Spencer Beckwith


Spencer Beckwith reports on the arts for KUNM.  For ten years, until March of 2014, Spencer was the producer and host of KUNM's "Performance New Mexico," a weekday morning arts program that included interviews with musicians, writers and performers.  Spencer is a graduate of the acting program at the Juilliard School, and, before moving to New Mexico in 2002, was for many years a professional actor based in New York City.

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Art in America called her work "pure optical pleasure" -- "shimmering" and "optimistic."  Grids of tiny hand-painted numbers laid out in bands of color across the canvas.  Artist Xylor Jane is sharing the process and the philosophy behind her work with art students this spring as the University of New Mexico's 2019 Frederick Hammersley Visiting Artist.  She will give a public lecture on April 24 at 7pm at the Albuquerque Museum and host an open studio on May 2 between 6pm and 8pm in the UNM Art Annex.  Both events are free and open to the public.


Steel sheets of various sizes are welded together at the seams, heated, and then inflated with compressed air, like large vividly-colored metal balloons.  These playful objects are the work of Española-based sculptor Jeremy Thomas, and they're on display this spring at two Santa Fe galleries, The Center for Contemporary Arts and Charlotte Jackson Fine Art.

I Am Harvey Milk

Mar 15, 2019

Activist Harvey Milk was one of the first openly-gay elected officials in the United States.  In 1978, eleven months after his election, Milk was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall.  That year, future Broadway composer Andrew Lippa was only 14 years old, but as time went by he grew more aware of Harvey Milk.  In 2013, Lippa premiered an hour-long choral work, I Am Harvey Milk, which has since been performed around the country.  The New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus brings it to Santa Fe and Rio Rancho this month.

Photo: Celia de Coca

By the late 1700s, flamenco music and dance had taken Europe by storm.  On March 15 and 16 at Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center, the question of how this unique art form developed will be taken up by a team of collaborators:  from Spain, the innovative dancers and choreographers, Daniel Doña and Cristian Martín; from Texas, the period-instrument Orchestra of New Spain, specializing in music of the Spanish Baroque; and from New Mexico, Yjastros, UNM's dance company in residence.


At 31, flush with royalties from her book, Cowboys Are My Weakness, Pam Houston made a down payment on her first home, a ranch on the Upper Rio Grande in Southern Colorado.  For the next 25 years, the demands of maintaining those 120 acres at 9,000 feet required a lot of her, physically and financially.  But, as she says in new memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, "All the time I thought I was taking care of the ranch, the ranch was busy taking care of me."

Tim Keller Photography

In early March, ten young people representing high schools across New Mexico will stand on the stage of the St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe, before a panel of judges, to recite poetry.  The competition is part of a national program called Poetry Out Loud, created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.  All fifty states and the U.S. territories participate, and each year the New Mexico program involves almost 2,000 high school students.


In the 1950s, poet Weldon Kees documented a transformative car trip in his poem, "Travels in North America."  Sixty years later, another poet, Ray Gonzalez, summoned the aching ghost of Kees to join him in his own exploratory car trip, "Crossing New Mexico With Weldon Kees."  Now, the inspiration passes to local composer, and UNM graduate student, Luke Gullickson, who created a musical variation on that car trip in "Crossing New Mexico With Weldon Kees and Ray Gonzalez."  The trio for flute, violin and piano premieres on February 24 at Chatter Sunday in Albuquerque.

For a while in the 1960s, Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla abandoned his usual concert halls and nightclubs to create something instead for the opera house.  Maria de Buenos Aires is a surreal vision in song and dance of the underside of Argentina's cosmopolitan capitol.  Opera Southwest presents Piazzolla's only opera, or operita as he called it, February 17-24 at Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center.  OSW's Artistic Director, conductor Anthony Barrese, joined us to talk about it.


Jon Anderson has been based in Albuquerque ever since he graduated from The University of New Mexico's School of Architecture and Planning in 1973.  His buildings, which are deeply influenced by the climate, light, and what Jon calls, "the spaces of this amazing state," have been recognized with scores of local and regional awards.  Last year, when the New Mexico Chapter of the American Institute of Architects handed out its annual honors, Jon Anderson received three of the ten awards. 


