Artists are trained for times like these The Paseo Project gets busy

A window installation in progress by Laural Taylor – part of the ‘Windows on the Future’ tri-city arts collaboration.

Courtesy photo

With everything still in a state of flux, Tempo recently talked to J. Matthew Thomas, the artist, architect and visionary co-founder of The Paseo Project, who seems to have made a seamless transition into this new normal we are all learning to negotiate.

Tell us a little about everything you have been up to since lockdown began and ended.

Honestly, I've been super busy. The Paseo Project jumped in with new programs and projects - I agree with the saying, "Artists were trained for times like this," and we got busy. We announced our new Traveling Artist in Residence Nikesha Breeze, who will be heading to Vermont for one month. We started a podcast, "Art in Quarantine," featuring local and not-so-local artists and their experiences during the pandemic.

We worked with Taos County in a census 2020 project, a tri-city "Windows on the Future" collaboration and the commission with Arroyo Seco Live of "Capsule" - a new sculpture by Christina Sporrong and Christian Ristow, to be unveiled this summer. And that is just the start.

Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements have huge momentum now - how do you see these movements for social change impacting the arts?

This is a huge wake-up call for the arts, and, specifically, for the larger institutions. These movements are demanding the total reevaluation of how we operate, who we operate for and what we represent. It is not a new call for action, it is just that the industry is being forced to listen.

As an artist, I am excited to see the changes being made that amplify voices. As the director of an arts organization, I know the work of real change is never-ending and my board and team are having the important conversations to be sure we are accompanying our statements with action.

The windows installations are gorgeous - can you talk about how this project came about?

Yes, we launched at the first of July.

"Windows on the Future" is a tri-city collaboration with Vital Spaces in Santa Fe, 516 ARTS in Albuquerque and The Paseo Project in Taos. We have been in conversation with Vital Spaces for some time, and with the pandemic impacting so much of the arts in New Mexico, we were eager to create new opportunities.

We received nearly 300 submissions and juried in 20 artists per city. Each artist received $500 and for the month of July will have their work installed in windows across Northern New Mexico. We are grateful for the artists participating, the sponsors that helped fund it and the local building owners that let us use their windows.

You have a new artist in residence. Tell our readers about this new aspect of The Paseo Project.

Yes, but unfortunately we had to postpone the start date due to the increasing COVID risks. But, we are excited to bring to Taos, eventually, our 2020 artist in residence, Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez. We started the program in 2018 with Laurelin Kruse and the Mobile Museum of American Artifacts and hope to increase the program by bringing more artists to Taos for a longer period of time.

These residents are asked to collaborate or engage with our community during their time in Taos in the creation or execution of their work. Muñoz Hernandez's works range in materials from acrylic, ink, pigment on paper, to multidimensional cast and fabricated bronze. In Taos, he will be working with the DreamTree Project in installing up to three murals in our community. Stay tuned for more details.

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