Sunday, January 16, 2011

Art in Santa Fe

I have probably mentioned it before, and will again, American legislators, generally, give short shrift to the arts and art programs in schools and these are always the first to be cut. But here in the Capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe, there are legislators who are most supportive of the arts and as in many other towns across the country there are many ordinary citizens who believe art is very important.

In what other town do you ever here things like the mayor saying, “I raised the percent for art (Art in Public Places) from one percent, mandated by the Governor in 1986 to two per cent and I hope to raise it to three percent.” Where else would you hear your state representative say, “Art is our oil and gas”? This, where the new Governor was elected with solid support from the oil and gas industry.

In New Mexico we actually find politicians who are willing to stand up for the arts and there is good reason. In Santa Fe there are three main businesses: real estate, government and art. There are more museums, albeit small ones, than in most cities in this country. There are three different cultures that live side by side, Hispanic, Native American and Anglo which here includes black people who are still here in very small numbers. We rely on the tourist trade and one of the big reasons people come is for the arts.

There are about 300 galleries in Santa Fe of which 90 belong to the Santa Fe Gallery Association. Some of the fields they include are Native American, Spanish Colonial, Western, ceramics, furniture, sculpture, photography, and contemporary. ATADA with its large roster of members represents a veritable Who’s Who of the American Indian and Tribal Art dealers and many of them are in New Mexico.

I believe that New Mexico is the only state that has a cabinet post for the head of the agency devoted to the cultural assets of the state. The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs created by the legislature in 1978 is now under threat from the new Republican Governor. It oversees the state museums, monuments, arts, libraries, heritage preservation, and archaeology programs.

I only learned the term Creative Tourism recently though I gather that it is not a new concept. It allows visitors to not only see art but to participate in it as well. I know a New York frame maker who comes to Taos, New Mexico for a week every year to learn the art of pottery, taught by New Mexico potters. These courses can last a few hours a day to full days for a set period, usually a week. UNESCO formed a creative cities network and in 2005 Santa Fe was the first so named city in the U.S. I plan to come back to the efforts made in regard to creative tourism later in the year.

Even though I am sure one could find cities with an equal number of arts programs or maybe more but relative to population I am sure the percentage is far higher in Santa Fe.

These are some of the reasons why Santa Fe is called the 3rd largest art market in the U.S.. Well, maybe it is not quite that high in the ranking but for certain areas of collecting it clearly is.

I am heading back east and will preview Master Drawings New York which brings together art dealers specializing in works on paper from all over.