The term "DIY artspace"—that stands for "do it yourself"—was vaulted to national headlines in late 2016, when an Oakland, California, warehouse known as Ghost Ship went up in flames. The structure, which had become a makeshift residence for artists, was a labyrinth of broken fire regulations when the tragedy occurred Dec. 2. Thirty-six people died, and "DIY" became synonymous with "death trap" in the media.
Santa Fe's response was swift: Local art collective Meow Wolf announced it would start an annual DIY Fund of $100,0000 to support underground arts spaces and help them improve safety. Eliza Lutz, founder of local music label Matron Records, kicked off an unofficial outreach campaign to dispel the stigma of DIY. She participated in an emerging arts panel at the Center for Contemporary Arts in early January 2017, and appeared on the local arts podcast RaRa Room Radio later that month.
"It's seems like there's this block in DIY, outside of art-making," says Lutz. "Why can't the promotional, legal or financial side of things be part of that too? Doing your taxes is DIY, if you learn it yourself." For Lutz, DIY is an ethos to live by—and a community she's proud to be building in Santa Fe. Matron Records collaborates with musicians, sound technicians, visual artists, film directors and other members of the local creative community to produce records, events, art and merch. Lutz considers it her responsibility to nurture and protect this community by compensating her collaborators, securing permits and, yes, paying gross receipts tax.
"Let's create a bridge that transcends this feeling of 'us and them,'" Lutz says. "I want to do things in a way where I'm set up for success." The rest of the young, contemporary arts scene is following suit. New collectives, spaces and projects are popping up left and right, and they're dead serious about legitimizing DIY and telling a fresh story of Santa Fe. Here's your official guide to the new vanguard that's disrupting the City Different's staid reputation on the national arts scene. Brick-and-mortar is out and pop-ups are in, so we've provided Instagram handles for projects that don't have addresses.
Meow Wolf (1352 Rufina Circle, 395-6369 ) is Santa Fe's biggest DIY success story. The collective's multimillion-dollar art complex, which houses the permanent art installation House of Eternal Return, was funded by world-renowned Santa Fe author George RR Martin and a vast web of local investors. While Meow Wolf's installation was gestating in an abandoned bowling alley off Siler Road (it opened in March 2016), a vibrant ecosystem of smaller collectives sprung up across town.
SCUBA (@hi_scuba), the artist duo comprised of Sandra Wang and Crockett Bodelson, rose alongside Meow Wolf and has collaborated with a number of local groups on creative projects. Victory Grrrls (@victorygrrrls) is a feminist arts collective founded by Niomi Fawn, Thais Mather and Lucy Madeline. The performing arts group Uroboros (@uroborossantafe), founded by local dancers Whitney Jones, Paige Hunter, Amy Compton and Micayla Duran, collaborates on contemporary dance pieces.
Liz Brindley formed the Creative Activists Network (@can.santafe) shortly after the 2016 presidential election. The group creates participatory public art installations that are designed to spark socially conscious conversations. For more communal action, check out Alexis Collective (@alexis_collective) at the embattled Santa Fe University of Art and Design, as well as the visual art and music group Outstanding Citizens Collective (@outstanding_citizens), the Santa Fe and Los Angeles-based creative alliance Place Projects (@placeprojects) and the art and writing collective Scribbler Santa Fe (@scribbler_santafe).
The DIY strain of Santa Fe's gallery scene started with Center for Contemporary Arts (1050 Old Pecos Trail, 982-1338), founded in 1979 by a group of local artists. Warehouse 21 (1614 Paseo de Peralta, 989-4423) spun off from CCA's Teen Project in 1997, and maintains a gallery space for teens and emerging artists. Phil Space (1410 Second St. 983-7945), an experimental art venue adjoining James Hart's photography studio, came along in 2001.
In the past few years, unconventional and underground art spaces have multiplied at a rapid pace. Niomi Fawn of Curate Santa Fe (@curatesantafe) mounts must-see contemporary art shows on the walls of Iconik Coffee Roasters (1600 Lena St, 428-0996). The baristas at Betterday Coffee (905 W Alameda St., 780-8059), including rising local art star Jared Weiss (@jared_weiss_now), arrange shows by up-and-coming artists. Jennifer Rowland and Michael Gullberg of Art.i.fact (930 Baca St., 982-5000) built an emerging art space called ART.i.factory in the back of their store.
The Siler District, lovingly SiDi, is Santa Fe's newest contemporary art destination, with art spaces appearing on a near-monthly basis. Michael Freed mounts wildly popular seasonal shows out of his studio in a project called Offroad Productions (2891-B Trades West Road, 670-9276). Visit Radical Abacus (1226 Calle de Comercio), a world-class curatorial program that John McKissick runs out of his garage. Philosopher and curator Max Baseman built 5. Gallery (2351 Fox Road #700) in a storage unit off Rufina Street. The gallery exhibits emerging, established and secondary market artists in invigorating combinations.
Elsewhere in Santa Fe, game-changing spaces are also taking root. Keep Contemporary (112 W San Francisco St., Ste. 102, 307-9824) holds down the fort near the Santa Fe Plaza with exhibitions of street art-inspired artists. Edition ONE Gallery (1036 Canyon Road, 570-5385), Bindlestick Studio (616 1/2 Canyon Road, Ste. A) and Red Dot Gallery (826 Canyon Road, 820-7338) are shaking up the traditional gallery model on Santa Fe's most notorious art street.
Santa Fe's DIY writing and publishing community is small but mighty. Check out the nonprofit Radius Books (@radius.books) and Burning Books (burning-books.org), two local publishers that have been designing cutting-edge art books for decades.
More recently, startups such as Stalking Horse Press (@stalkinghorsepress), Broken Cloud Press (@brokencloudpress) and Called Back Books (calledbackbooks.com) have entered the market. Local independent editor Bucket Siler is stirring up energy among independent zine publishers with the Santa Fe Zine Fest (facebook.com/santafezinefest) at the Center for Contemporary Arts on May 20, 2017, as well as at monthly Zine Club meetings year-round.
Digital publications 1905 Magazine (@1905magazine) and Knack Magazine (@knackmagazine) both sprung from Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and art director LE Brown just launched a Santa Fe art blog called Descent of Man (@descentofman). For local, independent arts coverage, check out Emily Van Cleve's new art blog Santa Fe Arts Journal (santafeartsjournal.com).
Last but not least, a burgeoning local music scene has been organically cross-pollinating with other corners of Santa Fe's creative community. Meow Wolf runs a venue in their art complex, and Matron Records (@matronrecords) holds shows all around town. Lutz, who founded Matron, is the booking agent for a new venue that Second Street Brewery is opening at 2920 Rufina St. Promised soon, the 5,000-square-foot restaurant, bar and performance space plans to host several music shows a month and exhibit experimental contemporary art. Other venues in the Siler area include Ghost (2889 Trades West Road), Zephyr and Etiquette (both at 1520 Center Drive), The Cave (1226 Calle de Comercio) and Fresh Santa Fe (2855 Cooks Road, Studio A). For DIY sound engineering, tune in to Decibel Foundry (@thedecibelfoundry) and the recording studio at Warehouse 21.