If you don't know who we're referring to when we talk about attracting innovative, young entrepreneurs to Santa Fe, have a look at seven graphic arts students at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Then ask yourself if it's telling that they don't plan to stay on the mesa.
All but one member of the art/business collective Hexagono (hexagonodesign.com) are from Mexico, and the best thing they can say about the local arts and culture scene is that they'd rather work in the lab. (To be fair, they also have wonderful things to say about a few local galleries, SITE Santa Fe and the Museum of International Folk Art.)
"Before I came, I emailed the students here about the nightlife because that was a priority, then," Fernando Gaverd says. "But once I got here, I forgot about it."
I learned about Hexagono during a visit to SFUAD graphic design chairman David Grey's office—he's an interesting dude who's found a common language for art and commerce in Santa Fe. These students not only speak to the integrity of the program and the university at large, he says, but also make it stronger by pushing the other students. Jonathon Duarte and Ana Villa were holdovers from the College of Santa Fe; the rest are what the university calls "network students": They enrolled at other institutions in the Laureate International Universities network and transferred to SFUAD.
Hexagono formed after the group met in the lab late at night. "We were not satisfied with just doing homework," Villa says. "We wanted to explore more and collaborate more."
All they needed was a name. Many of them studied with Design by Nature author and university professor Maggie Macnab and kept in mind her lessons on the depth of meaning found in design principles based on nature. Suzelle Camou blurted out Hexagono (hexagon, in English). At the time, the group consisted of six members. For six people to respond to it all at once, Gaverd says, "That was something."
In addition to doing work for SFR and a few other outside clients, Hexagono has designed banners, postcards and more for the university. The individual projects serve the group's mission to create a language to appreciate design as an art itself.
"We're bending the limits of what is art or what is design," Rebecca Alvarez says. "We're using handmade objects and photography, erasing [the lines between] different sections of art and design—and combining that with our love of typography and craftsmanship." Gaverd, Marco Lukini adds, also brings his interest in politics and culture into their design process.
The Mexican members of Hexagono can remain in the country for one year after they graduate Grey says, and they want to spend that year in Santa Fe, expanding their client base and honing their skills, before returning to their hometowns to continue their work: speaking for design until it can speak for itself. “We work together for something else, bigger than just [ourselves] as individuals,” Lukini says.