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…to my good friend and amazing artist Sara Shawger, who opened a show of oils and pastels at Max’s Restaurant in Santa Fe last weekend.  I am always proud of my artist friends, but having a solo public openings is a spectacular accomplishment, particularly in such an artistically competitive place.

One of my goals for this blog is to explore some of my more random musings on art,  basically the thoughts that fall outside the parameters of my more formal research and casual conversations.  I spent last year collaboratively blogging on my research and the art scene in Santa Fe, and while this endeavor has fallen by the wayside (the idea of bouncing ideas off each other in an artistic/Socratic dialogue getting bogged down in the reality of two overly busy schedules – blog partnership is more complicated than I expected), I would still like to devote more brain cells to the art scene past, present, and future.   During summer vacation it’s obviously more difficult to ponder the nuances of material culture in an academic context – while this is my passion and the impetus for my research (and I’m itching to dive right back into it in the next few weeks).

Part of my disconnect has been a gradual disillusionment with the sometimes stagnant art environment in Santa Fe.  When I first moved here, I thrived on weekly Canyon Road art walks.  I felt energized and inspired to be soaking up the creative juices of the second largest U.S. art market.  After 3 years, I’m discouraged to note that I feel like I’m seeing those same openings over and over again, like Groundhog Day on Canyon Road.  It seems that the same niche genres (western figural, realistic western landscape, abstract western landscape) are being filled by the same artists in the manner of an assembly line to address the collecting desires of the wealthy masses.  Not to be cynical or anything.  I’m not even going to address the effects of the recession.

Working a show opening at my gallery reflects another aspect of the art market – the aging out of the traditional collector of historical western art.  I have only anecdotal evidence to indicate the statistics in the more contemporary galleries in Santa Fe and the rest of the country, but in this primarily historical market it’s easy to see from one glance around the room at our crowded opening last night that the crowd is aging rapidly, with no young collectors in sight.  What is the future of the Santa Fe art scene? Will efforts like SITE Santa Fe and Warehouse 21 inject some new blood into a market sadly in need of transfusion? And will I uncover an art scene a little more raw and creative in Albuquerque?

My summer vacation last week to visit family in Minnesota was not only a chance to contemplate my upcoming lifestyle changes, but also rethink the whole idea of what leisure time means.  In my mind, happiness is a sense of fulfillment and personal meaning, not “leisure” in the traditional sense.  Lying around reading glossy magazines (or the equivalent) holds very little appeal to me.  In this sense, my synopsis of full time studenthood to friends and family as a trial run for retirement (while obviously tongue-in-cheek) began to strike me with a bit of discomfort.  Retirement has both romanticized and derogatory connotations.  Does it even exist outside its mythical constructs as part of the “American Dream?”

Along these lines, J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly recently wrote an article on the shifting definitions of retirement.  Does it mean Financial Independence and the freedom from reliance on a paycheck, or does it mean the ability to engage in Flow-driven activities based on personal proclivities and dreams? In the sense that we are all seeking happiness (and if indeed happiness is defined by a sense of personal fulfillment) then the commonly accepted definition of retirement as ceasing one’s working life at the age of 65 seems like a true recipe for depression, most likely related to the anecdotes we hear so often about depressed and self-destructive lottery winners.

Over the past three years, I thought I was on top of my professional development.  I attended conferences, wrote articles and book reviews, and stayed actively involved in many associations and discussion lists.  However, now that I am again entering the world of independent contracting, I’m remembering just how much effort it takes to develop and maintain a professional brand.  A lot of that effort is brainstorming and prioritizing – there are so many options out there these days for online interaction, not just in the library/museum community, but integrating information professionals of all varieties.  I can’t join them all, so I have to be strategic.  My experience with the nepotistic nature of hiring in New Mexico has convinced me of the importance of networking and name recognition.

Along with new association memberships this year (AAM and the New Mexico Association of Museums), one of the new networks I’ve joined is LinkedIn.  I’ve shied away from it in the past because it seemed more like a redundant social network than a professional community, but I was convinced to join when my dad was recruited for his current job based on his profile.  Judging by the quality of discussions and member involvement in my groups, it is in fact a valuable networking tool.   I especially appreciate the discussions led by Kim Dority on LIS Career Options.  Here’s my profile in case anyone wants to join my network.

August 2010