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Illustration by Santino Dixon

Changing of the Garde

Three new aces take the reins at Santa Fe's contemporary art institutions

August 18, 2010, 1:00 am
By Rani Molla and Zane Fischer

Santa Fe’s history as a center for arts and culture imbues the city with quirky character, bucket-loads of charm and an internationally recognized élan all its own. But the arts also are big business.

According to the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 39 percent of the annual inflow into the local economy—well over a billion dollars in an average year—comes through arts-focused industries, organizations and businesses.

As much as traditional crafts and accepted fine art practices bulwark Santa Fe’s art scene, contemporary art that addresses the issues and concerns of the present and the future is a growing force within the community and the economy.

So it’s a big deal when three major exhibitors of contemporary art bring new directors on board as new guardians of the avant-garde.

This week, SFR interviews three personalities who will have major influences on Santa Fe’s contemporary art scene for years to come: Craig Anderson from the Center for Contemporary Arts, Irene Hofmann from SITE Santa Fe and Mary Kershaw from the New Mexico Museum of Art.

We also asked other major players in contemporary art—Robert Kret from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Patsy Phillips from the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and Diane R Karp from the Santa Fe Art Institute—to offer advice on operating in Santa Fe to these relative newcomers (Anderson just returned from Florida to take his position at CCA, but previously held several arts jobs in Santa Fe).

Each organization’s notable stats are included as well, offering quick glimpses of budgets, annual numbers of visitors and how many Santa Feans pony up to be members.

SFR also gives pop-culture ratings to each answer provided by the new directors.

Name Craig Anderson
Gig executive director of the Center for Contemporary Arts since July
Age “Doesn’t matter. I’m in my 60s; everybody knows that.”
Place of Birth Minnesota
Education Hamline University in Minnesota; University of Colorado at Boulder, masters in fine arts in painting and video
Celebrity look-alike Sam Shepard
Personal Question Do you plan to reinstitute the artist softball league? “Yeah, I love softball.”

SFR: How is the art scene in Santa Fe really perceived from the outside?
CA: I think it’s perceived as being vibrant, diverse, complex, the full spectrum of everything from pink coyotes to the SITE Santa Fe Biennial. I’m a little biased because I’ve had quite a bit of involvement in the arts here, but my sense, all the time I was in Miami, was ‘Man, you guys should be checking out what’s going on in Santa Fe.’
Snob Factor: Pancakes on the Plaza…come as you are

Choose one of the following to be a guest at a party you throw: President Barack Obama, Lady Gaga or advertising magnate/art collector Charles Saatchi.
I’d invite everybody, all three of ’em. They need to meet each other.
Fiesta Footwear: TOMS, for every pair you buy, a Third World child gets one, too

Multiple choice: Your new job is A. something you would have killed to get B. a means to an end C. kind of a favor for a friend D. a breath of fresh air.
I think it’s B and D. I came back from Miami because of the opportunity to return to Santa Fe to do something I thought was important. I just see a lot of potential at CCA, and I think that things are pretty well lined up.
Staying Power: 5 years

Were you fated for involvement with the arts since the day you were born, drawn by a profound encounter or pulled in by an accident of circumstance?
When I got to school, I went through a whole roster of majors. I was hanging out in the student union one day and, at the next table, there was a French lady there in her 70s and a bunch of art students sitting around. I was bored and eavesdropping, so they invited me over. I walked up with them later into the arts studios and, boom, I was like, ‘Alright, this is it.’ It was like, eureka!
Messiah Factor: L Ron Hubbard, a later conversion but with conviction

What’s your most embarrassing experience with art?
My first job in the art world, I was a preparator at the Minnesota Art Institute, and we had an exhibition of modernist paintings in the old Baroque gallery with a wood floor that squeaked when you walked on it. We had empty crates all lined up and the last crate tipped and the whole line went down like dominoes. The last one went down right next to the wall and the painting on the wall [wobbled], probably a $400,000 painting at the time. You never saw two guys move so fast. The registrar and the curator and everybody came running upstairs, and we had everything all lined up again. ‘What happened,’ they said. ‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘Joe dropped his watch.’
Privacy Restrictions: Anderson only allows certain people to view his profile

What is contemporary art, and why should anyone care?
It’s what’s being done now, and the reason people should care is for the same reasons they should read the newspaper. Art is a language. Contemporary art is a contemporary language that artists use to describe their experience of the world, and there are as many artistic languages as there are artists, basically. Bankers, stock brokers—those are the folks that are raking in the cash, yet the more important work is done by creative people because they are giving us a short-term version of the future. They’re out on the edge, reporting back.
Game Face: alt.weekly

Where do art and politics meet?
On the street.
Fairey Factor: fairly Fairey

Where do art and money meet?
Art is in the center of the circle, and money is all around the periphery. It’s like a call and response. The artist sends out work and waits for the response. Money is one possible response to art.
Buying Power: Home Shopping Network

Tell us, in a nutshell, why your institution is important to you and what you’re hoping to bring to the table.
The programming at CCA has always been further out, closer to the edge than maybe any other institution in town. It’s essential to have that venue in the community. When an institution does that, you’re accepting a high level of risk. Not everything succeeds. There are failures; there are mistakes. That’s part of the CCA history. I accept that. I understand that. I think of what I bring as structure and chemistry. Structurally, I think the sphere of possibilities is really great. From the standpoint of chemistry, I want to get all the energy moving and keeping it all going forward. One of the things I’ve got to do is engage a younger audience. I look at the demographic of people coming through the door, and it’s a lot of people who were young, hip, exciting Bohemians when the place started.
Boilerplate Bonus: 7/10

What’s the ratio of stuff that’s alleged to be art versus stuff that’s any good?
When I was an art student, you had kingmakers like Leo Castelli and others in New York City, and there were people that were trying to break into the art world, so to speak. Then Steve Jobs put out the Macintosh software and Adobe put out Photoshop, and then there was Garage Band, and now suddenly there’s this plethora of different work. There’s still structure, there’s still tastemakers, but it’s a hell of a lot more complicated. 30-to-70?
Appetite for Cynicism: bulimic: eats it all, sends some back

If you weren’t an arts administrator, you’d probably be…
I was gonna coach football and be a history teacher, or I was gonna be an economist or a psychologist.
Secret Identity: Naomi Campbell testifying about Charles Taylor

What’s the most pressing story in Santa Fe’s news cycle: DWI, overdevelopment, Wi-Fi or corruption?
I have a 24-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old daughter, and I worry about them every time they get out on the highway. And not only DWI, whatever’s out there.
Social Conscious Calibration: MADD dad

Center for Contemporary Arts

1050 Old Pecos Trail
Annual Budget: $600,000
Membership: 300
Attendance: 36,000 (including cinema)
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