Tucked into the corner of the sprawling Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus stands an impressive building designed by noted architect Ricardo Legorreta. It is home to a small nonprofit that is a hotbed of creative activity: the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI). Here, under the directorship of Sanjit Sethi, a committed team of artists, educators and cultural workers addresses critical issues—local and global—explores diverse artistic practices and brings together dynamic thinkers to uncover ways in which creativity can drive social change. SFAI recently recrafted its well-known multidisciplinary artists’ residency program to take on alternating programmatic themes. These themes inspire much of SFAI’s education and community programming during each yearly cycle.
SFAI’s first theme, starting in September 2014, was Food Justice. “Food Justice was a natural point of departure for SFAI’s desire to have an annual thematic focus. From local food deserts off of Cerrillos Road to seed saving and ‘precontact’ nutrition programs, many northern New Mexicans are incredibly passionate about this subject,” Sethi explained. SFAI solicited proposals from local, national and international artists-in-residence and asked them how communities in northern New Mexico could creatively confront and impact inherent social, cultural and economic problems in our food system. SFAI’s team worked with their artists-in-residence, alongside committed local individuals and organizations, to bring together insights from creative fields, environmental sciences, sustainable agriculture, critical theory and food studies. The following is a selection of images and descriptions from the Food Justice-themed programming they created.
M12: Equine Anthology
M12, an interdisciplinary group based in the high plains of Colorado, is known for groundbreaking, award-winning creative projects that explore the aesthetics of rural cultures and landscapes. M12 creates context-based artworks-research projects and education programs. During their time at SFAI, they developed a book and limited-edition LP entitled An Equine Anthology. This project stitches together nonlinear histories, testimonies and interpretations of equine culture from the American Southwest and beyond. Far from representing the familiar romantic and mundane, An Equine Anthology presents the reader with a broad topographical view of the horse, an image that reaches well beyond American mythology. M12’s anthology combines poetics with research methodologies that delve into the unseen, hidden and overlooked to create a work that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Holly Schmidt is an artist and educator from Vancouver, Canada. She came to SFAI as a Food Justice resident in the fall of 2014 and began a larger project called “Till.” This work, a response to the dynamic changes happening in the Española Valley, focuses on the Hunter Arts and Agriculture Center that will inhabit the long-abandoned Ford dealership on the city of Española’s plaza. The facility will become a community center and will house both Moving Arts Española and the Northern New Mexico Food Hub. Anticipating these changes, Schmidt has been developing an installation that, in addition to prominent new murals on some exterior walls, will enliven and shift what, so far, appears to be an empty building with dark windows. Her luminous window collages will consist of large woven patterns inspired by the lines and shapes of growers’ fields, acequias, overlapping borders of land grants, pueblos and the city of Española. The windows will be unveiled on June 7 as part of the culmination of a three-day regional celebration, Festival of Diversity + Unity + Expression.
La Tierra Montessori School and Yoko Inoue
SFAI is committed to creating a cohesive, interdependent and groundbreaking relationship between its Education and Residency programming. As part of this endeavor, the institute has formed a broad partnership with schools and community-based organizations in the Española Valley. This exchange/response model allows for ongoing facilitated interactions between SFAI residents, students and community members in a specific, diverse region of northern New Mexico. SFAI Food Justice resident Yoko Inoue and intern Kione Kochi recently led an onigiri-making workshop at the historic Los Luceros ranch with students and faculty from La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences. Onigiri, or rice balls, is portable, handmade and handheld Japanese “soul food.” Yoko and Kione worked with fifth- and sixth-graders, sharing stories and contemplating the symbolic values of staple foods from Japan and New Mexico. Students examined food as cultural identity and currency and debated current and future food-trade policy between Japan and the United States.
Project 8: Food Justice
SFAI is invested in two important questions: how an arts-and-culture institution can positively impact graduation rates statewide; and how to create meaningful pedagogical tools from the work of artists-in-residence beyond the term of their residency. Because eighth grade is a known critical predictor of high school success, SFAI has chosen to focus there, through the curricular lens of creativity as a driver of social change. Project 8: Food Justice promises to provide eighth grade public educators with a contemporary, multidisciplinary curricular guide and narrative on the social, cultural and economic challenges inherent within our food system. Christie Green, SFAI Food Justice resident and founder of the shop and exhibition space Radicle, in Santa Fe, is a landscape architect and designer who weaves “science with art and intuition with experience.” Her work on edible landscapes with local students from De Vargas Middle School and from La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences will be showcased in Project 8.
EVENTS/CONVERSATIONS @ SFAI
CONVERSATIONS @ SFAI is a series of critical conversations on complex topics that have local interest and national relevance and connect with SFAI’s innovative thematic programming. The participatory dialogues bring together internationally known artists and designers with gifted members of the local community to speak on issues that are both diverse and locally relevant. In April, SFAI brought together local chef, author, photographer and Native foods historian Lois Ellen Frank and the interdisciplinary collective M12. This Food Justice Conversation featured the release of M12’s LP, An Equine Anthology, and Dr. Frank’s research on Native food traditions.
New Zealand-based artist Tiffany Singh came to SFAI in spring of 2015 as a Food Justice resident. With the support of Creative New Zealand, Maclovia Zamora, and Plants of the Southwest, Singh collaborated closely with local muralist Nanibah (“Nani”) Chacon. Together, they are continuing a dialogue around our vital relationships with the natural world, the current commodification of natural resources and the intrinsic value of plant life. Pulling from their previous work, the collaborative is using ephemeral, often plant-based materials combined with the narrative aesthetic of murals, and is creating an Eco-Mural at Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque. The image depicts a universal notion of Earth Mother. It consists of an assortment of compostable elements. The Eco-Mural will function as a living, regional-based herb garden with a categorical reference to identify common plants that flourish in our lands and communities. The project illuminates the medicinal properties of the plants used, common names, ethnobotanical information and recipes for nutritious dishes.
Contributing writers: Sanjit Sethi, Nina Elder, Kira Jones, Robert Gómez Hernández
For more information about the Santa Fe Art Institute, call 505.424.5050 or visit www.sfai.org