Friday, May 04, 2007

community art

Sclerocactus parviflorus, flowering northwest of Bernalillo, on Jemez Pueblo land.

Toumeya papyracantha, sometimes called the paper spine cactus or grama grass cactus, flowering north of Santa Fe, near Jaconita.

Local cacti. Entirely unknown to 99% of local residents.

I've been working on a 600 word preview article for the Santa Fe Reporter on an event with a cast of 24, a 9 person artist team, 4 months in the making. Memorylines: Voices from a Collective Journey/Voces de Nuestra Jornadas, a community arts project resulting in an original opera, directed by Molly Sturges, with music by Sturges and Chris Jonas, performed by a 9 piece orchestra. The entire cast is local, the whole project is local. Most of the cast members, who range in age from 8 to 88, have never done any performing arts work before. This is the kind of project that Molly does. The last one was in Cork, Ireland, as part of the European Union Festival; an original opera featuring homeless elders, school children, etc. The great thing for Santa Fe arts about Memorylines is that it's co-sponsored by The Santa Fe Opera, traditionally somewhat of an elitist or at least rarified, specialized organization, presenting work by hundreds of visiting artists who only come for the summer.

But how to sum up such a beast as Memorylines in 600 lousy words? Maddening, really. I could have written a 4,000 word cover story about the event, especially tied in to the Santa Fe Opera's Student Produced Opera Program, the tendency for Santa Fe performing arts events to be imported from far flung places, the emerging highly vital and unique, yet barely surviving local arts scene that goes far beyond 2-D and 3-D arts like painting and sculpture that have held sway here.

It used to irritate me that the now-defunct "Santa Fe Jazz and International Music Festival" was 100% imported. Not one local artist ever graced the stage for this event, except for the event organizer. The new jazz festival, called the New Mexico Jazz Festival, has remedied this snobby, elitist, reverse provincialism by at least including a series of events in Albuquerque featuring New Mexico musicians. Meanwhile, the annual High Mayhem Festival of Emerging Arts (unique not just for this area, but internationally) focuses almost exclusively on local performers and gets next to zero press coverage in the daily papers. This is yet another way that Santa Fe is a charming and crazy-making mess: a backwards, paradoxical town full of elitist, aesthetically conservative rich "arts consumers," who want their Mozart and Verdi and Wynton Marsalis and who somehow manage to leave their progressive or liberal political views at the doorstep of local venues.

1 comment:

Dan said...

One of the cool and charming things about the Chicago Jazz Festival is that part of the charter requires a percentage to be local artists. We're blessed with a large talent pool and an active scene to draw from, of course. One stage of the fest is all local artists, and the main stage is a mix of local and out of town. Does wonders for the budget to hire in town acts who don't have to fly or stay in hotels too....