Morning Word

City of Santa Fe Pledges $500,000 for Greer Garson Theater Renovation

NM-based “Oppenheimer” wins seven Oscars

City to spend $500,000 on Greer Garson Theater

Most folks probably haven’t been in the Greer Garson Theater since the Santa Fe University of Art and Design closed in 2018, graduating its final class of performing arts majors. Take a virtual tour now and imagine the possibilities. That tour comes courtesy of LiveArts Santa Fe, which has partnered with the City of Santa Fe to revitalize the theater as part of the city’s Midtown campus initiative. On Friday, the city announced a $500,000 commitment to that end via “unanticipated” Lodgers Tax revenue. Nonprofit LiveArts Santa Fe is working to raise an additional $1 million. “We have been advocating for the Greer Garson Theatre Center since 2018 when SFUAD announced it would be closing,” LiveArts Executive Director Vaughn Irving says in a statement. “It is a much-needed resource for Santa Fe’s performing arts industry, and I am thrilled that we now have the opportunity to work with the City of Santa Fe to renovate and reactivate this incredible facility.” According to the city, LiveArts initially was the city’s sole applicant for a Request for Proposals for the performing arts center issued in December 2022, which the city subsequently canceled after both parties agreed the city would redevelop the theater and LiveArts would focus on developing an organization to operate the facility. “Redeveloping Midtown is not only about physically improving the site. It is also about investing in our local community,” City Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency Director Karen Iverson said in a statement. “Over the next few years, we want to incubate LiveArts as a community-based performing arts company. Their board represents those that worked in the Greer Garson Theater for decades and we are excited to see them breathe new life into the space.”

Previewing Baldwin’s trial/Oppenheimer’s Oscar wins

In the aftermath of a jury’s conviction last week of former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for involuntary manslaughter for the Oct. 21, 2021 on-set fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, eyes now have turned to actor/producer Alec Baldwin’s prospects. Baldwin also faces involuntary manslaughter charges for his role—he was holding the gun that fired and killed Hutchins, but says he did not pull the trigger—and is scheduled for trial starting July 10. The Los Angeles Times reports mixed views from legal experts. Actors union SAG-AFTRA has defended Baldwin, issuing a statement in January that “an actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert.” That defense might not cut it, University of New Mexico law professor Joshua Kastenberg tells the LA Times: “His defense can’t be, ‘I’m only an actor,’ a special argument that’s unique to him,” Kastenberg says. “The question then becomes, why are actors different than ordinary citizens? Well, they’re not.” The New York Times analyzes which evidence from Gutierrez-Reed might be also used in Baldwin’s trial, such as video footage of Baldwin acting impatient while filming another shooting scene. FBI testimony about gun testing—Baldwin’s lawyers have intimated the gun may have malfunctioned, a theory on which the testimony shed doubt—also is likely to resurface in his trial. Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, however, tells NPR Baldwin may have an edge as a result of of Gutierrez-Reed’s conviction. “First, obviously, he’s going to point the finger at Gutierrez-Reed, who is now a convicted felon,” Rahmani tells NPR. “It’s an easy empty chair to point to at trial.” One reasonable certainty: A Baldwin trial will also attract massive media and public attention; SFR examines the CourtTV spectacle that came to town.

In other New Mexico film news, some in the state celebrated last night’s seven Oscar wins for Oppenheimer, including best picture and best director for Christopher Nolan. Advocates for the state’s downwinders had a different take. Prior to the Oscars, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, tweeted: “I’ll be watching @TheAcademy this Sunday to see if @OppenheimerFilm will share the spotlight they’re sure to receive with the victims of the nuclear tests this film centers around.” Luján has co-sponsored legislation expanding the Radiation and Exposure Compensation Act to include New Mexico Trinity test downwinders and uranium miners. The Senate approved the bill last week; it still requires a vote in the House and a signature from President Joe Biden, whose administration last week issued a statement supporting the bill. Oppenheimer winners last night mentioned neither those impacted by the Trinity Test, nor New Mexico, where much of the film was made and set.

NM enacts higher-ed trust fund

State officials are touting a new source of revenue for higher education in New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last week signed into law Senate Bill 159, creating a nearly $1 billion trust fund. “By creating this fund, New Mexico is keeping our original promise of tuition-free college for residents and cementing our status as the nation’s leader for college equity and access,” the governor said in a statement. “Our monumental investments from early childhood education to college and career are already making a life-changing difference for tens of thousands of New Mexicans and setting the example for every other state.” The Higher Education Trust Fund will be supported by the Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund to continue providing full tuition through the Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships for eligible students; an initial distribution of nearly $48 million will be made to the program fund in FY25. According to a news release, at present more than 42,000 New Mexicans receive the scholarship, most of whom are Hispanic, women and eligible for federal need-based Pell grants. New Mexico’s higher education trust fund is the largest of any state, the governor’s office says, followed by Tennessee, New Jersey and Alaska. “The Higher Education Trust Fund will make it possible for New Mexicans to continue to go to college tuition-free for many years to come while also maintaining healthy reserves in the state’s Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund,” bill sponsor state Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, says in a statement. “Current and future students depend on these scholarships to further their education, and the future of our state depends on having more highly educated residents entering the workforce and providing for their families.”

