SANTA FE – It was a day of protest in Santa Fe on Saturday, and murals were the driving force.
At 11 a.m., about 100 activists gathered along Guadalupe Street in front of the Halpin Building, where artwork created by Gilberto Guzman in 1980 is about to be removed.
Guzman’s mural, titled “Multicultural,” is slated for elimination as the building is being transformed into the Vladem Contemporary art museum, a unit of the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Several speakers decried the loss of the mural, which was refurbished in 1990 and again needs renovation.
Theresa Sanchez, a friend of the artist, said many activists have approached both
the city of Santa Fe and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs to try to preserve the work, but that their efforts have failed.
She said the $4 million donation that gave the Vladem family of Chicago naming rights on the new contemporary art museum had eclipsed local, homegrown art.
Guzman’s mural is to be reproduced digitally by the state and projected on the side of the building, but some demonstrators expressed doubt that will happen.
The artist thanked those who gathered in front of the mural for their support. The event was organized by the 3 Sisters Collective and Hernan Gomez.
Some of those activists headed to a second rally, at 1 p.m., in favor of pro-Palestinian art pasted on a homeowner’s wall at the corner of Camino Lejo and Old Santa Fe Trail. The city has scheduled a hearing at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 to decide whether the art, which it alleges violates historic district standards, should be removed from an adobe wall outside the home of retired Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Guthrie Miller.
At the first protest, a microphone was passed around to give those who gathered an opportunity to share their thoughts. One speaker, Bianco Sopoci-Belknap, noted the irony of the two marches held Saturday.
“The city’s historic board takes a position against a blank adobe wall being modified with a temporary wheat-pasted mural by indigenous artist Remy, but the city is allowing the destruction of a beloved public art piece that tells an important story about our community’s history, values and culture,” she told the crowd. “What happened to the city’s supposed value for historic preservation?”
On Camino Lejo, Santa Fe police arrived at about 2 p.m. – but not because of crowd unrest. The reason for their presence? Many of the 50 or so people rallying in favor of the pro-Palestinian art had parked in the First Baptist Church of Santa Fe’s lot on Old Pecos Trail. Police said this was not allowed.
One young man who identified himself as of indigenous heritage sported a Palestinian scarf. Michaei Butler said he saw parallels between the reservations that Native Americans were forced to live on by the U.S. government and the Palestinian camps in Israel.
“This is a big issue, and I’m glad that artists are calling attention to it,” he said.