subjugation and genocide — and criticized the city for treating tribal communities like tourist products — the mayor agreed to take it on. But for months, nothing changed. Protesters therefore threaded a chain around the stacked marble blocks and pulled on them.



On summer evenings, blues, country and American music alternates with traditional mariachi and flamenco at the Bandstand in the Town Plaza

Some traditions, like the Fiestas, an annual celebration of the Spanish conquest of New Mexico, have been challenged for obscuring the darkest turning points in history. In 1680, a number of Pueblos, tribal communities in northern New Mexico, coordinated a revolt that pushed the Spanish conquistadors, settlers, and governor of the territory back to what is now Juarez, Mexico. 500 km to the south. Festive events included a re-enactment of Don Diego De Vargas leading the Spaniards to reclaim the territory in 1692, with men wearing shiny metal helmets and sweeping capes riding through the square to be greeted by a native dancer in a spectacle of peaceful reoccupation. . But this “peaceful” rendition, local tribal members and protesters argued, focused on a moment of calm that preceded the brutalities, executions and enslavement of Pueblo Indians and celebrated what amounted to efforts to destroy their cultures. Fiestas removed the Entrada competition from its programming in 2018.

Santa Fe Plaza hosts a mix of art forms and cultures throughout the summer

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All this to say that Santa Fe has a layered and complex history, both figuratively and literally. A city employee once told me that it was almost impossible to sink a shovel downtown and not touch the remains of the Tewa people who knew the place as Oga Po’geh , or White Shell Water Place. Progress cannot move forward without a careful and intentional recognition of the past.

Stories and other global influences take turns on summer weekends, with three major annual art markets: the International Folk Art Market, the Traditional Spanish Colonial Market and the Indian Market. The fact that many of the city’s museums are close together on Museum Hill also makes it easy to sample the route, view traditional and contemporary indigenous arts at the Wheelwright, then Spanish colonial art, and pause for a moment. with the landscape at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

Museum of the Spanish Society of Colonial Arts in Santa Fe

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Summer also sees the world-class Santa Fe Opera fill its outdoor amphitheater with, this year, the plaintive arias of Carmen and the star-crossed lovers story of Tristan and Isolde. Probably the liveliest iteration of Santa Fe as a current center of artistic innovation can be found at Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, the interactive art exhibit that tells a mystery about a missing family in an old Victorian house ( and now also includes one of the large medium-sized concert halls). The city therefore has no shortage of artistic offerings – but, for Dorothy Massey, there is always something missing. Finally, this year, this shortage is filled.

At 18, Massey has the vast array of independent bookstores in the city. She has owned one, Collected Works Bookstore, for 26 years. The shop occupies a sunny corner a few minutes’ walk from the Plaza, with shelves filled with Southwestern writers and the latest fiction and non-fiction debuts.



Santa Fe has been the main draw to the West for so many wonderful art forms – literary, photography, painting, dance, sculpture

Dorothee Massy

“For two and a half decades I’ve often heard, ‘I wish we had a literary festival,'” Massey said. This year, that wish is granted at the first Santa Fe Literary Festival.

“Santa Fe has been the main draw in the West for so many wonderful art forms – literary, photography, painting, dance, sculpture, with the rich history of cross-cultures that we have here, and the literary arts have not really been brought to the forefront and given their appropriate stellar place,” Massey said. “This festival recognizes literature as an equally important art form.”

The fact that it draws on land set up by Collected Works, which holds regular readings, and the Lannan Foundation, which tours authors around town to speak, means that some of the big names reserved for the festival, such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer Colson Whitehead and recidivist American poet Joy Harjo aren’t making their Santa Fe debuts, but are making a return visit. Collected Works will also be present, with a pop-up bookstore integrated into the downtown convention center and hosting the main events of the festival.

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When I ask Cecile Lipworth, Events Producer for Collected Works, how the festival was able to attract such a star-studded line-up, with the likes of Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, N. Scott Momaday and John Grisham. , she credits the city itself: “The authors include the literary personalities of Santa Fe, the people we’ve had here for decades, who have lived here as authors – I think that’s much appreciated, and I don’t think it’s hard ground to come to Santa Fe.

Travel Essentials

Getting There

Try to fly less?

Adventurers can take a freighter from Belgium to Houston, from where they can take a train or bus to Santa Fe in less than a day.

Good with flying?

Connect to Dallas or Chicago for flights to Albuquerque, an hour’s drive from Santa Fe.

Stay here

El Rey Court recalls the heyday of America’s legendary Highway 66, but was revamped in 2018 with a modern, chic sensibility that blends Southwestern accents – pillows, throws, the occasional set of wood and cacti in pot – with clean lines and lots of light. Doubles from £97. elreycourt.com

More information

The Santa Fe Literature Festival takes place over four days from May 20-23, 2022.

The Independent, as the event’s international media partner, will cover every day of the festival as well as during the build-up with exclusive interviews with some of the lead writers. To learn more about the festival, visit our Santa Fe Literary Festival section at click here or visit the the festival website here. For more information on purchasing tickets Click here.


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Donnie J. Milburn