When Matt Thomas responded to the Fall Art Festival Organizing Committee’s email asking for ideas for this year’s multi-venued event, the local artist, architect and business owner had a strong desire to help ─ and an idea.
One presentation and a few months later, Thomas is leading a team of artists, curators, educators and community supporters in creating what is turning out to be one of the most exciting and experimental presentations of art in recent Taos history.
It is called The Paseo. And it will be coming to the seven-tenths of a mile stretch along Paseo de Pueblo Norte between the Kachina Lodge and the Plaza on opening day of the Fall Arts Festival 2014 Friday (Sept. 26) from 4-10 p.m. Yes, that fire engine red three-story tall robot that is slowly being assembled in the Kachina Lodge front parking lot is part of what will be going on. But more about that later.
Christian Ristrow, the artist behind Robochrist Industries and his “robotic performance entity and alter-ego,” is just one of the over 20 collaborating artists that will be participating in the first-ever Paseo event, which is defined as “a festival dedicated to bringing the art of installation, performance and projection to the streets of Taos (paseotaos.org).” The event is free to the public and intended for all ages.
From idea to reality
The Paseo adds “a new vitality to the Fall Arts Festival,” festival co-president Paul Figueroa (and also vice president of the Taos Arts Council) about the collaboration between Fall Fest organizers and Thomas. “We the board are embracing change this year. I think that this type of art [adds] an exciting new element to the 10 days of the Fall Arts Festival. We see it as broadening interest and attracting new audiences to Taos and to the arts scene here. We are just thrilled.”
According to Thomas, in addition to featuring “unhangable art” along Paseo del Pueblo and into Kit Carson Park, The Paseo event is also a way to connect all the different venues of this year’s Fall Arts Festival in an innovative way.
“Each of our projects are site specific in the sense that they really draw on the context of the location,” Thomas said.
Besides engaging with the local environment, the other criteria for participation in the Paseo is the presentation of works from emerging artists that wouldn’t normally be shown in a gallery because of scale, modality or technological aspects.
Presenting works from merging artists has always been a key component to Fall Arts. The Paseo takes this a step further by providing (in addition to non-traditional presentations by national and international artists) a place for local artists a chance to present their work in their hometown, where they normally wouldn’t be able to do so.
“In my opinion, we should be embracing and celebrating all the artists who live in Taos,” said Figueroa. “It is not fair that they have to go to Los Angeles or New York City or Burning Man or anywhere else to be able to showcase their work. There ought to be an opportunity for those artists who are cutting-edge, using different mediums – sound, projection, installation – to have a place to show their art. I am really positive that this has happened and the two have come together this way.”
Enter that robot
“Christian Ristow is actually a Taos artist and he doesn’t really show here because a lot of his pieces are quite large,” explained Thomas, who got some of his inspiration for The Paseo from other such outdoor festivals such as Dallas’ Aurora Festival and the Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival in Iceland. “He usually shows at festivals all over the world and we were able to get him to bring one of his latest pieces called ‘Becoming Human’ for The Paseo.”
Other local Paseo artists include Taos-born Oliver Bell, Questa-born Claire Coté, who will partner with award-winning British artist Anne Keleher, Taos-based Agnes Chávez, partnering with Kamen Dimitrov of Bulgaria in creating a new generation of interactive (x)trees, and Wise Fool-New Mexico, a performance art troupe based in Santa Fe and Peñasco who will present a meditative daytime piece at Kit Carson Park. Regional artists include Diné photographer Will Wilson and Santa Fe-based movement arts team Julie Brette-Adams and Christopher Bowens, among others.
“We have daytime pieces starting at 4 p.m. going to sunset and then some pieces will actually kind of transform into night pieces,” said Thomas of The Paseo offerings. “On the other hand, other pieces will just get going as the sun sets.”
One such mostly-nighttime piece will be coming from Los Angeles-based Portuguese architect/interactive artist Felipé Valente, whose installations will be located at Kit Carson Park.
