SFR Talk: Art Talk

With Mary Bonney

Canyon Road Merchants Association rallied gallerists to share resources and promotion, meaning Canyon Road shuttles, a billboard near Albuquerque and monthly art walks. This month, 25 galleries hold simultaneous openings on the stretch (5-7 pm Friday, May 27). Owner of The William & Joseph Gallery and CRMA Executive Board Member Mary Bonney discusses the art walk and the art scene.

SFR: What’s the benefit of an art walk?
MB: It gets people on the street, creates a buzz. We’re encouraging galleries to do something in front: Music on the street makes it feel like a street party versus a stroll.

Why has Canyon Road taken so long to establish an art walk and join the ranks of downtown and Railyard galleries?
For a long time, Canyon Road just relied—it has a solid reputation as an arts street. I think the downturn in the economy has spurred some energy. Poverty is the mother of invention; people are thinking about what can we do to boost the economy. Now, we’re fighting to get people here: Travel is expensive; there’s not a real airport coming into Santa Fe. We need to up our game and put it back on the map. We’ve all felt the downturn, so we have to fight a little harder for our share.

Do you ever get the impression attendees are just cruising for food, booze and art window shopping—but never intending to buy anything?
It’s a small percentage. The nice thing about Santa Fe is people really do come here to look at art. From my experience in New Orleans and New York, New York is good but you have to go everywhere to look at art. In New Orleans, [the art] was secondary to the party atmosphere.

Does William & Joseph, with its brightly colored steel works by Barrett DeBusk scattered outside, really need more traffic?
We do get a lot. I tend to be busier on the weekend because I’m by El Farol and Geronimo, so I stay open anyway. Some of the places on the street don’t have restaurants, so at 5 or 6 [pm] they’re done. If you do an art walk that involves the whole street and we have a shuttle, then we really involve the entire Canyon Road span so every gallery feels its needs being met.

Do you think the clientele is the same on Canyon Road as at downtown galleries?
No, I don’t. When I first moved from New Orleans and was on Marcy Street, there was really no crossover. There were people downtown that would just be around the Plaza and didn’t go to Canyon. Or, if I saw them [downtown] and they went to Canyon, I never saw them again.

Is there any real difference between galleries on Canyon Road and those in other locations, aside from geography?
They’re not different, just a completely different district. I’d guess galleries downtown have a little harder of a time. It tripled my business moving to Canyon Road just in sheer volume because more people come to Canyon Road for art.

If you could change one thing about the Santa Fe art scene, what would it be?
[I’d encourage] the ‘re-branding’ of Santa Fe to appeal to a younger demographic and to let the world know we sell more than Southwest art—the image of the tilted Indian pot comes to mind, when truly there is a lot of very contemporary art here.

Santa Fe is definitely an art town—just consider the number of art galleries and artists per capita—but what made it that way?
Travelers looking for an authentic experience come to Santa Fe. It just feels like such a different place, definitely a different experience than visiting your local gallery in Bethesda, Md.: the West with the big sky and an amazing international art scene right in the middle of it. We don’t cater to big-box stores and Disneyland and all that crap. Santa Fe supports small businesses and most of the galleries are owned by women. A lot of business models don’t see that. It’s just very original that way.

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