As we approach the first anniversary of COVID-19's relentless assault on all things good, SFR asked a number of local arts and culture movers and shakers about how the last year went, and what they hope for next. It all boiled down to three questions:

  • How was your and your organization’s 2020?
  • What are your hopes or resolutions for 2021?
  • Is there one thing you’d like to communicate to the townsfolk?

The respondents were many, and we've assembled some thoughts from the people who make Santa Fe's arts an entertainment offerings the envy of the state.

Matthew Chase-Daniel

Co-Founder, Axle Contemporary

"We were able at Axle to make changes, provide programming and content, both online and in real life, that we thought was valuable to the community, and our community of supporters has been generous in donating money to keep us going. We're planning on doing projects that work with students—things we've started this year and will come to fruition in the spring. It feels very important for the kids and families. And we hope people can get vaccinated and go back out in the world and see each other face-to-face."

Jerry Wellman

Co-Founder, Axle Contemporary

"We have a nice set of programming we're about to initiate. It's going to be a lot of experiences that one can have without having to be inside the van itself, which I think is next to impossible. What did they say—25% capacity? That's less than one person. Axle tries to not just be a visual arts organization. It's always about building community and revealing to each other as community that we're developing the strength community can. We're all here together."

Jacques Paisner

"We managed to still have a really excellent fest with great movies at the drive-in and…on the online platform. We were able to give away all the same cash prizes we do in a normal year. The hardest thing for us was, of course, the closure of movie theaters. We're looking forward to a real renaissance of going to the movies in the spring and the summer, a great festival in the fall. While we're anticipating the opening of theaters, it's possible that even with theaters open, we'll continue streaming films."

Liesette Paisner Bailey

"Realistically, we're going to keep going with our virtual cinema—that was really fun and very successful. It's not even close to the same as that communal experience you get from sitting in a theater, but we had some fun stuff, like our New Mexico Filmmaker Salon that put our New Mexico filmmakers on a panel together, and people were able to join in and see it live. For 2021, I really hope theaters are able to open again. I'm optimistic they'll be open by March or April, and in October, we'll be able to have our festival in theaters again, even if it looks a little different with people in masks. It won't be those massive sold-out showings, but there are a lot of submissions coming in, a lot of great work. Independent filmmakers have been kind of crafty—they've figured out how to still complete their work despite all the hardship."

Andrea Hanley

"Our sense of timing and time itself transformed. Days that turned into weeks and stretched into months—the time itself allowed me to do a lot of research, to think about the world, about my family and my people, my friends and the work I wanted to accomplish. It was this over-arching question of how to make the work we continue to do be relevant, even if there was nobody in the museum. We did a lot of different things online this year…it's been a way for people who maybe didn't have access before to have access. The community came together in such a beautiful way."

Chris Jonas

Executive Director, Littleglobe

"We were full steam ahead with lots of projects, and of course the virus came along and shut down all of those. The nice thing is that a lot of the funders were nice enough to say 'Just use the money to survive.' We were able to pivot really quickly and figure out ways to survive the hard moments. We came up with the idea of Littleglobe TV, this DIY city-cast consisting of stories we co-authored with residents about what's going on in Santa Fe during the crisis. We have these tools using bizarre artistic ideas, and when they're combined with facilitation and trust-building and conversation, all of a sudden we have access to some really incredible, intimate stories."

Patsy Phillips

"There were many unforeseen and unexpected challenges but we also had great accomplishments. Our entire facility was developed into a virtual museum. We documented all our current shows as well as expanded our digital footprint by providing alternative engagement opportunities for visitors, community members, teachers, students and the general audience. The museum will always document our exhibitions virtually and they will live on our website in perpetuity. There has long been a need for change in museums that has started to take hold nationally, and our hope is that the momentum in terms of Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color (BIPOC) awareness and social justice continues, and positive change endures. We believe the arts can contribute to the reduction of poverty and injustice and advance human achievement."