“I am really interested in what she is bringing because she has an architectural background as well and she will be doing an interactive architectural installation using projection and light,” said Thomas. “She is actually going to come early and install it in the park. Then as the sun sets, the projection and the light will be on display and you walk through it and interact with it. It looks like it is going to be a really cool piece.”
Workshops for youth
A key component for the Paseo will be youth workshops that started as early as last week. Four youth-only workshops are planned with visiting and local artists, including “Rhythmanalysis: The Sonic Fabric of Taos” with Interdisciplinary artist Alyce Santoro and composer/guitarist Julian Mock; Andrea Polli’s “Rain,” created with the help of the UNM Social Media Workgroup; and Sasha vom Dorp’s “Sound Illuminator.” The “Paseo Street Journalists” features TISA teacher Megan Bower’s eighth-grade class in a hands-on, real-time citizens’ journalism experience the day of the event; and “Think Outside the Box,” a mask-making and LED light experience will take place 3-5 p.m. today (Sept. 25) at Twirl.
In addition, a highlight of the youth workshops will be “Projecting Particles,” with STEMArt’s founder and artist Agnes Chávez in collaboration with Austrian artist Markus Dorninger (aka “Maki”). Maki is the designer of the Tagtool app, which the students will use to “connect iPads to each other and to projectors for multiplayer-paint-production sessions.”
“Projecting Particles combines particle physics and projection art as a way to explore ourselves and the universe and what we are made of,” says Chavez, whose organization stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The class, which ends today and is sponsored in part by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, will culminate in an after-dark Paseo performance with Maki that will be projected on the façade of the Presbyterian Church next to Kit Carson Park. Maki will be performing his own work and looped presentation after the students perform. Chavez and a handful of workshop participants, in addition to other Paseo artists, will be presenting their perspectives at the following Sunday’s (Sept. 28) Pecha Kucha night at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
New support for the arts
The Paseo Kickstarter campaign (see The Taos News article June 18, 2014) originally set out to raise enough money to bring in 10 local, national and international artists for the event. What Thomas and his group was able to accomplish in a very short time went above and beyond that expectation, however.
“We were a little nervous in going that route and it was almost a make or break kind of thing,” recalled Thomas of the decision to utilize crowdfunding as their main donor-generating mechanism and as a key component to their marketing strategy. “We received a little seed money from the Taos Fall Arts Festival but it wouldn’t have be enough to really pull off a full event. We asked them if it was okay to use part of the money to actually launch the Kickstarter─and it worked.”
By the end of the campaign, the group had brought in a little over $30,000 in Kickstarter donations mostly in the amount of $25-$50 each as well as in donations sent directly to them. The extra funds allowed them to bring in another 10 artists to The Paseo.
“We are so grateful to the community here as well as to all the Taos lovers outside of Taos that supported,” said Thomas. “I would say that the majority of our donations were from here in Taos. The donations that came from outside were people who used to live here, who come to Taos for art or who have a deep love for Taos and want to see it thrive. I think the success really came through a vision of Taos that people want to support and see.”
This vision, according to Thomas, is as “Taos remaining as a destination for art – art from the past and art from now and art that we can see in the future.”
In addition to the 20 official Paseo artists who will be displaying their work Friday, “Off Paseo” artists will be collaborating with galleries and other businesses along the event route for even more Paseo-themed displays and installations.
“We offered this other submission process [“Off Paseo”] because … we kept getting all this great art and so we said, ‘If you can work it out with the gallery and handle all the details, go for it!’ We are anticipating a lot of different things that will happen [in these spaces] as well. Who knows what the galleries will do?”
And who knows what discoveries will be in store for Taoseños at this year’s first-ever Paseo street art event. It could even be the beginning of an exciting creative trend for years to come.
For more information about The Paseo’s events and artists, youth workshops and the Pecha Kucha night, visit paseotaos.org and livetaos.com. Printed maps will be available in The Paseo’s main informational kiosk in Taos Plaza leading up to the event, during the Kongos concert Thursday (Sept. 25) and throughout the area on the day-of.
In addition, mobile-accessible interactive maps will be available beginning today (Sept 25) by going to paseotaos.org from your mobile phone.