The Santa Fe Art Institute enters its 32nd annual residency this week, a program created when SFAI opened its doors back in 1985 and altered to a thematic approach four years ago with a focus on food justice. Creatives have since explored topics such as immigration and water rights, among others.

For the upcoming 2017-2018 residencies, SFAI kicks off Equal Justice, a title chosen before the 2016 presidential election, when social movements like Black Lives Matter and the protest at Standing Rock spearheaded dialogues that still call for action today.

"We were really looking for something that grounded all of these topics of structural inequity," Jamie Blosser, SFAI's executive director, explains. "'Equal justice under law' is on our Supreme Court building, and yet, that has not been the case for all citizens."

The institute received a record 230 applications this year, a number that a team of jurors whittled down to 124 residents (comprised of individuals and collectives). Those accepted will now spend between one and three months in Santa Fe proposing creative solutions to the question: "How can art be used to engage systems of power and foster social and racial equity?"

Seventeen percent of those accepted are New Mexico residents, while the rest hail from 21 states including Hawaii, Montana and New Jersey, as well as 21 countries such as Australia, Singapore and Syria. Residents are not limited to visual artists, either, and represent everything from anthropologists to lawyers to linguists to foster an environment wherein people from diverse backgrounds can rub elbows for moments of collaboration.

"When we think of creativity in the broad sense, that opens up more possibilities," SFAI Development and Communications Director Robert Gomez Hernandez says. "If we expand the definition of art and community, we are able to ask, 'How can we have really strong grips in creating positive social change?'"

The Santa Fe community is encouraged to keep an eye on the SFAI calendar to contribute to the conversation through public gatherings, but Gomez Hernandez chose three to highlight:

Next month, New York City-based artist and designer Mary Miss conducts a City as Living Laboratory (CALL) workshop to explore sustainability through artistic practice (7 pm Wednesday Sept. 20. Free. Santa Fe Art Institute). In addition, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, former leaders of radical activist group the Weather Underground, host Radical Imagination, a dialogue and performance to explore how collective creativity can propose solutions for an alternative world (6 pm Sunday Sept. 24. Free. James A Little Theater, 1060 Cerrillos Road).

To kick off the residency year, however, Los Angeles collective La Pocha Nostra hosts the five-day Performance Art Intensive, which begins this Sunday. Formed in 1993 by artist-activists Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Roberto Sifuentes and Nola Mariano, La Pocha explores immigration, the politics of language and cross-cultural issues through collaborative performance. According to their website, this is a means to "erase the borders between artist and spectator;" in doing so, it questions the borders placed on society by "professional institutions, religious and political beliefs and pop-cultural affiliations." The group poses these questions through participatory productions in which people can cross the threshold from viewer to artist and explore answers through movement-based exercises.

"La Pocha is all about unpacking identity around an individual's personal experience," says Toni Gentilli, SFAI residency program manager. "They address empathy through embodied experience."

Twenty-four artists, actors and activists of all ages are scheduled to attend the intensive and explore the body "as a site for creation, reinvention, memory and activism," according to SFAI's promotional materials. The art collective creates different characters for participants to embody another person's story, a practice that connects diverse histories through performance.

Though the intensive had a signup deadline of Aug. 10, it concludes with a free public "open pedagogical session" for the Santa Fe community to get a taste of the experience.

The SFAI staff explains that this experimental performance is just a taste of the public events residents will lead throughout the year. "We're fortunate to have these leaders share their expertise with SFAI," Gomez Hernandez shares, "and we're aware that our community has a lot to say as well. So it's a meeting of worlds. We believe not in working on or for a community, but with a community. It's our responsibility to come together and say what is relevant here and what can work moving forward."

Open Pedagogical Session

7 pm Thursday Aug. 31. Free; RSVP required at


Santa Fe Art Institute,

1600 St. Michael’s Drive,