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The importance of cultural art preservation and the tearing down of a mural

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Locals recall walking by the railyards in downtown Santa Fe and seeing something special. On the wall of the 1930 Halpin building was a mural vividly depicting Indigenous people in their traditional clothing, Hispanic dancers and an array of multicultural faces.

Juan Martinez reminisced on how the mural represented his identity as a Santa Fean. When he walks by today, the mural is nowhere to be seen. The Halpin building is gone, soon to be replaced by the Vladem Contemporary Art Museum.

“When I walk by the tarps where the mural was, it makes me depressed, like part of my identity as a local has been erased,” Martinez said.

Martinez goes on to say that he is not excited about Vladem Contemporary opening in place and that it will lead to more gentrification in his hometown.

Multicultural history

In 1980, Gilberto Guzman painted the mural in the railyards. He titled it Multicultural and it intended to showcase the diversity in Santa Fe.

In 2020, the Halpin building was torn down but the mural stood, thanks to the efforts of Keep Santa Fe Multicultural, an organization created by community members who worked to protect the mural. However, the mural did come down the following year.

Guzman.jpg

Robert and Ellen Vladem, two white philanthropists from Chicago, donated $4 million to help build a state-operated art museum that would bear their name, to be built at the site of the former Halpin building.

A miniature version of Guzman’s Multicultural will be featured within the Vladem Contemporary Art Museum. But it won’t be visible to those walking past the building.

Preserving cultural art in Santa Fe is important to locals, such as Martinez.

“Those rich white guys come to our state and feel like since they pay the city and indulge in arts created by people of color, that they have a right to live here and invite their rich friends. Like to feel connected to our culture,” Martinez said.

A gift?

Robert and Ellen Vladem have been living in Albuquerque since 2013 and have been making generous donations to the Santa Fe Opera and museums.

Robert Vladem said that he feels that citizens in Santa Fe do not necessarily accept them.

Good vladem.JPG

“I thought we were giving a gift to this community. And the community includes us, and we don’t feel, I don’t feel, a part of the community.” Bob Vladem said to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Keeping art local

Libby Lumpkin, a resident of Santa Fe and professor of contemporary art at the University of New Mexico said it’s important to keep monuments created by Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) up in their original form because future generations need to be in touch with their culture.

“I think for the most part, people are keeping art in Santa Fe local,” Lumpkin said. “In a global sense, we do want to preserve the artworks of Indigenous people in particular and New Mexican locals.”

One example of an entity preserving a historical mural can be found in Artesia Public Library, which holds a preserved mural by famous New Mexican, Peter Hurd.

Omar Acosta, a library clerk with the Public Library said that the mural means a lot to the city of Artesia and is a landmark for lots of families that pass through.

Acosta said that a custom truck was built to transport the mural from a bank in Houston, Texas, all the way to Artesia, New Mexico. According to Acosta, he said that the library was built around the mural.

“Future generations need to learn and preserve their culture and history,” Acosta said.

The museums and theaters in Santa Fe operate from donations. The Vladems feel confused about why they are disliked in their town when they are the people that keep the theaters and museums running.

“Like maybe a year ago, my rent got raised by 200 dollars and I had to take out a loan to even pay for it. I live next to these white owned shops and I know that I feel the wrath.”

Where it used to be.JPG

In 2021 the mural came down and is to be replaced by Vladem Contemporary Art, projected to open in 2023. It was funded and named after two white philanthropists from Chicago, Robert and Ellen Vladem.

Keep Santa Fe Multicultural was an organization created by a group of community members who worked to protect the mural at the Railyard.

In 2020, Halpin building was torn down but the mural stood. In 2021 the mural came down and is to be replaced by Vladem Contemporary Art, projected to open in 2023. It was funded and named after two white philanthropists from Chicago, Robert and Ellen Vladem.

The Vladem’s donated $4 million to help build a state-operated art museum that would bear their name.

Gentrification

Preserving cultural art in Santa Fe is important to the locals as many are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).

The issue that arose with the torn down mural is that some Santa Feans feel that out-of-state people come to New Mexico to feel culturally competent.

“Those rich white guys come to our state and feel like since they pay the city and indulge in arts created by people of color, that they have a right to live here and invite their rich friends. Like to feel connected to culture,” Martinez said. “Like maybe a year ago, my rent got raised by 200 dollars and I had to take out a loan to even pay for it. I live next to these white owned shops and I know that I feel the wrath.”

Robert and Ellen Vladem

Robert and Ellen Vladem have been living in Albuquerque since 2013 and have been making generous gifts to the Santa Fe Opera and museums.

Robert Vladem said that he feels that citizens in Santa Fe do not necessarily accept them, according to the Santa Fe, New Mexican.

“I thought we were giving a gift to this community. And the community includes us, and we don’t feel, I don’t feel, a part of the community.” Bob Vladem said with Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Phill Casaus.

The museums and theaters in Santa Fe operate with donations. The Vladems feel confused about why they are disliked in their town when they are the people that keep the theaters and museums running.

Experts Speak up on the Issues

Libby Lumpkin, a resident of Santa Fe and professor of contemporary art at the University of New Mexico shares her side of art preservation and why it’s important to keep monuments created by BIPOC up in its original form.

“I think for the most part, people are keeping art in Santa Fe local,” Lumpkin said. “In a global sense, we do want to preserve the artworks of Indigenous people in particular and New Mexican locals.”

Lumpkin said that it is important for future generations to be in touch with their culture and preserving local art is the way to do so.

In Artesia, New Mexico the public library holds a preserved mural by famous New Mexican, Peter Hurd.

Omar Acosta, a library clerk with the Public Library said that the mural means a lot to the city of Artesia and is a landmark for lots of families that pass through.

Acosta said that a custom truck was built to transport the mural from a bank in Houston, Texas, all the way to Artesia, New Mexico. According to Acosta, he said that the library was built around the mural.

“Future generations need to learn and preserve their culture and history,” Acosta said.


Contact Junko at jfeatherstonabq@gmail.com and @UNMJunko on Twitter