Photo credit: Da Yan
Meet Raashan Ahmad, a musician, poet, DJ, and community worker. Raashan is truly embedded into the fabric of Santa Fe’s art community, from his work as a city arts commissioner to co-founding Earthseed Black Arts Alliance last year. But today, I asked him about his work as Executive Director of Vital Spaces. Vital Spaces is a nonprofit in Santa Fe whose mission is to “sustain and enhance Santa Fe’s cultural vibrancy by creating affordable spaces for artists working in all media to create, present, connect, and teach.”
What are some challenges you see in our community that Vital Spaces is trying to help solve?
Accessibility for emerging artists and local creatives to create and show their work across our city. We are constantly hearing from folks about how difficult it is to show their work and feel like they are part of Santa Fe’s artistic community, especially as an emerging artist. By offering affordable spaces for artists to not only settle in and engage in their creative practice but also offering a space to show their work in our gallery, a resource to get art supplies through our free community art closet, access to mentorships, and more, we hope to help build a support system through various partnerships with our city’s wider art scene and friends in other institutions, galleries, and museums.
How does Vital Spaces approach a solution to a challenge?
We listen. A lot, and then get to work! We have an amazing network of people we call on for advice and expertise and then make an informed decision. Being creative in thinking about solutions is also paramount and as a newer organization, we are excited to think about new ways of operating and discovering new paths forward.
How did you personally get into this work?
That’s always difficult for me to answer because the truth is I can never identify a starting point, it just has been. I was raised in a way where being in and taking care of each other was just what people did. I also am heavily influenced by the culture of hip hop (which is rooted is in art and community), spent years living in the Bay Area which has a deep history of art, community, and activism (from the hippies to the Black panthers), and as a longtime touring musician, have traveled the world and benefited so much from people showing love and taking care. I also just believe we should be taking care of each other as best we can and for me, art is how I personally feel invested, inspired, and involved. That’s the medium where people are opened up by something beautiful or sad or profound and it’s in that state where we are maybe a little less guarded where we can truly see each other and where I believe is where the good stuff is. I’ve always been interested in getting to that.
Who else do you admire in our city as a creative who is working for a collective impact?
So many people, I can’t answer this with one person! I feel lucky to have so many mentors–even if they don’t know they are mentoring me :)–from Israel Haros Lopez at Alas De Agua, to Ana Gallegos Y Reinhardt from Warehouse 21, to Julia Bergen at Communities in Schools, to my city councilor Renee Villareal to Alejandra Avila at Hip-Hop University to Winoka Yepa at MOCNA to 13 Pieces at Remix Audio Bar to School Board President Kate Noble, Hernan Gomez and Yvette Serrano (the Querencia project is amazing!). Jonathan Boyd who started Vital Spaces, Mary Ann Maestas and Bianca from Santa Fe Mutual Aid, Alice Loy at Creative Startups, Rica Maestas at SITE Santa Fe and jeez… so many more. They may not all identify as “creative” but in talking to these folks they are definitely being creative in thought and solution to get things done. I also just really love to see how they show up in the world and in this community. I just admire these folks so much.
To learn more about the impact of Raashan and his team at Vital Spaces visit www.vitalspaces.org.