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Creative Santa Fe wants to get us ‘fired up’

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry speaks at the Lensic on Dec. 4 to kick off The Santa Fe Nuclear Weapons Summit. (Associated Press)

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry speaks at the Lensic on Dec. 4 to kick off The Santa Fe Nuclear Weapons Summit. (Associated Press)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe has long been known for its past – but what about its future?

Creative Santa Fe is launching an effort called “Disruptive Futures” to try to get Santa Fe seen as a place where innovative thinkers come together from around the country and world to spark ideas about solutions to some of our most knotty problems.

Given that the atomic bomb had its birth in Los Alamos, it should be no surprise that The Santa Fe Nuclear Weapons Summit is the initiative’s first venture.

“This will bring some young, amazing people here,” said Cyndi Conn, CrSF executive director, of the 20 to 30 invitees to the summit, many of them thought leaders in their fields.

The three-day session will kick off with a public talk on Dec. 4, but the rest of the session will be limited to the invitees and the facilitators, who will include former CIA officer and author Valerie Plame, actor Farshad Farhat, data scientist Chris Diehl, theoretical physicist Geoffrey West and others.

Author Eric Schlosser.

Author Eric Schlosser.

The public event, 5 p.m. at the Lensic, will feature a dialogue with William J. Perry, former U.S. secretary of Defense, and author and filmmaker Eric Schlosser, whose most recent book, “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety,” has been produced as a documentary.

While the interactive sessions are expected to spark ideas and insights, which will be reported in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, according to Conn, she acknowledges that it’s unlikely a neat and tidy solution to the nuclear threat will emerge after three days.

But, she said, it might “get people fired up” and help them leave the event “with their eyes wide open about the issues.” Millennials, she added, referring to a four-minute film that will be shown at the opening of the event, really aren’t fully aware of the nuclear threat, the preponderance of weapons and the billions of dollars spent on them.

And the subtheme of the effort, she noted, is to raise Santa Fe’s visibility as a place where ideas are paramount and the future is happening now – perhaps in turn attracting young, ambitious entrepreneurs who will bring new energy to the city’s economy.

It’s not as if Santa Fe has lacked intellectual and artistic ferment.

The Santa Fe Institute attracts international scholars who come for residencies and conferences to interact with resident scholars focused on the ideas of complexity and how it is expressed in a variety of scientific fields. The School for Advanced Research attracts scholars in residence who give public talks on their intellectual explorations.

The Santa Fe Council on International Relations invites speakers who give their thoughts on pressing global issues. And scholars at St. John’s College offer a series of mind-boggling talks.

On the arts side, the Santa Fe Art Institute and the Institute of American Indian Arts offer residencies to cutting-edge and established artists, many of whose work addresses social issues. Down the road in opposite directions, Los Alamos National Laboratory conducts research in many fields besides weapons and United World College near Las Vegas, N.M., brings together students from around the world.

That’s just a sampling of the many groups Conn said Creative Santa Fe has been working with and hopes to bring together for an exchange of ideas.

While the December summit has only that one public event, something else is coming down the road that will be fully public: Beyond Borders Santa Fe, set for Oct. 13-15, 2017.

Unlike the nuclear summit, which arose from brainstorming among CrSF’s own team for approaches to bring young people into the city and grow its economy, next year’s event emerged from an inquiry from Beyond Borders Scotland.

That group has held festivals for a number of years that bring together people in the arts, science, politics, diplomacy and more to focus on strategies for conflict resolution. It includes not just lectures and participant discussions, but also a series of performances, exhibits, outdoor events, and even yoga and meditation.

When Beyond Borders Scotland wanted to expand its reach, it approached the city of Santa Fe – and that was because its organizers know former Gov. Bill Richardson, who referred them to Santa Fe’s mayor, who suggested they talk with Creative Santa Fe, Conn said.

“It will be an immersive experience, with many hands-on activities,” she said, adding that details of Beyond Borders Santa Fe are still being developed. Decisions are yet to be made on what topics would be the focus or how events would be ticketed.

But when the Journal brought up topics such as worries over immigration and concerns that some Native Americans have raised over celebration of the Spanish reconquest of Santa Fe, Conn noted that these would be the types of things the festival might involve.

While CrSF has done work in the past on issues such as affordable housing for people working in creative fields, Conn said, “Infrastructure is important, but we feel we needed to do something really bigger, to shift the perception of Santa Fe, and to attract a different demographic and the types of leaders and businesses we want to attract.”

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