Paul Barnes Stepping Back from CCA

Cinema’s former general manager cites family, health in decision

Paul Barnes (Courtesy Center for Contemporary Arts)

After initially taking on a volunteer general manager position at Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts in the wake of the nonprofit’s near-closure last year, Paul Barnes today announced via email that he’ll decrease his involvement with the ongoing CCA cinema operations.

Barnes had already scaled back to an artistic advisor position earlier this year and, according to his email, was even finding that daunting. Ultimately, Barnes chalks up his decision to family and health. His husband Vern has long lived with painful fibromyalgia and was also recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, Barnes writes. That, he tells SFR, coupled with a particularly nasty COVID-19 experience last December, led him to make the tough decision.

“Long COVID hit my short-term memory, and it was getting harder and harder, it was just getting to be way too much,” he says. “I was just doing the newsletter and co-curating some of the films; but it was a bit of burnout, too, because last year…we were pulling CCA back from the brink with a very small staff—the staff went from more than 20 to less than 10. And I’m 74 years old, so CCA was starting to feel like I’m just not young enough to do it.”

A producer and editor for numerous documentaries and series—including Ken Burns’ iconic 1994 Baseball—Barnes took the reins in May on a volunteer basis. Beginning in January, he says, he began taking a modest stipend at the request of CCA Board President David Muck, though much of his involvement has been more about the love of film.

“We’re forever grateful,” Muck says, “that Paul has done such a great job in grooming [Cinema Director] Justin Rhody and [Cinema Manager] Jayson Jacobsen.”

Rhody and Jacobsen took over cinema programming at CCA in April and have run the bulk of its programming since then.

“Long story short, we took all the business stuff off of Paul’s plate,” Muck continues. “The organization is now very stable and sustainable, and the goals we’d set for fundraising and organization have all really been accomplished. Paul has been with me moment by moment since we re-opened CCA, but he’s not been feeling well for a long time.”

Barnes says he will continue to work with CCA for various screenings, film talks, master classes and one-off events, including the Closer Looks film and conversation series—easily one of Barnes’ most notable contributions to the new CCA era. Henceforth, however, Rhody will call the shots.

“I really appreciate Paul’s assistance during those 9 months upon reopening; a time during which we all worked hard to create a more sustainable structure at CCA to ensure its continued success,” he tells SFR. “Likewise we all wish Paul the best and are happy that he’ll now have more time to re-dedicate to family & retirement.”

Barnes, meanwhile, says it’s all just a matter of time.

“I feel like I’m going out on a high note,” Barnes says. “I still love the place, I still want it to be successful, I still want it to live on. Since it’s back on good financial footing, I feel confident they can do it with less help from me.”

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