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.

Ways to Connect


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.


This summer, the New Mexico Museum of Art invites visitors into the colorful and outlandish world of Patrick Nagatani.  The Albuquerque-based photographer, a long-time University of New Mexico professor of art who passed away last year, was known for constructing and staging dreamlike tableaux for his camera.  The Santa Fe exhibit, Invented Realities, runs through the summer.


Parked this month in Santa Fe's Railyard Park is a 1970 aluminum stepvan and inside it is Iris.  The van is a gallery on wheels, Axle Contemporary, and Iris is its latest exhibit, a multi-sensory experience created by Santa Fe artist Stephen Auger.  The five-minute journey of light, color and sound is part of this month's Currents New Media Festival 2018.


Writer Dan Darling grew up in Albuquerque, a city that he says is "part desert, part floodplains, part mountains and all contradiction."  Those contradictions, which he observed first as a boy and later when he returned to his hometown for an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Mexico, inform his fiction.  Albuquerque is the setting for his first novel, Archaeopteryx, a page-turning blend of detective story, science fiction and homage to what Dan calls the "sacred dry places."

How does Dan describe his novel?  "I introduce my main character:  His name is John Stick, he's a zookeeper.  He's also a giant, he has giantism, he's eight feet tall.  And one day 10,000 birds fall dead from the New Mexico sky, and John is sucked into the mystery of what caused these birds' death."


A new concert series taking place at Dialogue Brewing in Albuquerque features contemporary classical music selections that become increasingly dense as the weeks go by.  Likewise, the surrounding artwork escalates week by week in visual complexity.  The Discourse series, which evolves over three consecutive Tuesday nights beginning May 22, is a collaboration between artists from Santa Fe's Meow Wolf and musicians of Albuquerque's Chatter.

Photo by Bert VanderVeen, Triad Stage

In 1838, the U.S. Government relocated thousands of Cherokee people from their homeland in the southeastern U.S. west to the newly designated Indian Territory.  During this brutal removal to present-day Oklahoma one-third of the evacuees died.  Cherokee actress DeLanna Studi has retraced this journey along the infamous Trail of Tears and documented it in her one-person show, And So We Walked, which she brings to the Lensic Center in Santa Fe on May 23.


It might seem that opera is an art form that only grown-ups can tackle.  Surely, years of training are necessary to create an opera or even to appreciate one.  Well, the Santa Fe Opera disagrees.  This summer, for the third year in a row, the company is giving kids, third through eighth graders, the chance to write, compose, design, and perform their own opera.  The Opera Storytellers Camp is June 4 - 15.

Book cover illustration © Zeke Peña 2018

Photographer Graciela Iturbide has spent her career documenting what she calls the "Mexican Tempo" -- a world that's at once ancient and modern, realistic and otherworldly.  A major collector of Iturbide's work, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, has just published a biography of the artist.  Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is a collaboration between writer Isabel Quintero and cartoonist Zeke Peña.


He doesn't work on paper as most artists do, rather he works with it -- cutting it, folding it and then reassembling these numerous and meticulous geometric forms into dimensional paper sculptures.  Matt Shlian has been artist-in-residence this past year at UNM's Tamarind Institute, and he will figure prominently in Tamarind's weekend-long exploration of the intersection between art and science, Albuquerque Wonder Cabinet, April 20-22.

Colton Newman/@cnewman101/DailyLobo

Philadelphia's Center for Architecture and Design hosts an annual competition for design students at universities around the world.  This year, the Center's challenge was to find new ways for Philadelphia to connect its residents and visitors with the city's cultural and natural resources.  The first prize went to Sam Fantaye, a third-year student in the graduate Landscape Architecture program at the University of New Mexico's School of Architecture and Planning.


After striking it rich in the 1870's with a mine outside Silver City, prospector H. B. Ailman built a grand mansion in the downtown.  The house traded hands many times over the years, then fell into disrepair.  Restored by the city in 1967, it became the home of the Silver City Museum, whose collection documents the history of the city and southwestern New Mexico with over 40,000 historical photographs and objects.

Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan, https://www.prhspeakers.com/speaker/francisco-cantu

Soon after graduating from college in 2008, Francisco Cantú joined the United States Border Patrol.  He spent the next four years as an agent, mostly in the field along the U.S./Mexico borders of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  His very personal memoir of that time, and its aftermath, is The Line Becomes A River, Dispatches From The Border, just published by Penguin's Riverhead Books.

Photo by Artotems Co.

The kids of the Santa Fe Youth Symphony will be given unique access this month to some distinquished professional musicians.  The Harlem Quartet, currently in residence at London's Royal College of Music, will lead a week-long series of workshops for the young musicians along with Cuban composer and pianist Aldo López-Gavilán.  The week culminates on March 3 in a collaborative concert in Santa Fe, a benefit for the Youth Symphony Association.

Subhankar Banerjee

Tucked into the tax bill that Congress passed in December was a provision authorizing oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  This is a move that UNM Professor Subhankar Banerjee has been working for years to prevent, through lectures, articles and most importantly his photographs of the region's unspoiled beauty.  He has organized a symposium on Arctic Alaska, the last oil, February 21-23 at UNM.  It is free and open to the public.


In 1929, students and faculty at the University of New Mexico established a separate school in Albuquerque where students of all ages and skill levels could study and appreciate the fine arts.  Ninety years later, the New Mexico Art League is one of the oldest organizations in the United States offering serious arts training to the community.  It also sponsors exhibitions for New Mexico artists, and the current exhibit, Biologique, runs through February 24.


He has said that he exists in, and in between, two worlds -- that he is neither Mexican nor American, but rather Mexican-American.  Composer Héctor Armienta explores these bi-cultural roots in his music.  In 2015, he received permission to adapt Rudolfo Anaya's beloved novel of the Mexican-American experience, Bless Me, Ultima.  The opera premieres this month in Albuquerque, a co-production of the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Opera Southwest.

Kaethe Richter

Just before Christmas, a special vocal ensemble made its debut at the annual Festival of the Trees in Albuquerque, a fundraiser for the Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation.  Comprised of individuals recovering from brain injury, alongside family members and supporters, the Neuro Choir was organized by Jessica Richardson, Assistant Professor in UNM's Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences


For ten years now, kids in the Española Valley have been traveling after school up to fifty miles roundtrip for the opportunity to study dance, drama, music and visual arts.  The non-profit Moving Arts Española offers classes to kids ages 3 to 18.  Two years ago, the school took over its neighbor, the former Ohkay Owingeh Casino, to create a 6,000 sq. ft. performing arts space.


The format calls for eight consecutive hours of live music, with audience members invited to come and go as they please.  Starting at noon on January 13, dozens of local musicians will gather at Albuquerque's St. John's United Methodist Church to raise money for Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless.  Classical musicians, jazz ensembles, singer-songwriters, choirs, and solo performers will take part in the Midwinter Music Marathon.


The story takes place "on a night of a million stars and a million dreams."  A young boy falls asleep, then illustrator and author Joel Nakamura takes him on a journey of shifting identities, landscapes and experiences.  I Dreamed I Was A Dog is Nakamura's follow-up to Go West, his award-winning children's book from 2015.  I Dreamed I Was A Dog is available at bookstores from the local Leaf Storm Press.


American music lost an important voice in 2014.  Stephen Paulus, internationally-known for his choral compositions and operas, passed away at 65.  One of his last major works was an opera for families based on a story by New Mexico writer Peggy Pond Church.  Shoes for the Santo Niño was originally presented in 2011 by the University of New Mexico, which commissioned it, in conjunction with the Santa Fe Opera.  The Opera brings it back this month for holiday performances.


Fifth graders in Santa Fe will perform for the community this month in a program of "tall tales" that they themselves have conceived and written.  The dual-language performance, on November 29 and 30 at Teatro Paraguas, is part of an after-school program called Storytellers & Writers, which works with kids in New Mexico who need extra help reading, writing and speaking English.