Creative Santa Fe launched its IF: Imagined Futures initiative with “Evolve or Die?” The public program and series of workshops over four days provoked far-reaching conversations about the future of arts and culture in Santa Fe, and set the table for Creative Santa Fe’s next programs in the series, entitled “Santa Fe|Ground Up.”


“Evolve or Die?” brought two teams of visitors experts to Santa Fe, focusing on destination tourism and affordable workspace for artists. A team from Artspace in Minneapolis evaluated the demand and support for affordable workspace in six workshops over three days, involving 165 Santa Feans and culminating in a standing-room-only public session at the Lannan Meeting House. Artspace is the nation’s leading non-profit developer and operator of artists’ affordable spaces. A report from Artspace is expected in early July.

To close the four days, an international team addressed a full house at the Museum of New Mexico History Museum Auditorium on the role of arts and culture in stimulating positive economic growth. Keynote speaker Eddie Friel described the dramatic turn-around of Glasgow, Scotland, driven by its historical strength in arts and culture, and leading to a vibrant contemporary art scene. The New York Times in a recent article declared that Glasgow is now, after London, “the most art-filled city in the United Kingdom.” Following Friel were Mary Roberts, Director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin house, Louis Grachos, Director of the Albright-Knox Gallery and former director of SITE Santa Fe (and Creative Santa Fe board member), and architect Matthew Meier.


On the morning of Saturday, May 12, the two teams of visitors joined leaders from Santa Fe’s government, non-profit, and creative industries for invitational workshops. Participants took careful stock of Santa Fe’s strengths and competitive position, agreeing that Santa Fe already possesses the basic ingredients for continued success: a distinctive international identity, with a usable past and compelling narrative. At the same time, Santa Fe, like many cities, increasingly faces a separation between visitors and residents, as its downtown area is perceived as a tourist district that many Santa Feans avoid. And younger Santa Feans face a shortage of economic opportunities to match their talents. Eddie Friel succinctly phrased the major conclusion of the groups: if you succeed in building a city that is exciting and rewarding for its residents, then you will succeed in holding young people, and drawing visitors as well.


A report from Artspace on affordable workspace is expected in early July. Creative Santa Fe will then organize public discussion with broad stakeholder involvement, to consider next steps and long-term feasibility.

In summer and fall, 2012, “Santa Fe|Ground Up” will explore the pathways, connections, and missing links in the physical, social, and cultural makeup of the city. “Santa Fe|Ground Up” will focus on the role of public art and public spaces, from the historic Plaza to the Railyard to the south side. At stake is whether Santa Fe’s cultural core will be, in art historian Chris Wilson’s words, just another “commercialized, sanitized” place, or whether it will be laced with walking routes and community spaces “as richly layered with complex memories and meanings as any in the United States.” (Chris Wilson et al., The Plazas of New Mexico, 2011)

Principal sponsor for “Evolve or Die?” was Avalon Trust, with additional support from the City of Santa Fe, Hotel Santa Fe, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

YouTube Videos:
Louis Grachos:
Mary Roberts:
Matthew Meier:
Eddie Friel: