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Inside view: ‘The People’s House’ showcases art in governor’s mansion

Santa Fe-based filmmaker Jaima Chevalier at a premiere at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe. (Courtesy of Jaima Chevalier)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Venue Plus continues “In Case You Didn’t Know,” a weekly feature with fun tidbits about New Mexicans and their projects.

Though Jaima Chevalier was born in Santa Fe, she feels like an outsider at times.

Over the years, she’s spent time trying to understand the nexus of the various cultures in the state.

The drive is what led her to a career in film as a storyteller.

It took a pandemic to free up time for her to complete a project she had been working on for years.

Chevalier recently finished a 16-minute short film called “The People’s House.”

The film is a virtual look at the governor’s mansion.

“I got permission from the governor to shoot inside the mansion,” she says. “It was only me, because of COVID restrictions. The governor was never there at the same time. It was shooting in isolation.”

Today’s governor’s mansion is the third location where New Mexico governors have resided.

Chevalier says people don’t realize that the mansion is the people’s house.

“The artwork belongs to all of us,” she says. “Even though it’s small, the collection is a wonderful cross section of key artists in New Mexico. It’s not a huge museum tour, but it gives a wonderful history lesson.”

Chevalier has collected video footage for years. She also dived deep into the photo archives of museums to tell a complete story.

Of course, when it came to collaborating with a narrator, she was able to lock in Santa Fe-based writer Hampton Sides.

Jaima Chevalier, center, directs a shoot from the roof of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. (Courtesy of Brian Fishbine)

“New Mexico culture is reflected inside the mansion,” she says. “There’s enough pieces that you can just commune with each piece of art. A committee picked out the 10 basic pieces that should be highlighted.”

Chevalier has been at the helm of various documentaries over the years, including “Veiled Lightning,” which explores the culture of protest in Native America and beyond, as seen through the lens of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

“I’ve always been interested in telling authentic stories that include all sides,” she says. “It’s important that we keep telling the stories.”

Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Chevalier:

1 “There are very few people who have been under the cathedral in the crawl space. I am one of the few women who have been there, and it was in 2009, when we were filing the documentary “El Coraz√≥n.”

2 “I collected over 350 hours of footage as part of a team when we worked on ‘Veiled Lightning.’ It included interviews with eight different Native communities in New Mexico and Arizona.”

3 “My first home was the basement of the Laboratory of Anthropology on Museum HIll. My dad was a janitor there. He was a starving artist, and the museum used to have the artists living there as caretakers.”

4 “Funding is an issue for work in the documentary world. We made this film for nothing. Yet we are still able to tell a complete story with the film.”

5 “I’ve had various film premieres at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, Violet Crown Cinema, Jean Cocteau Cinema, The Screen, The KiMo Theatre and New Mexico’s History Museum. I can die happy.”

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