In what was an extremely humbling move, I was handpicked among close to 300 applicants from 57 countries to take part in the 2012 USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship. At first, I though the distinction had been a result of manatees pushing around application balls, but upon confirmation, I learned that, in fact, the decision was a deliberate one.
Surrounded by giants in my industry, including illustrators, web developers and fellow journalists, I partook in the development of a pop-up newsroom called Engine30, and collectively worked on the development of original reporting in the fields of contested spaces, redefining arts education and why art here?
In tandem, we also had the opportunity to visit some of Los Angeles' most famed cultural institutions—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Other highlights included a tour of Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum, where we had the place all to ourselves, Wally World-style.
Introduced to some of the definers of American arts and culture, I approached them with the question: What's the first thing you think of when I say 'Santa Fe art'?
Their off-the-cuff responses were surprising, enlightening and oftentimes humorous.
"Osvaldo Golijov's opera Ainadamar, directed by Peter Sellers, with a set painted by [Los Angeles-based] artist Gronk."
-Sasha Anawalt, Engine30 director and founding director of USC Annenberg Arts Journalism programs
-Douglas McLennan, Engine30 project architect and founder of ArtsJournal.com
"Probably Georgia O'Keeffe. Can I include Taos? Agnes Martin would be number two—it's fascinating how her grids don't look like landscapes at all. Also, Walter De Maria."
-Michael Govan, CEO and director, LACMA
"They never showed Kenny. The [New Mexico] Museum of Art doesn't have a piece…nothing. He was there 40 years."
-Happy Price, widow of sculptor Ken Price, whose work is currently on view at LACMA in a Frank O Gehry-designed exhibit
"I honestly think of Taos, and I think about the amazing dinners with Ken [Price], when we would go there to catalog his work. It was an amazing window to what the Ferus Gallery was back then. As a young curator from LA, you never forget that."
-Lauren Bergman, assistant curator of modern art, LACMA
"Indian art. I think of booths with art on them on the street; a friendly atmosphere where you can walk table to table."
-Joan Agajanian Quinn, former West Coast editor for Interview magazine, Warhol muse and famed art collector
"The Indian stuff, you know? I love that."
-Angelyne, "the billboard queen"
"I'm afraid I think of Zuni ladies sitting in the dust, outside their dwelling place, lapping mud into pots. I think of sentimental Indian subjects...but I have been to SITE Santa Fe a couple of times and [realized] I was wrong."
-John Walsh, director emeritus, J Paul Getty Museum
"Native American jewelry, craft and the nous number of artists from the '60s and '70s—especially women—who have settled in that area."
-Jeff Weinstein, former senior editor for visual arts and architecture at the Village Voice
"The first thing I think of is imitation of indigenous art...sorry! The second thing is 'Marfa of the Southwest.' I know great artists head to the desert for solitude. I'm from Arizona, and we have plenty of artists who want to be left alone."
-Drew Tewksbury, managing editor and producer of Artbound, KCET public television
"I think of lowriders, because I have a book of lowriding in Santa Fe. Then I think about the Chicano prison gang culture over there, 'cause [a] long time ago I bought a book called In Prison, shot by Douglas Kent Hall, and there was a big, cool tattoo on one of the guys' backs with gangster blocks that said 'Santa Fe.' I don't know why, that image stuck in my head."
-Estevan Oriol, photographer, entrepreneur and all-around badass
"I can't decide on a word, but I have a vision in my head: I don't know how to describe it, but it's basically a Navajo Indian look. The art itself? I've never been to Santa Fe, so I don't know how much good contemporary art there is there. One of these days, I really should go there."
-James Goldstein, multi-millionaire "NBA superfan" resident of the John Lautner-designed Sheats-Goldstein Residence
-Rebecca Haithcoat, music writer, LA Weekly