What the hell happened to Warehouse 21? The nonprofit teen arts organization was once jam-packed with little- to no-cost classes and countless shows and events. These days, while there are still events at W21, the building often sits quietly and seems abandoned.
"I think the last show was around a month ago," teen promoter Jordan Gallegos told me during a recent visit to the space.
Gallegos is one of the few teen promoters left, but he has come to the end of his promoting days in Santa Fe. "I'm going to head to Albuquerque for awhile and do shows there," he says, "There are better opportunities."
I hate to begin a thought with a cliché but, back in my day, W21 was the go-to place for music in Santa Fe. I'd even go so far as to say that W21 saved my life as an angst-ridden teen.
At W21, I was allowed the freedom to experiment without fear of the uncool adults handling me too closely. I was encouraged to explore any area of interest I stumbled upon. When I finally hit on the love of my life—music—I found in W21 a sanctuary. I could perform my own music. My friends and I booked and promoted shows with bands from all over the world. And most of this happened before my 18th birthday.
Cut to five years later, and numerous factors have taken their tolls on W21. One was the long stretch without a building, before the new facility opened.
"With the loss of the old building, which was a very grassroots operation, came a sort of identity crisis," Director of Programs and Operations Greg Malone tells SFR, "But given the size and scope of the new facility, there's just no way you can expect everything to be exactly the same."
Then, of course, there's the economy. "I've worked with the Warehouse for almost 19 years," Executive Director Ana Gallegos y Reinhardt tells me, "And we've gone through tough financial times before, but not this bad."
W21 recently received a $49,000 grant from the city's Children and Youth Commission, but it needs approximately $105,000 more just for operating costs, according to Malone. The center's total annual budget is "in the neighborhood of $400,000," he says, "but when recessions hit, federal government always looks to cut funding to the arts first."
Finally, and most importantly to me, W21 has lost youth energy. My dumb friends and I got fed up with being bored and took things into our own hands. We helmed theme shows, art parties, film fests and more. It was hard work, but always so worth it when we had a safe place to go and a fun event to attend.
These days, only a handful of kids care enough to put events together and, frankly, they promote them so shittily that those of us has-beens who are now outside the W21 sphere never hear about anything. Is it really that hard to go to Kinko's and make a few flyers? No. We did it. Is it really that hard to send an email to SFR or other media, music and calendar writers? No. We did that, too. Believe me when I say this, kids of Santa Fe: WE WANT TO HELP YOU!
And we're willing to figure out some ways to do it.
By the time this issue hits the streets, I will have met with Gallegos y Reinhardt to brainstorm some solutions for the slumping all-ages music scene.
Gallegos y Reinhardt says W21 will undoubtedly survive. But I feel nervous. Fewer hours and fewer shows, to me, indicate future peril. And if W21 were ever to close its doors, Santa Fe would lose the most important youth service it has.
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