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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?

I rode my bike out to Lamy yesterday, about 8 miles south.  It’s a tiny little town with a railroad depot, dining car restaurant, and railroad/history museum.  I started a conversation with the director of the museum, and he immediately mentioned that they are looking for volunteers.  When he found out I’m getting my MLIS degree, he exclaimed “That’s exactly what we need! Someone to catalog our library!” So I got a tour of the collection, mostly historical books about trains.  They mostly have books and a few videos, and no kind of organizational system whatsoever.  Of course, against my better judgment my inner cataloger was reflexively inching towards the books, murmuring “must catalog and apply subject headings…” It wouldn’t even take all that much time to organize it in a very basic way, but for now my better judgment prevailed and I politely declined.  If I have some free time later in the summer I may head back to Lamy.

In the meantime, I have started my internship at the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center/Library.  I really enjoy working with Eumie, and she is grateful for my “expertise” with automated ILS systems (I realize that’s redundant, but it just sounds silly to say “ILSs”).  Eumie started out working at MOMA and is quite active in the ARLIS community.  She is a great contact to have here, and even mentioned wanting to add a librarian position in the research center (fingers crossed, and drooling a bit).  Though I haven’t worked with the Ex Libris Voyager system in the past, I figure it’s similar enough to Millennium that I should be able to figure things out.  Of course, I’ve never automated a serials and acquisitions system from scratch, either.  That’s the learning curve – a daunting but interesting challenge.

As I mentioned earlier, I had an interview this week for an Adult Services position in a public library. The process has been pretty intense – round one was a lengthy email questionnaire (more like an essay exam or MLS comps), round two was a phone interview, and round 3 is in-person interviews. This was my first experience with a phone interview, and it was a little rough. First of all, my cell phone reception is a little patchy out here. I’m not sure they could even hear all of my answers. The interviewers were using a speaker phone, making them sound as if they were trapped inside a tin can. I had to have questions repeated several times, which really cut into my concentration. The questions themselves were also not what I was expecting – I spent all morning preparing to discuss my qualifications and experiences relating to the position, and in fact the entire interview consisted of “what would you do if…” scenarios (such as “what would you do if you heard a coworker giving a patron misinformation?”) I hear these types of questions discussed all the time of nexgen and newlib, so they didn’t come as a surprise, but I wish I had more opportunity to showcase my knowledge and ideas. It seemed more or less a way to see how well I could think on my feet.

Today I met with Jenni James at the Institute of American Indian Arts to discuss my project. I’m really excited to be working with them on a digitization project from the ground up. She gave me a tour of the facility, which is quite new and impressive. They have a great collection of Native American art resources. Some of the instructors are pushing for teaching images, so they eventually want to get their slide collection digitized. Right now they have about 700 images scanned as tiffs, but with no accompanying thumbnail jpgs or metadata. The first order of business is to decide on an image cataloging system suitable for the needs of a small collection. Jenny mentioned the Image AXS system (freely available for non-commercial use and based on Microsoft Access), which I have not worked with before. I told her about my experience with CONTENTdm and the VRA Core, and I think my knowledge will be applicable to what they want to accomplish. It will be really great experience to create some original metadata using VRA Core – and also a great way to integrate my interests.

On a philosophical note, this summer is more than anything a personal exercise in embracing uncertainty. I realized I have become all too tethered to the limiting safety net of staying in one place longer than it suits me and settling for opportunities for security rather than fulfillment. I am uncertain about where this path will lead me, and that is frightening. But for once I am going to take that fear and transform it into momentum. I have the rest of my life to work, and I do not want to regret missed opportunities.

I finally reached my destination of Santa Fe, my vantage point for the next 2 months. The trip was long but fulfilling. I stayed with friends in Cortez, Colorado (just a hop skip and a jump from Mesa Verde) and got a “behind the scenes” tour of the Yucca House ruins from my friend who is an archaeologist. The ancient culture there, and around here, is just amazing. There are potsherds all over the ground and ruins everywhere. I am constantly reminded by the artistic and natural beauty around me why I am down here.

Yesterday I had my first interview (more about that later), and to bolster my courage and give me that tough librarian edge I applied one of my special library tattoos. Did it work? Maybe not, but I still look cool. I need whatever mojo I can get!

I drove into Santa Fe just minutes ahead of a ferocious thunderstorm. I’m choosing to take it as an augury of cosmic forces building to help me along in my journey rather than a foreboding message…

August 2020