From talkies to movies, from orchestras to circuses, from ballet to world music, the Lensic has become without a doubt Santa Fe’s performing arts hub. The theater space turns 80 this year and simultaneously celebrates 10 years since it became nonprofit Lensic Performing Arts Center. The Lensic marks this milestone with the same varied arsenal of events it has wielded throughout its history.
Kick off the Lensic’s Fund the Future Campaign with the 10th Anniversary Lensic Ensemble—made up of musicians from the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Concert Association and Santa Fe Pro Musica, and led by guest conductors Joseph Illick, Thomas O’Connor and Steven Smith—as well as Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team and Wise Fool New Mexico. Afterward, enjoy dinner and dancing at La Fonda. In honor of the Lensic’s birthday, we asked those who have worked intimately with the Lensic to share their views of the venue.
Tim McLaughlin, Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team, director
The Lensic is an extraordinary artistic venue for the Santa Fe community. It’s aesthetically very beautiful and the staff are professional; they’re experts at their craft and very generous with their time and efforts. [Executive Director] Bob Martin is a wonderful person and a great gift to all in the community and the larger global artistic
community…The Lensic opens its doors to performances and the creativity of young Native students, which is important and powerful because of the mutual exchange between young people and a diverse audience. As a community member, I just enjoy going there for different events. I wouldn’t want to live in Santa Fe without it. It feels like home to me.
Daniel Hoyle, The Real Americans, writer and performer
It’s always cool to play in a place that has history; both the building is beautiful and the people who come through there—and you imagine that’s because it’s kind of a perfect venue for Santa Fe. A lot of great performers have come and played for this community. Logistically, it is a really good experience: It has good tech people; you feel supported. That doesn’t always happen, especially for short-term gigs.
Joyce Idema, Santa Fe Opera, director of press
The Lensic has simply changed the face of Santa Fe performing arts. The city for the first time has a real beautiful home that suits so many different kinds of performances, whether chamber music, dance or Arlo Guthrie. We did USS Pinafore and performed Pirates of Penzance there when the Lensic [Performing Arts Center] was brand-new. It was the first time the opera could come downtown. It was absolutely wonderful.
Jean-Philippe Malaty, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, executive director
First, we see it as our home; it’s been home for 10 years. We travel so much, have so many different venues—it’s always great to come back. It definitely changed the landscape of the art scene in Santa Fe. Pre-Lensic, there was a limited choice of venues for [performing artists]. The remodeling and rebirth have made a great difference. We absolutely wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what we have if the Lensic wasn’t our home.
Herman Lovato, Santa Fe Fiesta Inc., president
It’s a magical place; it has been for the past 80 years. Certainly, in the past decade, it has been the heart of the arts community. They have been very responsible art providers, ensuring that people of all walks of life have the opportunity to experience art.
Amy Christian, Wise Fool New Mexico, founding member
It’s an important keystone in our artistic community. And I think that it’s important that they try to keep a balance with the community. There are influences from outside people and from all over the world, but also local performers. It’s such a beautiful stage and place to work. It’s a blessing and a gift to get to work with such a great space and great staff. It’s a pleasure to perform there.
Joey A Chavez, New Mexico School for the Arts theater department, chairman
…[As a child] I remembered seeing The Bridge over the River Kwai with my grandfather, The Longest Day with my father, The Birds with my mother, 2001: A Space Odyssey with my oldest brothers…and so many more. The following week, Santa Fe High School theater presented the world premier of Whisper Louder on that magical stage. Since then, I have taken nine other plays to the Lensic, and the expression on the students’ faces as they walk on stage for the first time is still magic. I know they will have the memories I had as a child, only theirs will be as performers, not audience members.
Lensic Time Line
A snowstorm strands Syrian-born cart peddler Nathan Salmon, en route to Durango, Colo., in Santa Fe, where he settles with his wife.
Nathan’s daughter, Salome Salmon, marries E John Greer.
Nathan Salmon and Greer announce a “Spanish style” theater that will show live performances and “talkies.”Boller Brothers of Kansas City, Mo., designers and builders of the theater, break ground.
Mrs. PJ Smithwick wins $25 in a naming competition for the “Lensic” a name that incorporates Salmon’s grandchildren’s initials and the somewhat newfangled movie projector “lens.”
The Lensic celebrates its grand opening with Daddy Long Legs. The Lensic movie marquee changes four times a week, with three showings a day at 25 cents.
At the Lensic, the Santa Fe Community Concert Association hosts its first season.
Santa Fe Trail premiers at the Lensic.
The Lensic broadcasts President Franklin D Roosevelt’s speech.
James Dean’s East of Eden screens at the Lensic.
After collaborating on Haydn’s The Creation at the Lensic, the Santa Fe Symphony and the Chorus of Santa Fe conjoin.
The Live at the Lensic AIDS benefit premiers. Live performances are suspended and the focus shifts primarily to films.
A nonprofit, spearheaded by Nancy and Bill Zeckendorf, is formed to restore and renovate the Lensic. Eventually, the nonprofit raises $9 million from the community, and its board signs a 75-year lease on the theater space.
The Lensic closes.
National Trust for Historic Preservation names the Lensic an official Save America’s Treasures project.
The nonprofit Lensic Performing Arts Center opens after extensive renovation, including moving its back wall 40 feet toward Palace Avenue to accommodate live performances.
Community box office Tickets Santa Fe opens.
The Lensic celebrates its 80th birthday and its 10th anniversary as a nonprofit. The Lensic Performing Arts Center announces the “Fund the Future Campaign,” a $3 million fundraiser for capital improvements, and purchase of the theater space from the Greer family. Santa Fe’s performing arts hub now hosts more than 250 events a year, including a wide variety of local and international performing arts. It still occasionally screens classics movies (recent one-offs included The Birds, The Big Lebowski and Tootsie). Movie tickets are now $5.
10th Anniversary Gala Celebration Performance
(preceded by Champagne reception)
Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 W San Francisco St.
Black-tie dinner and dance
Saturday, April 16
$250, includes performance
100 E San Francisco St.,
For a full list of anniversary events,