City of Santa Fe In Search of Muralist

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Two exterior walls at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center would be primed for hot mural action and installation by September under a new project announced today by the City of Santa Fe's Arts and Culture Department.

The city is officially looking for artists or groups of artists who wish to propose artwork for its Culture Connects: Muticultural Mural Public Art Project.

The initiative is like a roadmap for current and future cultural projects and input sessions meant to up the overall artistic and culture-based quality of life in Santa Fe. In the call for RFQs (that's Request for Qualifications), the city says the overall budget for the upcoming mural project will be $50,000, which would include artist fees, liability insurance and any costs associated with design, fabrication, permitting, installation, etc. The call is open to any and all artists or teams of artists who reside or work in Santa Fe, and the selected person or team will be expected to "participate in a rigorous design process," according to the announcement.

Pauline Kanako Kamiyama, director of the Arts and Culture Department, tells SFR that in addition to the money set aside to complete the project, the department will pay $500 honorarium to applying artists for their time and efforts.

"This is happening under the Culture Connects umbrella and the 2018 GRT bond, an arts in public places allocation," Kamiyama explains. "It will be an important piece to have, and it's in a prominent place at the Convention Center. It will also help us to identify murals within the historic district as we work with [the] Historic Preservation [Division]."

That entity is all about preserving the historic character of our town, so maybe work out what that means precisely if you're going to apply.

Both the timing and name of the mural represent an interesting move from the city, particularly as the state finds itself embroiled in an ongoing quagmire surrounding artist Gilberto Guzman's "Multi-Cultural" mural on the side of the upcoming Vladem Contemporary wing of the New Mexico Museum of Art on Guadalupe Street. Formerly known as the Halpin Building, renovations on its interior began in February, at which point the state's Department of Cultural Affairs declared unequivocally that Guzman's mural would come down.

Some local groups, including Keep Santa Fe Multicultural, have called the state's decision to retire the mural a case of whitewashing and gentrification, though it's important to note the state's DCA and Santa Fe's Department of Arts and Culture are in no way connected.

Guzman, meanwhile, filed a federal suit earlier this month to prevent the downtown mural from being torn down.

Gilberto Guzman holds up a representation of his mural Multi-Cultural in his Midtown home. (Anson Stevens-Bollen/)
Kamiyama says the project title similarity is not a reference to Guzman's work or the activists.

"Earlier on, we had been in conversation with the state to understand the process with that," she said, "but this is not part of that—though I could see that, now that I think about it, that people would think that. But this is a celebration."

Besides, given the outcry over Guzman's mural, preserving the upcoming Culture Connects: Muticultural Mural is on Kamiyama's mind, and certainly everyone realizes the importance at this point when it comes to conversations about how long a mural in Santa Fe will stand.

"Public art has to have a lifespan of at least 10 years according to Culture Connects," Kamiyama says. "Murals usually have a lifespan of 5-10 years, and it will be on [City] Tourism to prep the wall properly before the artist gets the wall, and the artists will do their own wall prep—and then we'll have to keep an eye out for routine maintenance. What do we do if there's a crack? If it fades? I'm talking to colleagues in the field about what could be best—we don't want to use a varnish because that will usually yellow and crack over time in the wonderful sunshine here. Then there will be routine maintenance to protect the color."

Kamiyama also points out that two RFQ spots will be specifically held for BIPOC and/or underrepresented communities, and that rather than creating a full-on digital presentation when applying, interested parties can create one proposal document.

"We've seen the digital divide grow larger during the pandemic," she explains. "This will be more of an interactive process as we go to assure accessibility and equity—things I take seriously."

More information, including overall criteria, can be found on the city's Arts and Culture Department website here, but interested parties should know the deadline for RFQs is April 15, and that any materials or questions can be sent to artscommission@santafenm.gov.




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