Of all the great Broadway choreographers, the late Bob Fosse was perhaps the most distinctive.  His style was immediately recognizable in shows like Chicago and Pippin and films like Cabaret and All That Jazz.  One of the best interpreters of the Fosse style is dancer and choreographer Ann Reinking, and she's in Albuquerque now setting the distinctive Fosse choreography on students at the National Dance Institute of New Mexico.  Public performances are February 22 and 23 at the Hiland Theatre.

Beatlick Press, www.beatlick.com

James Baldwin once wrote, "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read."  The comfort of knowing you're not alone.  Words like these are especially helpful for those struggling with Alzheimer's, or for those caring for someone with the disease.  They are the audience for a new anthology of poetry and prose, Missing Persons: reflections on dementia, published this month by Albuquerque's Beatlick Press.

Photo: Addison Doty

In 1961, Judith Espinar came across a handmade casserole pot at a marketplace in Mexico.  That revelatory pot, which cost her less than $2, inspired a lifetime devotion to folk art -- collecting it, yes, but also championing its traditional artists.  In 2004, Espinar co-founded Santa Fe's annual International Folk Art Market.  Now the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe is displaying over 200 works from her collection.  A Gathering of Voices runs through August.

D. B. Chase, Photographer, https://www.thesantafevip.com/

When Jean-Baptiste Lamy arrived in New Mexico in the mid-19th Century, one of his great ambitions as the new head of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe was to build a grand Romanesque Revival cathedral, influenced by the stone churches of his native France.  So Lamy brought to Santa Fe in 1879 a group of Italian stonemasons.  Among them, from Abruzzo, was Carlo Digneo and his family. 


Residents of a small Northern New Mexico town have gathered on a snowy December night for the traditional Christmas play, Los Pastores.  Both performers and audience members represent multiple generations of several large, interrelated families, and as the nativity play progress we hear the stories of their lives.  Some Are Born Under A Star is the last work, and only novel, of the late New Mexico writer Jim Sagel.

UNM's Zuni Language Materials Collection

The bilingual school system of Zuni Pueblo in northwestern New Mexico has an important collection of books and posters written in the Zuni language, and the collection has of course become a great tool for passing on an endangered tradition to younger generations.  In May, the University of New Mexico's Digital Initiatives and Scholarly Communication department stepped forward to make this Zuni Language Materials Collection more accessible to Zuni speakers, and potential speakers, living outside the Pueblo.

Edward Keating

In the early and middle years of the 20th Century, America's path westward was Route 66 -- Chicago to L.A., a 2400-mile adventure to better times.  Later on, in the first years of the 21st Century, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Edward Keating traveled every mile of Route 66 five times over, and he documented that times had changed.  "The landscape that seemed ravaged; people on the margins, enduring life not living life," as he describes it.  Eigthy-four of those photographs make up his new book, Main Street: The Lost Dream Of Route 66.


Passengers can board a transit bus this month to take an unofficial and eccentric ride through Albuquerque.  They become participants in a theatrical experience titled Promenade.  The concept was created by Stereo Akt of Budapest, then spread through Europe, and was brought to Albuquerque by the adventurous local theatre company, q-Staff.  Trips continue through December 2.


UNM Opera Theatre presents a new chamber opera this month inspired by the life of a central figure in New Mexico's cultural history.  Wealthy Mabel Dodge Luhan moved from the bohemian society of Greenwich Village to Taos in 1917 and established the town forevermore as a gathering spot for artists and writers.  Mabel's Call, November 2-4 at UNM's Keller Hall in Albuquerque, is the work of New York City-based composer, Nell Shaw Cohen.

Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

When he was five years old, Enrique's mother left him for the United States.  Ten years later, he set off alone to find her -- a 1,500-mile journey north from Honduras, stowing away atop freight trains across Mexico.  Enrique's Journey was documented by Los Angeles Times photojournalist Don Bartletti.  The photographs won Bartletti a Pulitzer Prize in 2003, and they're on display through December at the New Mexico Humanities Council in Albuquerque.


