In a joint press release with the city, teen arts center Warehouse 21 announced today that it will vacate its building in the Santa Fe Railyard by next year as the city considers other development projects for the land and building.
"It has definitely been an important part of youth culture in Santa Fe," Warehouse 21 board treasurer Naomi Swinton tells SFR. "We're trying to get back ahead of the curve. Where are the young people? How can we serve them? What's the best iteration moving forward?"
Swinton says that concrete plans are unclear for now, but for the time being Warehouse 21 does not intend to relocate to a new physical space once it moves out of its building.
"Given some of the shifts the city has had to make and some of the population shifts, if we can retool and offer programming onsite in schools and other locations—and hopefully collaborate with other efforts to serve young people at the Midtown campus, on the Southside, in after-school programs—that allows us to focus more on youth and their needs and less on trying to maintain a facility that is a wonderful facility, but difficult to maintain," Swinton says.
Warehouse 21 as we know it was founded in 1996, though its roots extend into the 1980s and its original executive director Ana Gallegos y Reinhardt, who left the position in 2017. The current building is the result of $1.4 million fundraising effort and began operations in 2008, but has been fraught with trouble for years with consistent board turnover and attempts to rebrand falling flat. Swinton estimates the nonprofit has spent roughly $160,000 on maintenance alone over the last 11 years, in addition to monthly rent due to both the city and the Railyard. Some of those costs were offset by in-kind dollars generated by the organization's programming, but the costs were simply too high to be sustainable, she says.
"The main thing was we hoped to partner with the city on capital improvement, and when we realized that investment was being leveraged to serve youth on the Southside, we took a deep breath and had some deep conversations with the city and realized the city is rightfully moving to invest on the Southside," Swinton explains.
A Southside teen arts center does seem more feasible than ever with more than $2 million set aside by the state and city in 2019. In September, a city spokeswoman told SFR that it hopes to raise another $3 million for the project by 2020.
“Thanks to the good work of the people behind Warehouse 21, Santa Fe’s young people have had the benefit of some of the best programs in the country,” Mayor Alan Webber said in the city’s statement. “At the heart of Warehouse 21 is that commitment to kids, and that will continue in the future, even as the cost burden is reduced and the location changes. We all agree that there’s more work to be done to help Santa Fe’s young people.”
Board President Maurice Oliver said in the city statement that the organization's mission going forward will include "accessible arts education, technological literacy, and community building."
Back in the Railyard, it's the end of an era.
"We're focusing on strong wrap-up and we have over 700 people using the building in the next couple months," Swinton adds. "I just hope the youth of Santa Fe remembers that the Railyard is an important civic space that is still for them."
Catch it while you can.