Wet Hot Art Summer

An insider's guide to the best (and worst) of Santa Fe's art scene

There's no denying Santa Fe is an art town. National Endowment for the Arts pegged us in its 2008 study as the city with the second-highest percentage of artists in the labor force, and the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research estimates art industries account for 39 percent of our annual economic inflow.

Anecdotally, how many Santa Feans do you know who don't at least dabble%uFFFDbroadly speaking, from architects to actors to authors%uFFFDin art? By that measure, nearly everyone in Santa Fe is an artist (or government worker), and judging from the lengths we go to continually promote that fact, we want everyone to know it. Not only do we make art, sell art and buy art, we also think about art, talk about art and write about art (write about writing about art!), thus allotting theoretical space in addition to the walls%uFFFDand floors and ceilings%uFFFDof our approximately 225 galleries.

Then there's our sweet-ass swath of annual art events, which give locals and visitors alike opportunities to see the many types of art the City Different offers. Whether you like santos or squash blossoms, sopranos or surprises, the summer art events in Santa Fe can furnish your fancy. We've provided an insider's overview of just a sampling of this summer's cultural events to make the many options more manageable.

(Additionally, each of these destinations has a lot more to offer event-wise than we were able to list below, so be sure to check out their websites for the full rundown.) Get out of the weeds and into the art!

Santa Fe Opera

July 1-Aug. 27
301 Opera Drive, 986-5900
Estimated attendance: 75,000-80,000 in a season

Highlight: Fancy tailgate parties at sunset. Replace beer and brats with aperitifs and aioli artichokes, and you get the idea.
Hazard: The elements. The high desert is cold at night, even in the middle of July. You might want to bring a parka or even a winter coat to supplement your fancy duds.
How to explain it to Grandma: Remember the operas you’d make me watch as a kid? There are those, but this time a monitor translates for me. Oh, and some are even new and in English.

North of town, the Santa Fe Opera rises from the hill like a New Age wet dream. But the opera company itself purposefully toes the line between new and old. People come from all over the country, SFO spokeswoman Joyce Idema says, to watch contemporary and classic operas play out on an unusual stage, in an opera house whose sides are open to the elements and whose backdrop is the northern New Mexico horizon of tangerine sands and cleaved mountaintops. New York musician John Crosby came to New Mexico as a boy because of his asthma and stayed on to found the opera in 1956. He wanted to create an “adventuresome opera company,” Idema says%uFFFDone that incorporated “new and unusual works” and contemporary commissions. Now in its 55th season%uFFFDand its third structure, built by Richard Polsheck in 1998%uFFFDSFO hosts, as usual, five productions per summer. This year, three productions are new to SFO’s repertory: Faust, The Last Savage and Griselda. SFR’s resident performing arts critic John Stege recommends Griselda, a rarely performed and thus largely unknown opera by Antonio Vivaldi, for its “gorgeous and vocally demanding music.” The cast, Stege adds, “mingles international stars and relative newcomers, and with Peter Sellars directing, the pot (and plot) should be boiling away.”

Art Santa Fe

July 7-10
Santa Fe Community Convention Center
201 W Marcy St., 988-8883
Estimated attendance: 5,000

Highlight: Cool and contemporary.
Hazard: Too cool. Judging from its promotional literature%uFFFD“champagne-tinged, high-stakes world of international art fairs”%uFFFDArt Santa Fe would be happy with this designation. (Wondering whether even your Champagne is cool enough? See our definitive guide to what’s bourgie and what’s boorish on page 17.)
How to explain it to Grandma: Grandma, you might think some of this art is weird, but give it a shot. And no, Grandma, your kids (and kids’ kids) couldn’t make this art; otherwise, they would.

Art Santa Fe plays relative hot young thang to Santa Fe’s inveterate art fairs. It’s actually been around since 1995, but what makes it sexy is the culling of contemporary artists the world over. Art Santa Fe emerged during a time when contemporary art fairs had swept Europe but were only budding in the US (Art Chicago at Navy Pier, for instance), fair organizer and gallery owner Charlotte Jackson says. At the time, it was “hip” for such fairs to take place in hotels, and lest Santa Fe’s contemporary art fair be anything but au courant, Art Santa Fe did the same, hosting its first at La Posada. Despite becoming an annual event in 2008 and moving to the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, Jackson says, “We still consider ourselves a boutique fair%uFFFDa small international boutique fair.” By international, Jackson refers to both visitors and artists, who fill approximately 40 booths. This year, Munich artist Peter Weber will create a piece from visitors’ foot traffic by placing a folded sheet of paper by the fair’s entry; and Cologne, Germany’s Regine Schumann shows her colored Plexiglas spheres in a black-lighted, white-carpeted room. Additionally, Santa Fe’s Bullseye Glass returns for “How Things Are Made” to show fairgoers the miracles behind the artistic process. On the heels of a highly touted and successful Art Basel%uFFFDthe contemporary art world’s juggernaut%uFFFDthis year, get ready to flex your checkbooks.

Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

July 8-10
Museum Hill
Camino Lejo, 992-7600
Estimated attendance: 22,000

Highlight: Probably the highest number of non-Americans in Santa Fe.
Hazard: Appreciation/appropriations dilemmas.
How to explain it to Grandma: Don’t call it crafts%uFFFDeven if they do. It’s cooler than that.

Folk art ascended institutional walls years ago. Santa Fe International Folk Art Market%uFFFDand its associated museum, for that matter%uFFFDformed not only to confirm the elevation of the genre, but also to elevate the artists behind it. Now in its eighth year, the Folk Art Market hosts more than 150 artists from 50 countries, many of which are developing nations that house the world’s poorest populations. Last year, 90 percent of the $2 million generated from the fair went to artists from around the world. The festival funds complete trips for 30 artists and provides many of them with translating services as well as lessons on selling goods and pricing so artists can “speak for themselves,” publicist Clare Hertel says. The market is a colorful event, with artists decked out in their native garb. This year’s celebration commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps with a free concert at the Railyard that includes international food, art and music. At the market itself, expect a worldwide array of artwork%uFFFDtapestries, beadwork, sculpture%uFFFDthat, according to Hertel, has become even more eclectic as artists learn techniques from their counterparts across oceans. This year’s featured artist is Haiti’s Mireille Delismé, who supports herself and her family making sequined voodoo flags. See what she and the rest of the world’s unsung artists have to offer.

Traditional Spanish Market/Contemporary Hispanic Market

July 30-31
Plaza and Lincoln Avenue, 982-2226
Estimated attendance: 40,000-60,000

Highlight: Time travel.
Hazard: Repeat offenders. Though there’s plenty of innovation and variation of quality, it’s hard not to feel you’re looking at the same thing over and over again.
How to explain it to Grandma: As a devout Catholic who finds the church’s aesthetics delightful rather than dark, this event will certainly be your favorite. Please cool it on the retablos, though, before your house feels like a funeral parlor.

The area that is Santa Fe was colonized by Spanish imperialists in the early 1600s. Flash forward 400 years and many cultural elements of Spanish colonialism still blanket our streets and people%uFFFDjust with a little bit of updating. Traditional Spanish Market, put on by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society and held in tandem with Contemporary Hispanic Market, follows a similar paradigm. Initially conceived in 1926 to “provide an artistic
outlet for local Hispanic families working in traditional Hispanic art forms,” Director Maggie Magalnick says, Spanish Market still has many of the same wares%uFFFDretablos, bultos, santos, etceteros. “Call it a living exhibition of Spanish life and faith,” Magalnick says. “It’s a celebration of the rich Hispanic culture of New Mexico.” This year’s Spanish Market features the work of 187 adult and 50 youth artists, regional food and dance as well as a slew of para-events such as a lecture about the saints. Also this year, artists who’ve been in the market for at least two years working in traditional art forms can branch out a bit by using traditional methods, materials and iconography in “exciting new ways.” According to Magalnick, this “enables them to push the envelope a bit.” If you’re not into religion, religious art or religious history, Spanish Market can be a little repetitive. Hopefully, with the new takes on old art and the 17 new artists showing this year%uFFFD“the largest number of new artists coming into market in quite a few years,” Magalnick says%uFFFDthings will get a little more exciting.

Santa Fe Indian Market

Aug. 20-21
Plaza, 983-5220
Estimated attendance: 85,000-100,000

Highlight: Texans: Sure, we make our share of jokes about parking, 10-gallon hats and pronouncing “Cerrillos” as though it were a disease, but the swarm of Texans at Indian Market can be a colorful crew, or at least some comic relief.
Hazard: Texans: Sometimes jokes are based in reality, and the hordes of tourists rounding the “Square” are never supremely pleasant.
How to explain it to Grandma: There’s traditional stuff that you’ll like, but it’s the nontraditional stuff that you’ll learn to like%uFFFDno, Grandma, the other Indian.