April Jouse

Chief Administrative Officer, Center for Contemporary Arts

"As with every other organization, CCA had its ups and downs in 2020. Of course, a major down has been the continued closure of all cinemas. It has challenged us to reimagine what that means to our community. In March, when we developed The Living Rooms Series, we made a pivot that would continue to bring CCA cinema-lovers the programming they have come to expect while remaining COVID-safe. Our hope for 2021 is that we can reopen our gallery doors and welcome people back into our community in June. Sadly, we don't anticipate being able to open our cinema until we can do so with at least a 50% capacity, which is currently looking like very late 2021. But here's hoping!"

Israel Francisco Haros Lopez

"After years of pushing forward and creating art shows, open mics, monologues, workshops, art jams etc., we finally had our own space. We found ourselves in January and February hosting workshops, open mics and art shows four to five times a week. By the end of February, we had already booked BIPOC solo and group shows all the way into 2021, only to have our doors close mid-March. Luckily, I had space to retreat to and began to farm. These farming efforts led to Alas de Agua Art Collective teaming up with YouthWorks!, Reunity Resources, Mother Nature Center and Santa Fe County to create new farms. On the art side, we went back to our roots. Alas de Agua Art Collective has functioned as a space for people to be with each other. We have always wanted to be grounded in getting away from technologies and be grounded in the healing work that individuals need. The glory of having our building on the Southside…is that with the help of YouthWorks! and other agencies, we were able to distribute 500-1,000 food bags a week out of our location."

Hannah Hausman

Senior Director Development and Communications, Santa Fe Children's Museum

"The pandemic pushed me further personally and professionally than I have ever gone before. It has been a year of switching gears, learning, growing…and sometimes crying. All that being said, I am so grateful for my family, number one, and for my job at the Santa Fe Children's Museum. I am honored to work in an industry that, through my work in fundraising, continues to help our unique and diverse community that we call home. Our donors have really stepped up. Kids, families and teachers, are getting programs that they need, with support from donors, which makes me so happy. I am a realist. I know we are going to continue to be challenged and life has been altered, indefinitely. But, for 2021, what if we stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel, and started lighting up the tunnel? I think we can all continue to support each other, in the best way we can."

Robyn Rikoon

Artistic Director, Santa Fe Playhouse

"We are a group of theater makers who had to start doing virtual programming, editing, video making, writing newsletters, all the marketing—because we couldn't afford to hire a marketing person—and our education program had to go online. There were some really brilliant, beautiful moments and there were some tough, dark ones. The positive that came out of it was that I got to know some of the other theater groups in town on a much more intimate level. Teatro Paraguas, Santa Fe Improv, New Mexico Actors Lab, Ironweed and others—all of us reached out to one another when we needed help. I think almost everything we learned last year we'll continue to do. I don't think anything will ever replace a live theatrical experience, but theater is going to have to change in some ways to become even more of a focused experience—to focus more on the exchange between actor and spectator. What I hope will happen is that sometime in the summer or early fall, we'll be able to be with a live audience again and that the playhouse will be ready with a theatrical experience to give to our audience."

Joel Aalberts

"You can acknowledge, from the beginning, the thing people want to do most is be together and experience an event. We were not able to provide that after March. That said, we jumped both feet into virtual programs almost immediately. We've developed things that engaged local performers. We've done things that have had artists from around the world perform for the Lensic. One of the things that I think was really terrific was an education program we did in October and November. We love to have kids at the theater because it's an important part of development, but we brought a virtual program to the public schools—and whereas we're normally limited to two performances in a day, over the course of a week we engaged over 9,000 students, and that is something you can celebrate. We are very thankful for the community that realized what we bring to Santa Fe, and we're looking forward to bringing back shared experiences. I feel very excited about going back to arts education. We've found many ways where we're able to engage an audience, and we can continue to use virtual to extend our reach into underserved areas. The commitment to keep those things going—what the Lensic brings for quality of life—those experiential things people -appreciate from us."

