A Block of Contemporary: Vladem Partnerships Highlight Joint Education
This summer, with the opening of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Vladem Contemporary, two of the Southwest’s premier contemporary art venues will anchor opposing ends of Santa Fe’s Railyard Art’s District—the Vladem Contemporary to the north and SITE Santa Fe to the south.
A new alliance between these contemporary art powerhouses features joint educational programs, enhancing the Vladem Contemporary’s outreach to Santa Fe schoolchildren. Student field trips will visit both institutions simultaneously. Also long in the works are partnerships between the Vladem Contemporary and the neighboring Jean Cocteau Cinema and New Mexico School for the Arts.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our communities to experience a diverse array of contemporary art all within the range of a single block,” says SITE Santa Fe’s Phillips Executive Director Louis Grachos.
New Mexico Museum of Art Executive Director Mark White says that viewing contemporary art can be “an amazing learning experience for students that will challenge them to reflect upon some of the problems of modern society.” He points to a recent study from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art stating that “the challenging nature of many contemporary artworks and ideas can be used to stimulate the curiosity that is natural in children.”
Christian Waguespack, Museum of Art curator of 20th century art, adds, “Our greater focus on the contemporary, made possible by the opening of the Vladem, and our collaboration with SITE, will go a long way towards familiarizing school groups with contemporary art, fostering a new generation of art lovers.”
One highlight of the Vladem Contemporary is a dedicated education space, which is lacking at the historic downtown Museum of Art location. Community accessibility to the classroom is a museum priority, allowing visitors to enter directly off the lobby, bypassing the admissions desk. More traditional art classes, such as photography and painting, will also be offered.
Chris Nail, Museum of Art head of education, says the initial focus will be on middle school students. “Coming from the digital generation, they might relate more to the abstraction, especially to video art, and the frequent references to popular imagery as seen in works by artists such as Jeff Koons or Judy Chicago.”
The SITE partnership, Nail continues, “has reinvigorated our programming” to the point that he envisions the museum eventually reaching out to schools and colleges throughout New Mexico. To that end, White says, “continued and additional private support is crucial, especially when it comes to transportation.”
Meanwhile, at the downtown Museum of Art location, educators are preparing for the upcoming exhibition With the Grain, on view March 8 to September 4. The exhibition explores the intimate relationship between modern and contemporary Hispanic carvers and their materials.
“It’s a team effort,” says curator Waguespack of his collaboration with museum educators. “Often, I will suggest certain things I would like to focus on and suggest people who I think would be good to bring in for a lecture or program. Just as often, they bring ideas to me. It’s an ongoing dialogue.”
With the Grain features three engagement stations, the first of which “identifies the types of trees [from which the carvers derive wood] and offers a take-away that’s part field guide and part art book,” says Nail. “The next station gets into envi-ronmental impacts. Following that is an installation about the carvers and their materials.”
Nail is also creating an exhibition-related presentation for Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows about wildfire modeling and the environmental impacts on wood that carvers use. He says that conversations with staff at the Brad-bury Science Museum have resulted in new ideas for future collaboration.
This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Spring 2023.