Board Votes to Close Center for Contemporary Arts

Post-pandemic hurdles prove too much for the long-running Santa Fe arts, cinema nonprofit

After more than four decades as an all-encompassing arts venue for film, gallery shows, music events, panel discussions and more, the Center for Contemporary Arts, known to most as CCA, will shutter its doors today, Thursday, April 6, following a vote from its board of directors last night.

“The Board of Directors for the Center for Contemporary Arts of Santa Fe (CCA) has voted to close the organization after serving the Santa Fe and northern New Mexico community on its forty-fourth year of operation,” reads a statement from the organization. “The decision was reached after careful consideration of options presented during its current strategic planning initiative.”

According to that same statement, the board had evaluated closing the CCA in December of 2021, but ultimately chose to keep going in the hopes of a post-pandemic resurgence. Grants and donations reportedly rose for the nonprofit in 2022 and 2023, but a 50% decrease in cinema attendance also proved too steep.

“Despite the hard work of CCA staff and the accomplishments like the ones mentioned above,” the statement continues, “the shuttered period during which the cinema was closed proved too challenging to overcome.”

Budget, of course, was also a concern.

“This tough decision did not come lightly,” says CCA Executive Director and Head Curator Danyelle Means in the statement. “For a nonprofit institution that operates independently of state support, the annual donations needed to sustainably continue operating was not enough, especially in the wake of challenges from pandemic closures and reduced attendance.”

Means (Oglala Lakota), who joined the CCA in 2021 following positions with the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, had been able to obtain a three-year grant of $100,000 per year from the Ford Foundation during her tenure. CCA also received a $50,000 inaugural grant from the Ruth Foundation last year. Even so, according to board chair David Muck, “we simply couldn’t achieve the high quality of programming and exhibitions envisioned by CCA’s professional staff and board of directors.”

Founded in 1979, CCA served more than 65,000 patrons annually, according to its website. As a one-stop destination for arthouse, foreign and indie cinema, it was a bastion for the cinephiles in our community. In recent years, CCA also became the home for the annual CURRENTS New Media Festival, not to mention numerous other exhibits, including last year’s sprawling Self-Determined group show, which brought together such notable Indigenous artists as Chaz John, Erica Lord, Ian Kuali’i and more. The organization’s Tank Garage gallery space also served as a special events venue. The theater hosted SFR’s 3-Minute Film Festival in 2021.

The dissolution falls among other arts closures and challenges. Nonprofit teen arts center Warehouse 21 lost its Railyard-based building in 2019, while studio space nonprofit Vital Spaces had to leave its downtown Otero Street location in 2021 because of a hotel development. Even DIY-focused and self-described barrio arts school Alas de Agua has not been immune to harsh changes as a fire some months ago ravaged its interior on the Southside.

In a Facebook post about its closure, CCA says it will refund any tickets purchased for planned events.

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