Summer Guide

Hayes These Days

Master storyteller Joe Hayes hasn’t retired after all

Few names carry over from generation to generation in Santa Fe like Joe Hayes. In fact, it would be a downright challenge to find a library or bookstore around here without at least one Hayes title on the shelf. Still, the author of The Day It Snowed Tortillas and A Heart Full of Turquoise ended his 40-year stint at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian last year, leading many to believe he’d given up in-person storytelling. Not so. Hayes is revving up story engines again for a series of events at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (Museum Hill, 750 Camino Lejo, (505) 982-2226), starting July 17. And while the space might be smaller than the Wheelwright, Hayes suspects his summertime tradition won’t be lacking when it comes to attendees.

“It’s hard to say if it’s gotten bigger or smaller,” Hayes explains, recalling the early days of the venture. “I know it’s been steady. I remember the first summer I did it, Dale Ball and his wife Sylvia sponsored it. They wanted to average about 50 people a night, but it ended up being as high as 150 on average.”

Hayes has made a career out of tall tales, and like his storied involvement in the community, many of his stories go way back, often to the Works Progress Administration. The ‘30s and ‘40s-era program hired anthropologists and folklorists, then sent them to gather stories across disparate cultures. Those they preserved are part of Hayes’ own archive, which he now injects back into the community well after they were nearly lost during the turmoil of the Great Depression. Hayes’ repertoire ranges from ghost stories like La Llorona, to local recollections, folklore and Hispanic and Eurasian tales blended with Indigenous cultural histories. Americanized tall tales make their way onto the menu, too—the more outlandish the better.

“I lived near the Arizona-Mexico border when I was a kid, growing up with a lot of Mexican-American kids,” Hayes recalls. “That really got me interested in the Spanish language and cultural stories. Another factor was that my dad was 50 when I was born. He was born in 1896. From listening to his stories, I had this vision of the past. It fascinated me.”

The idea of storytime might conjure images of children sitting on the floor, eager ears pricked, and while there’s some of that at Hayes events, he estimates adults far outnumber children at a two-to-one ratio, with a large chunk of audience members skewing older. That won’t come as a shock to anyone who knows Santa Fe’s demographics, yet Hayes says he sees the same couples, year after year; and though some of the kids are grown and gone, the parents keep on coming.

“It’s true the community values this,” he adds. “I know a bunch of storytellers around the country, and they don’t see the same steady generations coming in. Santa Fe as a community embraces traditional things and has a widespread interest in cultures. It kind of surprised me initially, but I began to realize that older people have an interest in these things. They’re looking over their shoulder at their grandfather’s generation.”

Storytelling With Joe Hayes:

Sundays, July 17-Aug 14, 7 pm. Free (but donate)

Museum of Spanish Colonial Art

750 Camino Lejo, (505) 982-2226

Little House On The Hill

The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art takes up less space than its Museum Hill neighbors, but that doesn’t make it lesser. Famed Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem designed the former hilltop home himself, and now, after 20 years as a museum, the staff inside are still finding new ways to tell New Mexico’s stories. Society’s shifting views on history vs. mythology isn’t a dead-end for traditional museums. For curators like Jana Gottshalk, it’s about adding new dimensions to the job. Plus, looping Joe Hayes into your summer plans doesn’t sting.

“People know museums can’t be what they used to be. It’s exciting to re-evaluate,” Gottshalk, collections curator and public programmer for the museum, tells SFR. “Museums are in a tough spot right now. How are they telling people’s stories and who’s speaking for who? We have to be sure we’re telling a lot of sides, but also that we’re not speaking for them.”

Such commitment comes through in the museum’s summer exhibit, Trails, Rails, and Highways: How Trade Transformed the Art of Spanish New Mexico. There you’ll find ephemera carried over from every kind of trail that wended through the region, plus the iconoclastic art which formed as a result. Curated by Robin Farwell Gavin, the show is designed to take the viewer along their own path, and it turns out the whole “the Spanish were the first to bring culture to New Mexico,” idea isn’t right, not by a longshot. When the Spanish colonized, their arts blended into larger, existent networks, and even today, New Mexico is a hotbed for trails and art scenes that continue to merge various worlds. To that end, Gavin is also slated to host a series of lectures this summer on the final Thursday of each month through August. She’ll even bring in essayists featured in the book Cultural Convergence in New Mexico: Interactions in Art, History and Archaeology to speak about the aforementioned Spanish convergence.

Executive Director Jennifer Berkley sees the museum’s future as a place where cross-cultural discussions like Gavin’s lectures are the norm.

“We partnered with Norma and Hutch Naranjo based out of Ohkay Owingeh,” Berkley tells SFR. “We’re starting to do Native cuisine dinners here [from the Naranjos], where cross-cultural conversations can happen. What I love about it is that these conversations might be otherwise uncomfortable, but they are so much easier when you’re sharing food. It was actually inspiring. Now we see more and more interested people in expanding what [local] culture is.”

Hayes, trail tales, dinners and lectures—the history geeks are gonna be over the moon.

Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts

1 pm-4 pm, Wed-Fri. $12. 750 Camino Lejo, (505) 982-2226

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