You might wonder, as I do, what kind of party brings the best of the Santa Fe art industry together under one roof.---
This Thursday, one such event is occurring as established artists of several disciplines gather at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center for the annual presentation of the Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts. Mayor David Coss, who will give the awards, tells me that he is looking forward to the ceremony and the formal dinner that accompanies it. "This will be my seventh year and it's always a great event," he says. Each year, the city Arts Commission selects the recipients of the award from a pool of nominations from the community at large. I spoke with this year's winners who represent eclectic backgrounds while sharing a love for the creative community of Santa Fe.
Nicholas Sabato accepts an award on behalf of Santa Fe Performing Arts, a nonprofit organization that promotes theater in the public school system. The organization also manages several youth theater groups and operates the Armory Theater for the Arts. Sabato is enthusiastic about his craft and thinks that people from all walks of life should get involved. "This art form is a valuable tool for all of us," he says. Upcoming SFPA shows include a youth rendition of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a version of The Pink Panther by a teen troupe and an experimental collaboration with local collective Meow Wolf. Faced with the observation that the group must be very busy, Sabato says, "I feel very blessed that I get to get up and do something that I love doing every day."
Susan Contreras has continued a romance with Santa Fe since she moved here in high school. The Mexican-born painter's colorful work currently shows in various cities across the country and reflects a long-time fascination with face paint and masks. She has lived in many places, but thinks of Santa Fe as her home. "The arts community here is such a friendly place compared to New York and LA," she says. "Everyone seems to know each other. It's a great place to make art." In such a small town, it is no surprise that Contreras feels a sense of camaraderie with the other awards recipients. "I really love the people who I'm receiving the award with," she says. "I think that they're wonderful people."
Jerry West has worked a slew of jobs over the years, but has painted consistently throughout. "I've been a freelance artist and builder and teacher and whatever else it takes in this country to make a living," he says. "I'm not a high-end artist." In spite of this humility, West's work has been successful in numerous local galleries. He has been commissioned to paint several public murals, an excellent example of which currently takes up a wall in City Hall. Although he appreciates the recognition for these pieces, West admits that he is no longer concerned with the commercial success of his work. "At this point in my life I paint my own poetry. It's my mediation on life." To receive his award, West is driving from Roswell, where he is an artist-in-residence until December.
In her nine years as the morning host on KSFR, Mary-Charlotte Domandi has spoken with local artists of all types. Her daily radio program Santa Fe Radio Cafe is broadcast every weekday from the Santa Fe Baking Company and Café where she has grilled an impressive cross-section of the city over coffee and burritos. She praises diversity and vitality in the local artistic population, saying, "There are many creative, dedicated people whose work and whose lives I admire very much, and I think that there is a spirit of real community in many of the artistic subcultures here." Her commitment to our strange city is impressive. When asked about her long-term plans, she speaks fondly of her customary spot in the café and quips, "It's conceivable that I will draw my last breath there...and it will smell like bacon."
Samples of each recipient's work are currently on display in the Arts Commission's Community Gallery in the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. The show runs through Oct. 20. Gallery doors are open Tuesday to Friday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm.