Invaluable Partnerships: Historic Site Hosts Artists in Residence

Through its Art in Public Places program, New Mexico Arts, a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, commissions artists to create large-scale, site-specific projects throughout the state. By definition, these works are contemporary, even if they often refer to times in the near or distant past.

New Mexico Historic Sites is a frequent Art in Public Places partner. Art installations at the sites include works by artist Deborah Jojola (Isleta Pueblo/Jemez Pueblo) at Coronado Historic Site and by Sean Rising Sun Flanagan (Taos Pueblo) at both Jemez Historic Site and Fort Selden Historic Site. A collaborative project also debuted

during the reopening of Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site in May of 2022.

This summer, New Mexico Arts launches a second project at Bosque Redondo—an artist-in-residence program. Two separate residencies will bring two artists to live and work at the site.

“There’s nothing more contemporary, more of the moment, than works of art created by the artists selected to participate in our inaugural artist-in-residence program,” says Michelle LaFlamme-Childs, executive director of New Mexico Arts.

New Mexico Historic Sites Executive Director Patrick Moore describes the sites’ partnerships with other state agencies, Museum of New Mexico divisions, schools and universities. “They are invaluable,” he says. “They open new funding opportuni- ties, strengthen our programs, extend our programmatic reach while often lowering costs, and jointly create synergies to enhance marketing efforts.”

A selection committee considered the proposals for Bosque Redondo, judging how

well the artist addresses the shared history of communities surrounding the site. A public component to be shown upon the residency’s completion is also required.

“When words are not enough for storytelling, these visual artists will provide a voice to words long silenced by trauma," says site manager Aaron Roth, speaking to the tragic history of the Bosque Redondo, the reservation where Diné (Navajo) and N’de (Mescalero Apache) were forced to live from 1863 to 1868.

The first six-week residency was awarded to actor, screenwriter and film producer DezBaa’ Henderson (Diné) for a project on which she is working with her father, David Henderson (Diné). The elder Henderson, a Navy veteran and Los Alamos National Laboratory retiree, is currently enrolled as a film and digital media arts student at Northern New Mexico College.

DezBaa’ will edit six weeks’ worth of video of her father rediscovering his Diné heritage, as well as interviews with Bosque Redondo staff, Long Walk historians, medicine people and others in surrounding communities. The resulting short documentary will be on view for visitors to the site.

The second six-week residency was awarded to inter- disciplinary artist Dakota Mace (Diné). For her project, she, too, will explore themes of family lineage, community and identity. Her multidisciplinary, short-term installation will combine photography, video, audio and performance.

“My project will look at the importance of land and place,” says Mace, “the relationship that we, as Diné, still communicate with our ancestors and the memory or imprint they left within the land.”

LaFlamme-Childs says the inaugural year of the artist-in-residence program is fully funded with a $28,000 appropriation from the New Mexico State Legislature. With additional funds from the state and private sources via the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, she hopes to expand this program to other historic sites throughout the state.

Images: [Top]Desert Rabbit by Sean Rising Sun Flanagan (Taos Pueblo) at Fort Seldon Historic Site. Photo courtesy New Mexico Arts.  [Middle] A youth participates in an art project by artist Mark Host. Photo courtesy New Mexico Arts. [Bottom] Northern Deer by Sean Rising Sun Flanagan (Taos Pueblo) at Jemez Historic Site. Photo courtesy New Mexico Arts.


This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Summer 2022.