Indian Market debuted in 1922 as the Indian Fair, an “advocacy” event to “provide a time and a place for Native peoples to sell their wares,” Southwestern Association for Indian Arts spokesman Gabe Gomez says. SWAIA took the reins in the ’30s, and now, according to Gomez, Indian Market is the “largest Native arts gathering in the world,” with nearly 1,200 participants from 150 tribes. Each year, downtown Santa Fe swells with streams of white tents and (mostly white) tourists, who come predominantly from Texas, Arizona and Colorado, as well as collectors who hail from the coasts and even the world over. Traditionally, Indian Market has only included artists from federally recognized US tribes, but this year it also welcomes First Nations people from Canada. This year, SWAIA also helms its own film fest (the Native Cinema Showcase used to be produced in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution), which will screen at the New Mexico History Museum. Though a majority of Indian Market’s fare includes pottery and jewelry, the event has been widening its scope. “What we’re trying to do is expand the actual market to be representative of more art forms: literature, film, photography, music, etc.,” Gomez says. To that end, Indian Market boasts a powerful contingent of youths who play on or even put aside traditional Native art; I’d strongly recommend seeing what these young artists have to offer.


Culture Crasher

SFR's guide to bumpin' elbows with the bigwigs

At Santa Fe's summer cultural events, art in all its forms is obviously the focus. But don't let elevated airs make you think art afficionados are a stiff bunch. The parties surrounding Santa Fe's art events are big, baller and not to be missed (and perhaps to be prioritized)%uFFFDwhich can be difficult considering their expense and occasional exclusivity. Groucho Marx famously said, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member." If you're not a member of these art societies and can't become one because you can't afford the ticket price, you definitely want in. SFR offers some helpful hints on how to infiltrate them and party like it's, well, summertime in Santa Fe.

• Be inconspicuous. Dress like you fit in. Attire of course varies on a case-to-case basis, but you’ll probably be safe with something flowy (think pre-sewing-machine). If possible, tailor your outfit for the specific event. For example: Weigh down with a ton of turquoise for Santa Fe Indian Market. At International Folk Art Market, if you’re brown, you can probably get by with a lungi or fez. If you’re white, try donning an ushanka or some clogs.

• Be conspicuous. OK, so you look homeless and you act crazy. Go as an eccentric. Obviously, someone wouldn’t dress and behave like you if they were trying to avoid security.

• Find a date. The well-off and well-connected aren’t always so connected. Find yourself a hot date%uFFFDpresuming he or she has an extra ticket%uFFFDand you’re in.

• Act like the help. (See below.)

• Be the help. If you are the help, congrats, you’re already in! Dear chauffeurs, waitstaff, et al: Nothing is better than mischief on the clock. Use your privileged position to mosey in among the guests (a handy suit jacket should effectively alter your outfit). In addition to the fun of the foray, you might meet someone who thinks your real passion (being an artist) is your real job and who perhaps could make it that way.

• Move on up. You’ve already missed the opening opera festivities%uFFFDwhich include elaborate dinner parties at private residences, so you’d have to be a master crasher to infiltrate them%uFFFDbut there is still maneuvering to be had at the Santa Fe Opera. Sure, you can only afford seats in the nosebleeds, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit there. Even though the opera is starting a half-hour early beginning July 30, it’s still a long event, meaning many attendees leave during intermission. With a little vigilance (make sure the people whose seats you covet are actually leaving), you can score choice seats near the orchestra for the second half.

• Pretend you’re press. If security is heightened this year due to this column, I’m sorry. You could always just purloin a press pass; that way, you don’t have to look nice or be interesting. Just stand by the food table and make it worth your while.

*SFR doesn’t endorse crashing these art parties. I’m just saying it’s a lot of fun and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for people wallowing in regret at the end of their lives because they were too cool or meek to make fools of themselves.

Nitty Griddy

In poor taste, we classify taste

Art is hard, and it's hard to tack down. But we won't let that stop us. One's art preferences depend entirely on subjectivity and personal sensibilities%uFFFDjust as the type of wine you like depends on your palate. We've attempted to classify Santa Fe's cultural events alongside some popular wines, using a grid with somewhat less personal%uFFFDbut still loose%uFFFDcriteria: on a scale of bourgie to boorish, avant-garde to passé. Thanks to my dear friend Ben Niedelman, certified sommelier level 2, for his wine expertise.

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