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El Museo Preserves, Protects, and Promotes Hispanic Art, Culture, and Heritage

By Pamela Sosnowski

For 20 years El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe has been giving Hispanic artists in the Santa Fe community a voice and an avenue to showcase their creative work. More than an art gallery, the non-profit organization holds exhibitions, performances, workshops, lectures and more that promote, preserve, and protect Hispanic art, culture, and heritage in a 31,000 square foot warehouse located in the heart of Santa Fe's Railyard, an arts, entertainment, and dining hub.

"El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe was founded in 1995 following resolution by the Santa Fe City Council that a center of Hispanic culture and arts should be established," explains Thomas Romero, President of the Board.

"This was in response to an analysis and finding by the Santa Fe Arts Commission that Hispanic artists were not equitably included in the local arts economy. In response, El Museo established variable programming and initiatives to broaden the inclusion of Hispanic artists and to enliven the recognition of the cultural heritage of Northern New Mexico."

In 1998 El Museo moved to its permanent location in a former liquor warehouse. The property underwent over $1M worth of renovations, making it over into a facility that can now present visual arts and theater exhibitions. During a four-year period when Santa Fe's convention center was under construction, El Museo hosted indoor Spanish and Native American markets, antique shows, assorted conventions and events and more.

Hispanic history of Northern New Mexico dates back to the 16th century, when the first settlement was established at San Gabriel in 1598. For more than two centuries, Santa Fe served as the center of Spanish government and culture as well as a commerce portal.

"The influence of Spanish dominance throughout these two centuries left a strong imprint on the cultural practices, the spoken language, the practiced religion, the living traditions, and the form of governance of the people who settled in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico," says Romero.

El Museo recently hosted its annual Objects of Art and The Antique American Indian Art Show, two popular exhibits that presented Native American pottery, woven blankets, sculptures and more from tribes that inhabited the Santa Fe area. The center also presented an exhibit of poetry written during workshops at the Santa Fe County youth detention facility. In November, a workshop on traditional Mexican folk healing will be presented.

"Through the fall and winter we host exhibits and performances including Day of the Dead altar installations, flamenco, readings, and live theater productions by local theater companies," adds Romero.

The building also houses an impressive permanent collection of art that makes appearances for special exhibits. This includes donated and acquired works by David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Luis Cuevas, and Alvarez Bravo. Sculptures by Pablo Picasso, Glynn Gomez, and Luis Mendez are also in the collection as well as Leo Salazar's wood carvings.

Romero says El Museo presents the art and culture of other Latin American countries other than Mexico, and invites artists to reach out for possible exhibition opportunities. "Participating and viewing artists are encouraged to present new work in hosted exhibits, and we are creating an ongoing market for promotion of selected Hispanic artists on the Railyard," he says. "We thus create market visibility on the Railyard for El Museo and for these artists."

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