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


On sunny Saturday afternoon in early spring, music spilled over Santa Fe’s Railyard neighborhood 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 white tent tops and morning tables, 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 in front of the art gallery doors and a metal lattice bow marked SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art museum hosting an artist in the movement of light and space Presences of Helen Pashgianan installation formed of ethereal spheres and luminous pillars of light.

I entered Blue Rain Gallerywhere Rimi Yang’s jewel-toned portraits of quasi-fairytale characters met Preston Singletary’s cast lead crystal sculptures of figures from his Tlingit culture, an Alaska Native tribe: a translucent blue Fog Woman and 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 activists. 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 craftsmanship 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 an obelisk. overthrown 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 edited once by a native who has knocked the word “wild” from its listing. 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 deal with it. 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 square

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 lineup 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 people of Tewa 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, admiring traditional and contemporary Aboriginal arts at the Wheelwrightso Spanish colonial artand stopping for a moment with the landscape Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

The Spanish Society of Colonial Arts Museum in Santa Fe

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Summer also sees world class Santa Fe Opera filling its open-air amphitheater with, this year, Carmenthe plaintive tunes of Tristan and the story of the star-crossed lovers of Tristan and Isolde. Probably the liveliest iteration of Santa Fe as a center of artistic innovation is at Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, the interactive arts exhibit that unravels the mystery of a missing family in an old Victorian house (and now also includes one of the city’s main mid-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 is one of many 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 stocked with Southwestern writers and the latest fiction and non-fiction debuts.



Santa Fe has been the main draw of the west for so many wonderful art forms – literature, 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 of 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 never not really been brought to the forefront and given their proper stellar place,” Massey said. “This festival recognizes literature as an equally important art form.”

The fact that it relies on foundations such as Collected Works, which holds regular readings, and the Lannan Foundation, which tours authors across town to speak, means that some of the big names reserved for the festival , such as Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer Colson Whitehead and American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo aren’t making their Santa Fe debuts, but are making a return visit. Other renowned authors such as Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, Asma Khan and Jonn Krakauer, add to the depth and breadth of the programming. 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.

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When I ask Cecile Lipworth, Events Producer for Collected Works, to guess how the festival was able to attract such a star-studded lineup, with the likes of Sandra Cisneros and N Scott Momaday, she credits the city itself: “The authors include the literary figures in Santa Fe, the people we’ve had here for decades, who live here as authors – I think that’s very much appreciated, and I don’t think it’s a hard argument, to come to Santa Fe.”

Travel Essentials

Getting There

Try to fly less?

Adventurous types might take a freighter from Belgium to Houston, from where they can catch a train or a 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

Court El Rey 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 potted cacti – with clean lines and abundant light. Doubles from £97. elreycourt.com

More information

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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