Jonathan Boyd simply got sick of complaining.
The St. John's College grad has lived in Santa Fe for the past 15 years. He's worked in adobe construction,
started a real estate investment
company and learned to handcraft wood furniture for which he founded the company Boyd & Allister, but he also says he's pretty much kept to himself. As a consumer of art, however, he's long felt like something was missing from our arts community.
"The [Santa Fe] arts scene never feels like it's for the people or relevant within the contemporary arts discourse," Boyd tells SFR. "What could I do to make a change? I see the major obstacle as
affordable space to create and perform."
Boyd's nonprofit, Vital Spaces, was born.
In a nutshell, Vital Spaces, which Boyd modeled after New York City philanthropist Anita Durst's Chashama project, seeks to temporarily fill unused buildings with affordable artist studios and
performance space. Boyd even worked with Durst in plotting out the particulars. It's been four years in the making, but Vital Spaces now has three such venues downtown; one on Otero Street that's already bustling with artists, another on Manhattan Avenue and a third on Johnson Street for which applications are now open, with a deadline of May 28. Boyd says he has more in the works, but he's not yet ready to unveil what that will look like. For now, he's focused on downtown Santa Fe and creating partnerships; Vital Spaces' Otero location has already hosted a Creative Santa Fe gathering and will be the venue for the next MIX networking event on Thursday May 16.
"You can't get a space to work or show downtown," Boyd continues, "or even an affordable space [in Midtown] now that the Siler area has blown up—that's where [artists] used to go, and even that's become expensive. Vacant spaces do
exist, and I saw this as an opportunity."
Boyd is the first, however, to say he's not an arts expert. He merely
understands the real estate side of the equation. This is why he's assembled an impressive volunteer curatorial committee featuring SITE Santa Fe's Joanne Lefrak, Jamison Chas Banks and Amber-Dawn Bear Robe of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Bess Murphy from the Ralph T Coe Foundation for the Arts and the Georgia O'Keeffe
Museum's Ariel Plotek. These heavy hitters helped Boyd devise the application and review every artist who applies. The process includes short essays on proposed activity, community activity, materials and other criteria. If it sounds involved, it is; and though Boyd and
company are looking to serve
underrepresented artists and voices, they're particularly looking for people with something to offer and something to say.
Still, Boyd says, "I recognized that I should not be the person deciding who gets space. I recognized that I needed the guidance."
Once selected, the artists have
24-hour access to their space for three to four months. They can lead tours, host events—it can look however they wish, though Boyd hopes for a high level of openness and community access. He
expects rent to run between $80 to $120 a month, which is, frankly, a steal.
"Nobody is making any money," he says. "In fact, [Vital Spaces is] spending money. But I think it's a good idea,
nobody else was going to do it, and I really think it could actually have an impact on Santa Fe."
For Banks, an adjunct studio arts professor at IAIA since 2012, inclusion began with applying for a space. He was approved, and says he mainly uses it so far for sculpture. What it represents, however, is something much larger.
"What Vital Spaces is doing … it's
almost unheard of, so when I was brought on, I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall," Banks says. "I figured this was one of those deals where the developer wants to put Santa Fe back on the map, where [artists] create a bunch of cool things, but after a while, we're done—I've seen it
happen numerous times. But that's not the agenda."
Banks also says that he's cautiously hoping for Vital Spaces to change the local arts script—one that has absolutely been evolving in recent years, but one that still fosters economic disparity and favors the wealthy.
"It's crushing for an artist to not have any means or connections," he explains. "But Vital Spaces is a community; you can look at other people's works, and it's inspiring."
Boyd says the model could roll out in other places one day, but that Santa Fe will remain his priority for now.
"We know all history of city vitality is … artists move into cheap space, they make it desirable and then they get priced out," He cautions. "But we're a small city, and it's expensive. What do you do with that? This is my idea of what you do with that."
6 pm Thursday May 16. Free.
220 Otero St.,