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Wet Hot Art Summer

An insider’s guide to the best (and worst) of Santa Fe’s art scene

July 6, 2011, 2:00 am

There’s no denying Santa Fe is an art town. National Endowment for the Arts pegged us in its 2008 study as the city with the second-highest percentage of artists in the labor force, and the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research estimates art industries account for 39 percent of our annual economic inflow.

Anecdotally, how many Santa Feans do you know who don’t at least dabblebroadly speaking, from architects to actors to authorsin art? By that measure, nearly everyone in Santa Fe is an artist (or government worker), and judging from the lengths we go to continually promote that fact, we want everyone to know it. Not only do we make art, sell art and buy art, we also think about art, talk about art and write about art (write about writing about art!), thus allotting theoretical space in addition to the wallsand floors and ceilingsof our approximately 225 galleries.

Then there’s our sweet-ass swath of annual art events, which give locals and visitors alike opportunities to see the many types of art the City Different offers. Whether you like santos or squash blossoms, sopranos or surprises, the summer art events in Santa Fe can furnish your fancy. We’ve provided an insider’s overview of just a sampling of this summer’s cultural events to make the many options more manageable.

(Additionally, each of these destinations has a lot more to offer event-wise than we were able to list below, so be sure to check out their websites for the full rundown.) Get out of the weeds and into the art!

Santa Fe Opera

July 1-Aug. 27
301 Opera Drive, 986-5900
Estimated attendance: 75,000-80,000 in a season

Highlight: Fancy tailgate parties at sunset. Replace beer and brats with aperitifs and aioli artichokes, and you get the idea.
Hazard: The elements. The high desert is cold at night, even in the middle of July. You might want to bring a parka or even a winter coat to supplement your fancy duds.
How to explain it to Grandma: Remember the operas you’d make me watch as a kid? There are those, but this time a monitor translates for me. Oh, and some are even new and in English.

North of town, the Santa Fe Opera rises from the hill like a New Age wet dream. But the opera company itself purposefully toes the line between new and old. People come from all over the country, SFO spokeswoman Joyce Idema says, to watch contemporary and classic operas play out on an unusual stage, in an opera house whose sides are open to the elements and whose backdrop is the northern New Mexico horizon of tangerine sands and cleaved mountaintops. New York musician John Crosby came to New Mexico as a boy because of his asthma and stayed on to found the opera in 1956. He wanted to create an “adventuresome opera company,” Idema saysone that incorporated “new and unusual works” and contemporary commissions. Now in its 55th seasonand its third structure, built by Richard Polsheck in 1998SFO hosts, as usual, five productions per summer. This year, three productions are new to SFO’s repertory: Faust, The Last Savage and Griselda. SFR’s resident performing arts critic John Stege recommends Griselda, a rarely performed and thus largely unknown opera by Antonio Vivaldi, for its “gorgeous and vocally demanding music.” The cast, Stege adds, “mingles international stars and relative newcomers, and with Peter Sellars directing, the pot (and plot) should be boiling away.”

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