Santa Fe woodworker and entrepreneur Jonathan Boyd is frustrated when he sees a vacant commercial space in downtown Santa Fe. In his mind, he visualizes art filling the space.
“Downtown rents are out of reach for most emerging artists or artists whose work isn’t guaranteed to sell by strict adherence to the mainstream style and media,” he says. “Santa Fe’s artistic history is rich and deep. It is threatened by rising property costs and costs of living. Social, political and economic forces can suppress artistic growth by limiting access to resources and opportunities.”
Enter Vital Spaces, a new 501(c)(3) founded by Boyd that’s in the business of locating vacant commercial spaces in Santa Fe and finding a way to transform them into places for art shows, studio spaces and performances.
Vital Spaces’s first space is located at 220 Otero Street, the former home of a title company. With help from generous donors, the organization has secured a six-month lease.
Not only does this huge building have areas for exhibitions and performances but also many small rooms that could be perfect studios for practicing artists.
The longterm goal, Boyd says, is the establishment of many Vital Spaces locations around town.
Boyd is modeling Vital Spaces after the New York City organization Chashama, which supports artists by partnering with property owners to transform unused real estate into spaces for artists to create, present and connect. He flew to New York to meet with Chashama’s artistic director and founder Anita Durst, who has secured more than one million square feet of space in New York City for artists.
While Boyd has learned much from Durst’s experiences and advice, he recognizes Santa Fe’s unique challenges. “In some cases we’ll have to rent the downtown spaces we’re interested in using, but we are hopeful that some of the spaces will be donated to us,” he adds.
Vital Spaces received feedback from community members through two evenings of discussions on the future of art that took place at the Otero Street location on March 13 and 14. Creative Santa Fe, whose mission is “to leverage Santa Fe’s unique sense of place, using collaboration and the power of the arts to reframe critical issues and drive positive change,” co-hosted the discussions.
“Our vision is to use each space that comes to us to its potential,” says Boyd. “Artists in Santa Fe need affordable studio and exhibition space.”
To find out more about Vital Spaces, visit vitalspaces.org