After four years and change, Southside DIY arts and music warehouse space Zephyr Community Arts Studio is coming to an end. But from the sadness over losing a community-based venue, studio, art space and model for togetherness through artistry comes hope—the Alas de Agua Art Collective is taking over the lease at 1520 Center Drive #2 and will finally have a space all its own.
But first, let us pour one out for our homies from Zephyr.
Originally founded by local artist/musician types Alysha Shaw, Paul Wagner, Greg Butera and Matthew Morrow, Zephyr grew to include a veritable who's-who of local talent from disparate scenes. Augustine Ortiz of the Decibel Foundry recording studio and numerous metal bands came onboard, as did folks like PSIRENS singer-songwriter Paris Mancini, folky troubadour Westin McDowell, promoter Nicholas Quintero, writer Bucket Siler, DIY enthusiast Chris Smith and other volunteers and hangers-on. Over the years, Zephyr played host to numerous visual arts openings from locals and not-so-locals, as well as concerts with just plain killer bands from around the country, all while maintaining a strong bent toward making space and giving a voice to locals. It was pure and good and kind and true. So why stop now?
"After four years, we've hosted hundreds of bands and showcased the works of dozens of artists, hosted literary read-ins, workshops, theater, plays, writing—we've held a really important space for community, and I feel good about that," Shaw tells SFR. "But I also feel like there are a lot of other wonderful and thriving DIY spaces in Santa Fe right now, and for me, personally, I just don't have the time and energy to give it what it deserves."
Shaw says she might just use the Zephyr Community Art Studio name for pop-up events in the future, but for now, between her career and personal life, she's ready for a well-deserved break.
"I'm grateful for the countless number of people who have contributed to everything that Zephyr has been over the last four years," she says. "It truly has been a community collaborative endeavor, and it has been very organic, and there are so many people who have contributed to that."
As for the future, it looks brighter than ever to Alas de Agua co-founder Israel Francisco Haros Lopez, but it has admittedly been touch and go for the artist/activist since the collective formed out of its original iteration, the Santa Fe Mural Project.
"We realized that with the work we were doing, we were growing bigger than [painting murals]," Haros Lopez tells SFR. "We wanted to be something that could function in the community in a bigger way."
Alas de Agua (roughly "Wings of Water") officially kicked off in 2017 with a $5,000 grant from the Kindle Project, a philanthropic nonprofit that assists fledgling community-based organizations and people around the world. Haros Lopez says the collective became much larger that anticipated nearly immediately, and with a mix of murals, museum shows, workshops, resource assistance, art lessons, poetry readings and community activism, its ranks have grown steadily over the years. By the middle of 2018, the collective had become so formidable that SFR featured a cover story on its work ("Collective Unconquered," May 2018).
Still, Haros Lopez says, by the time 2019 was coming to a close, the big thing missing was as dedicated space. And so, earlier this year, following a successful Facebook crowdfunding campaign, Alas de Agua's members began looking for a building. It did not go well.
"I was like, 'I'll give you the whole year's rent in advance,'" Haros Lopez says of meeting with potential landlords, "but I wouldn't ever hear back. Then the realities hit me—I guess I forgot I was brown. A lot of those buildings are still sitting vacant."
Enter Shaw and Zephyr.
"She knew the landlord and was able to organize a face-to-face," Haros Lopez says.
Boom. Problem solved. And now all that's left, for the time being, anyway, is to look toward to the future; having a space, Haros Lopez explains, is like having a huge weight lifted off his chest—the real work can now begin.
Working under fiscal sponsorship of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project's nonprofit status, Haroz Lopez says he envisions roughly three workshops per week at the new Alas de Agua Space, and that's just for starters. This year heralded another $10,000 from the Kindle Project, but he's also kicking off another crowdfunding campaign for help with operations as well as his wages. Since day one, Haros Lopez has worked as an executive director, administrator, educator and boots-on-the-ground worker, but given the small grants with which Alas de Agua was working, he estimates he's been making roughly $2 per hour, and even that sounds generous. In 2020, he says, he'd like to make a decent wage.
"Because I love the project, [the money] is not really an issue, but I'd like it to be more sustainable for me," he says. "But we're still grassroots—and the cool part is, what organization in town can do all the work we're doing on such a small budget?"
The answer, unsurprisingly, is none.