Say What?

A new series aims to change the way we talk—and think—about serious issues

Creative Santa Fe Executive Director Cyndi Conn says the Disruptive Futures series grew out of the organization’s interdisciplinary summit on nuclear weapons. (Courtesy of Louis Leray)

This week, Creative Santa Fe kicks off its Disruptive Futures series, an initiative aimed—as so much seems to be lately in Santa Fe—toward pivoting the city's attention forward. Multiple endeavors showcasing cross-disciplinary talks, performances and art installations this last month have highlighted the changing ways various sectors are approaching art, science and social issues. This week, I spoke with Creative Santa Fe Executive Director Cyndi Conn about her organization's upcoming series, which will meld guest speakers, local experts and audience interaction. The series kicks off Thursday June 28 with a program that on housing and science fiction, and continues into the fall on a panoply of subjects ranging from nuclear weapons to local news to poverty; the complete schedule can be found at

This interview has been edited for length.

SFR: Can you tell me a little bit about the overarching and unifying idea behind the series and how it was developed?

CC: It really stemmed from the idea and questions we had about four years ago as an organization; … 'What can Santa Fe uniquely do that has a major impact on our city and the way our city and state are perceived locally nationally and internationally?' That's why we did the nuclear summit as our kickoff in December 2016. We ended up bringing national leaders from all over the country: artists, musicians, actors, nuclear weapons experts and futurists … and had a tremendously successful three-day conference that shifted the way people perceive nuclear weapons, within the field and beyond. I was really thinking about how might we take the success of that model and really deeply embed the arts and bring new minds to the table to look at some of our local issues. So we came up with the Disruptive Futures dialogue series.

Can we talk about the word 'disruptive'? How do you frame the idea of disruptive futures in a positive light, given the disruptive present?

We went back and forth as a team about whether that was the right word, and in some ways we're taking disruptive back. So many of the challenges and negative politics and negative press and what's happening in the world feels disruptive to our world. What's positive is shaking up things … and disrupting the assumptions we make.

Regarding the first conversation about housing, what are some of the questions and issues you think need to be tackled?

A core question we want to bring to this particular conversation is: Who gets to be at the table to have these conversations? So much of the time these decisions are made from the top down, hierarchical, from a very political standpoint or corporate standpoint. We don't empower the people who are going to be living in those spaces and look at the entire system: housing, education, healthcare. We are really being as widely inclusive as possible about who is speaking at this event, who is attending at this event. All of our materials are in English and Spanish, we have Spanish translators, the information is not just online but we have flyers and posters throughout the entire community. We have a whole new network of community partners to really help us dig deep into making sure the voices at the table represent the entire city.

How does having conversations like this move action forward?

I think, again, by addressing who is part of the conversation. We go to lectures and we are spoken to, we go to a dialogue and we hear other people's expert opinions on topics and if we're lucky we get to ask our question. Our dialogues are going to include workshops, hands-on interactions, [we will create] zines where people can follow up with their ideas. So what we're doing with our partners, who are the content drivers, afterward is asking: What can Creative Santa Fe build as a result of these dialogues? In Housing the Future, we are doing a science fiction-writing workshop [with guest speaker Gabriel Teodros from the anthology Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements] with all of these attendees in the audience that night, … giving them context to unleash their imaginations. … The conversation is to get people thinking in a new way to make them feel empowered to feel like there are things they can do as citizens. We want to be an action tank, not a think tank.

What connection do you see between Santa Fe's relationship to these issues and a broader dialogue that goes beyond on our city?

I was on Mayor [Alan] Webber's Catalyzing Jobs Committee, and we looked at the question of our history and our cultural legacy and what we've always touted as Santa Fe, and how do we combine that with future and sustainability and innovation and globally competing. I don't think by any means it's an either/or in order to thrive globally and keep moving forward and grow young and be on that cutting edge of art and technology. We have to also build the basic blocks and make sure our foundation is secure and stable by looking at issues of housing and poverty and how we treat all different aspects of our culture.

Disruptive Futures Dialogue: Housing the Future
With Zane Fischer, Alicia Inez Guzmán, Joseph Kunkel, Beata Tsosie-Peña and Councilor Renee Villarreal; special guest Gabriel Teodros
5:30 pm Thursday June 28. Free.
Santa Fe Art Institute,
1600 St. Michaels Drive.,

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