Nikesha Breeze

"For us it felt really, really necessary to pull close together with Black community. The foundational draw was that we needed to check in on each other and see if we were doing OK. There was a big feeling of isolation and emotion and a sense of so much energy or momentum moving around the fight for Black lives, and in New Mexico in particular, I think there was a need to reach out to other Black folks. From there it was 'How can we also support and amplify these voices, pool our resources?' We have a lot of projects that are in process and are slated for 2021. We're launching a large initiative within the public school systems in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos for Black History Month. We've collaborated with Black educators across the state to develop curriculum, and we'll talk about lesser-known Black people within different scopes of our culture. I'm also producing my first large scale solo exhibition of my work at form & concept gallery—it's the entire space, over 3,000 square feet—and there are over 150 sculptures, seven oil paintings…I also launched through Earthseed, and as myself, an international call for Black and Indigenous artists [called] Hand Tools of Reslience, which was an open call to artists to propose a conceptual hand tool for a new world…tools that can be used to build and to dismantle tools of oppression."

Jamie Lenfestey

Director of Santa Fe Operations, AMP Concerts

"I think we did a great job in pivoting as best we could given what we were dealing with. The first part of the pandemic, the March and April phase, we thought, we'll be back in the summer, but as it became apparent that wasn't going to be the case—my focus was always on getting back to doing live shows in some way. We were pushing for a drive-in, and I wrote a very detailed proposal that had the specific distances for tailgating based on…parking spaces for cars. Honestly, it wasn't frustrating because my strength in this business is in event managing, creating venues, solving problems. It's a wrinkle I never saw coming, but we're going to solve it. AMP really hasn't been making money on this. Our most successful [drive-in] concert broke even, and I don't want to spend a great deal of time doing drive-ins in 2021. We're actively talking to the state so we're in a position to do things when COVID-19 clears up—hopefully late spring or summer."

Neal Copperman

Executive Director, AMP Concerts 

"2020…it kind of sucked, y'know? What's funny about the pandemic is that it forces you to be creative and think in new ways. Actually, I won't say that that's fun. It's not like I was thinking 'it would be great to challenge all of my conceptions about how to work and come up with new ways to work,' but when forced to, we have, to some degree. So, we're really proud of what we did in 2020. We don't have any more information than anyone else does, but what we've been trying to do is to make little shifts to the guidelines that will support the arts to some degree. We loved being at HIPICO. It was a great space, the people were supportive, they loved having us there, but they do horse events, that's their reason to exist, so if they can do horse events, that's what they want to do. Everybody's just hedging. We are working on options, we're trying to talk to various other places that may be accessible. Obviously HIPICO didn't really exist as a concert venue, so we're tying to find other places that we can stand up and maybe make work."

Hannah Yohalem

Co-Director, Vital Spaces

"As for most other organizations, 2020 necessitated a lot of adaptations on Vital Spaces's part. We moved up our plans for a series of storefront window installations [called] Windows on the Future from the fall to the summer to get money out to the creative community and make art safely visible to the public sooner; we started developing online programming for the first time and canceled in-person indoor events; we shifted some focus this winter from the arts to helping fundraise for basic necessities, because no one can enjoy art or tap into their creative potential without heat or lights. In 2021, we hope to bring people together again around Santa Fe's fantastic contemporary art. Even before it is possible to do that in real space, we've committed to creating more digital opportunities for Vital Spaces artists to gather and talk about their artwork and artist practices or anything else. We're also launching an online video series called Intersections that brings together visual art, poetry, dance and music around a common theme."

Peter Grendle

"I finally got to kill my maintenance list! Every box is checked. Selfishly, getting to be alone in the building without thousands of people was totally refreshing. We started with [wood oven] pizza in October, and it's kind of an apprenticeship in exchange for rent with [Tender Fire Pizza's] Ben Crosky. Honestly, I wasted two or three months preparing for a reopening that never happened, but my goal is that, if they call tomorrow, we can open in two weeks' time. We're also working on what we're calling RSVP Cinema, and if it works how I think it's going to work, you'll pay for a rental, then up to nine of your friends can buy tickets, and you can watch a movie—we have a library with, like, all the Rocky movies or Tenet or the Michael Keaton Batman movies and lots more—or we can even hook up video games. Mario Kart on the huge screen is just majestic…refreshing. If we have our way, we'll be able to show any movie that was released during COVID."