Chris Jonas is a man on the move, constantly going from working on one exciting collaborative project to another one.
He’s the co-founder and executive director of Littleglobe, a non-profit organization partnering with local, national and international communities to create interdisciplinary collaborative art projects that foster connections and understanding of diverse communities.
Jonas is also an active musician and a painter.
“I grew up in southern California with a split personality, doing both visual arts and music during high school,” says the Santa Fe artist, who continues to work in a variety of media.
“When I was at Oberlin College, I started as a composition major who studied the spirituality of art but finally graduated as an art history major. At the time years ago, it was considered weird to be multi-disciplinary. But that’s how I’ve been all my life.”
After college, Jonas moved to San Francisco with the idea that he would focus on visual arts. His day job involved working at galleries and museums that featured the works of well-established artists. At night, he immersed himself in making large scale abstract drawings and playing avant-garde saxophone music at clubs with other musicians.
In the late 1980s, Jonas decided to let go of his visual art practice and focus on playing and writing music. He moved to New York City to study jazz, and for the 10 years he was based there he traveled the globe playing with experimental/jazz bands, including ones led by Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton and William Parker.
When the jazz world began changing in the late 1990s, Jonas turned his attention to combining his love for visual art with his passion for music. He discovered video.
“I started working as a composer with video artists and also as a video artist myself,” he explains. “What became important in my mind, and still is, is the psychological experience of time.”
In 2001, Jonas moved to Santa Fe with Molly Sturges, who created Littleglobe in the East Coast in 2000. “I was tired of living in New York,” says Jonas, who earned a master’s degree in world music/composition from Wesleyan University before relocating to New Mexico. “I wanted my environment to inspire me on an emotional basis. Being from southern California, I wanted to return to the West and to a place with space and views.”
The couple established Littleglobe in Santa Fe in 2001 and worked together as a team for many years (Sturges is no longer directly involved with Littleglobe).
Littleglobe has produced a variety of community projects through the years, including “Memorylines,” which resulted in the creation of an opera in 2007.
“Memorylines” brought together 25 community participants, ages 8 to 87, in a production at the Lensic Performing Arts Center that focused on the under-represented expressions and stories about immigration, self-identity, culture, home and community through video, storytelling, music, choreography and movement.
One of Littleglobe’s current projects is ¡PRESENTE!, which encourages a dialogue about neighborhood gentrification through oral history and photos and culminates in local exhibits and block parties.
When not working with Littleglobe, Jonas continues his collaboration with musicians on both coasts. The Goggle Saxophone Quartet, a group with which Jonas has been working for more than 20 years, is releasing a new CD in 2019.
For several decades Jonas has been a video artist and instrumentalist with the Tri-Centric Foundation, which supports the ongoing work and legacy of composer Anthony Braxton.
“Over the years, we have produced many large scale works of Braxton’s for which I have been a performer, video artist and conductor,” Jonas adds. “I did the projected immersive video for the Braxton four-act opera “Trillium J, The Non-Unconfessionables” and was a section conductor for the eight-hour piece “Sonic Genome,” which took place at the huge Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy.”
Closer to home, Jonas is busy writing jazz pieces for his local trio with Casey Anderson (bass) and Loren Bienvenue (percussion), enjoying a new collaboration with the Del Sol String Quartet and continuing to play with the Santa Fe jazz group Ornetc.
“I am always looking for new domains that balance the surprises of sound, color, movement and linear development of creative structures that are fresh and unexpected, striving to create poignant and aesthetically rich experiences for myself and my audiences,” says Jonas.