He grew up fascinated by the radio towers and power lines that dot the landscape of Northern New Mexico.  In high school, he was drawn to welding.  And today, as an artist, he continues to work in metal, creating sculptures that are intricate and delicate, but also imposing and mysterious.  Hernan Gomez Chavez is showing his new work this month at the Santa Fe gallery, OTA Contemporary, on Canyon Road.


On average, the number of people shot each year in America is over 116,000 -- that's by murders, assaults, suicide and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings and police interventions.  The statistic comes from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and it's one of many points being made in Gun Violence: A Brief Cultural History, an exhibit on display through November 10 at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology on the UNM campus in Albuquerque.  


Over fifty artists are being given free rein this month in Albuquerque to create highly visible outdoor art.  Throughout downtown and nearby neighborhoods, barren walls are being turned into public canvases by local, national and international artists.  Mural Fest 2018, September 22 - October 13, is the follow-up to a successful first-time event last year.


It started ten years ago as what it describes as "a dumpster-diving, Do-It-Yourself warehouse space."  Today, Santa Fe's Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment powerhouse -- part concert venue, part immersive fantasy world and part learning center for kids.  In 2017, it decided to share its success and established the Meow Wolf DIY Fund to support other alternative arts spaces around the country.


Its renovation is complete and the unveiling ceremony for the new Smith Plaza on the University of New Mexico's Albuquerque campus will take place Wednesday, August 29 at 10 a.m. on the Plaza.  The Project Manager for the transformation, Aaron Zahm of Albuquerque's MRWM Landscape Architects, joined KUNM to discuss his design for what he hopes will become "the true heart of the campus."


Suspended from the ceiling is a herd of blue buffalo, seventy-five of them, flying on wings.  The buffalo tell the story of thousands of Native American children who, from the 17th Century through the 19th, were abducted from their families and enslaved on ranches and in homes across the Southwest.  The Flying Blue Buffalo installation is the creation of veteran Santa Fe artist Armond Lara, and it's on view starting August 17 at the Santa Fe gallery, form & concept.


Five years ago, while she was a graduate student in anthropology at New Mexico Highlands University, Nanibaa Beck had an idea.  As a girl, she had trained with her father, a noted Diné metalsmith, and now she conceived of simple silver necklaces inscribed with words from Native languages.  She's had her own line of jewelry every since.  This month in Santa Fe, Nanibaa Beck is an artist fellow at the Indian Arts Research Center, part of the School for Advanced Research, and she'll be featured in the 2018 Indian Market.


Robbin Bates, an MFA candidate in UNM's Painting and Drawing Program, is working this summer in a skylighted basement space in the University of New Mexico's Anderson School of Management.  Robbin's design was chosen from a field of student submissions for a new mural in Parish Memorial Library.  The 20"x11" mural will be revealed in a ceremony this September.


Dave Grusin has been an award-winning composer, producer, arranger and, of course, jazz pianist and recording artist for over 50 years.  He's the subject of a new feature-length documentary that was produced by two fellow musicians (and fellow Santa Fe residents), vocalist Barbara Bentree and pianist John Rangel.  Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time screens on July 22 at the Lensic Center in Santa Fe, as part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival.

© Judith Haden

One hundred and fifty craftspeople from around the world will have an opportunity this month to show their work in a sort of microcosm of the global marketplace.  They've been selected from hundreds of applicants to be part of Santa Fe's annual International Folk Art Market, July 12-14 on Museum Hill.  To help ensure that this opportunity translates into ongoing success, IFAM, the non-profit behind the Market, provides the artists, many of whom live in developing countries, with training and mentorship.

Tommy Orange received an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe in 2016.   While there, Tommy worked on something he had conceived years earlier, what he calls "a multi-generational, multi-voiced novel about Native people living in Oakland," Tommy's hometown.  There There was published in June -- rapturous reviews and a wave of publicity followed.  It's now a national bestseller.