August 2015

UPDATE: The Santo Domingo Heritage Trail Arts Project

The First ArtPlace America/NEA Grant in Indian Country


Aliyah Chavez


Santo Domingo Pueblo, sometimes known by its traditional name, Kewa, will, by the spring of 2016, be home to a 1.5-mile “Kewa Art Trail” connecting two new affordable-housing developments to the Rail Runner station. That will allow pedestrians to safely walk to commute on the train to surrounding cities such as Albuquerque and Santa Fe for employment, education, groceries, medical appointments, etc.


On eight nodes along the trail, Santo Domingo Pueblo artists such as Thomas Tenorio will showcase their work in the form of larger-than-life sculptures of traditional jewelry and pottery. Tenorio, a potter, said, “Nobody has really done anything like this. It’s a learning experience for me.”


The Art Trail and the new housing developments are particularly unique, considering that the historically conservative tribal council is known to make decisions with little community input. However, ideas and feedback from tribal members were included in the conceptual and design phases. One thing they wanted was to create a way to safely access the Rail Runner.


The Art Walk is being created thanks to collaboration among the Santo Domingo Housing Authority (SDTHA), ArtPlace America and the National Endowment for the Arts. For the first ArtPlace America/NEA grant in Indian Country, ArtPlace has awarded the SDTHA $478,000 for the Art Walk’s construction. ArtPlace America seeks “to advance creative placemaking to emphasize the importance of art and culture in a community’s well being.”


The new Domingo Housing Project has been sited in proximity to the restored Santo Domingo Trading Post, 2.5 miles from the historic main village. Community members were interested in a return to traditional-style housing. Thus, buildings and landscape plans reflect historic design and planning patterns with interconnected walking and bike trails. A large, centrally located orchard will provide food and a gathering place for family activities. Rainfall will be carefully captured and directed to reduce irrigation demands. Housing units of varied sizes will be passive solar, with individual garden plots. The project includes a multi-purpose indoor-outdoor space for community meetings, childcare, tutoring and job training, as well as a community kitchen.


For more information on the trail project, visit or



Aliyah Chavez (Santo Domingo) is an undergraduate at Stanford University, double-majoring in the comparative studies of race and ethnicity and in communication.




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