DOH reports human plague death

The health department on Friday announced the first human case of plague since 2021, and the first death from plague here since 2020: a Lincoln County man who died after being hospitalized for the disease. “We extend our deepest sympathy to the family,” State Public Health Veterinarian Erin Phipps said in a statement. “This tragic incident serves as a clear reminder of the threat posed by this ancient disease and emphasizes the need for heightened community awareness and proactive measures to prevent its spread.” According to a news release, DOH staff are conducting outreach to area residents, and will conduct an environmental assessment to determine ongoing risk. A rodent bacterial disease, plague usually spreads to people through infected fleas, which can be brought home by dogs and cats that are allowed to hunt outside. Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, weakness and “in most cases,” painful lymph node swelling. Dogs and cats with plague also can have lymph node swelling under their jaws, and may exhibit fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. Among a list of preventative measures, DOH recommends avoiding sick or dead rodents or rabbits, and preventing household pets from roaming. Find more information here. Torrance County had the last known case of human plague in 2021. In 2020, there were four human plague cases: one in Santa Fe County, two in Torrance County and one fatal case in Rio Arriba County.

Listen up

Marty the Moose’s adventures in Santa Fe inspired a fan club, children’s book and clothing line. But wild animals wandering in places they normally don’t venture actually represents problems for wildlife managers—and “celebrity” animals perhaps all the more so. On a recent episode of Outside magazine’s podcast, “The Trouble with the Internet’s Most Famous Moose,” producer and contributor Stephanie Joyce explore the phenomena of “famous” animals like Marty and what it means when “a wildlife star is born.”

Outer-space cadets

Roswell police’s new patch has captured national attention with its embrace of the city’s indelible connection to UFOs. The new patch, revealed on Friday, replaces one that has been used for 30 years, according to a news release, and includes “the city logo, a Zia symbol, a pair of small alien faces and the phrasing, ‘Protect and Serve Those That Land Here,’” along with the year 1891, when the department was established. Police Chief Lance Bateman tells the Associated Press employees submitted dozens of designs—most featuring aliens—with Support Services Sgt. Trong Nguyen’s design “a clear favorite” via a January vote. Roswell native Bateman says “at some point you embrace” the town’s connection to aliens—the Roswell museum reported its fifth-millionth visitor last year, and the annual UFO festival (July 5-7) remains a draw. Just last year, Congress held hearings on UFOs, with even US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, calling on the Pentagon to release records on the subject. Back in Roswell, Bateman tells the AP he hopes the new patch will enhance police officers’ relationships with the community: “It opens conversations for the citizens and us,” he says.

Good nature

Spring is almost here and, while the weather will likely remain unsettled for a bit, more daylight means more chances to get outside. Travel and Leisure magazine includes New Mexico in its roundup of the 13 best US resorts for reconnecting with nature via hot springs, hiking trails and open-air massages, specifically highlighting Ojo Caliente spa “for an immersive back-to-nature experience” that includes hot-spring soaks, desert views, “movement classes in the yoga yurt,” along with hiking, biking and eating at the farm-to-table Artesian Restaurant. The Travel, meanwhile, incorporates Santa Fe on its list of the country’s most beautiful rail trails. The 15-mile Santa Fe Rail Trail, The Travel writes, transports riders through two “important” New Mexico cities (we love Lamy, but are pretty sure this marks the first time anyone has referred to it as an important city): “The packed gravel trail stretches through a starkly beautiful sun-baked environment dotted with yucca and cholla cactus. Watch for roadrunners darting across the path and take in big-sky views of the Ortiz Mountains.” Santa Fe also appears on the United Business Journal’s list of backpacker-friendly destinations in the US, where backpackers can purportedly immerse themselves “in the rich culture and vibrant arts scene of Santa Fe without breaking the bank.”

The calm before the cool down

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day, with a high temperature near 52 degrees and west wind 5 to 15 mph. Looking warm, dry and windy through mid-week, after which we may see another round of wintery weather.

Thanks for reading! The Word’s response to waking up yet an hour earlier: gazing blearily at the puppy cam.

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