Construction on Vladem Contemporary to Begin This Week

Outdoor mural to be "retired," though museum plans to recognize the work with interior display

Following years of fundraising, political turmoil and no small amount of pandemic setbacks, construction is set to begin on the Vladem Contemporary satellite wing of the New Mexico Museum of Art this week. The 15,000-square-foot addition to the site of the already 20,000-square-foot former Halpin Building at the corner of Montezuma Avenue and Guadalupe Street in downtown Santa Fe was designed by local firm DNCA of Santa Fe and Albuquerque's Studio GP. Bradbury Stamm Construction Inc., also of Albuquerque, is set to do the heavy lifting.

"Most of the work at the very beginning is going to be done on the inside," says Daniel Zillman, director of marketing and communications for the state Department of Cultural Affairs. "Ramps for access, tearing up the basement, doing the demo work inside they can do—it's not going to look like a whole lot's going on."

Zillman says construction on the $14.1 million project is estimated to take roughly 14 months, starting from Jan. 25 when Bradbury Stamm was notified the state was ready to go. That doesn't mean we can expect Vladem Contemporary to open in precisely 14 months, but it is a decent—if rough—roadmap.

The forthcoming museum was announced in 2018 following a $4 million gift, the largest in the museum's history, from philanthropists Bob and Ellen Vladem, who took on naming rights as well. The new space has since undergone prep, design and redesign work, a public input period as well as protests from community members over a large mural on one of its exterior walls—"Multi-Cultural," by artists Gilberto Guzman, Frederico Vigil, Zara Kriegstein and others—which DCA officials have long held would be torn down when construction began.

According to a press release from the DCA, the mural will be covered during construction and then "retired as part of the renovation, and the museum plans to acknowledge the mural and its history with a display in the interior."

Zillman tells SFR he isn't sure what that'll look like just yet, though the DCA did take innumerable hi-quality, hi-res images of the mural for use in whatever comes next. In any event, the mural will come down, according to Zillman.

In January of last year, Guzman told SFR in a statement: "It is evident the Department of Cultural Affairs has not honorably disclosed the recent communications or the financial and community support to keep the mural…most importantly, they have not disclosed that the muralist has an existing state contract to redo the mural." According to Guzman, he was given lifetime rights to perform maintenance on the mural, though prior to the Vladem announcement, he hadn't done so since the 1990s.

In the time since the announcement, numerous protesters and groups, including the homegrown Keep Santa Fe Multicultural movement, have voiced concerns over what members call "part of a larger problem in Santa Fe of gentrification and displacement," according to its online mission statement. Still, when SFR spoke with Guzman last winter, he said "I came to the conclusion not too long ago: I'm retired, that's it. I am retired, whatever happens to it, I don't care. I did it once and twice, and I enjoyed the hell out of it."

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