NEW SPACES, NEW MEXICO

Nonprofit Vital Spaces converts Santa Fe's empty buildings into art spaces

Shortly after it rented a space a downtown property at 220 Otero Street in March last year, Vital Spaces has set its sights on more spaces throughout Santa Fe. (Shayla Blatchford)

Vital Spaces, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico is dedicated to the adaptive reuse of local vacant buildings into spaces for art events, exhibitions, and studios. Local real estate investor Jonathan Boyd was inspired to establish Vital Spaces after observing the city’s overwhelming number of empty spaces, high rent, and underrepresentation of the area’s younger and Native artists. “We see the lack of affordable spaces in Santa Fe as the biggest threat to sustaining a diverse cultural environment,” the organization’s website claims.

In 2017, Boyd had several productive meetings with the organizers of Chashama, a similarly-minded organization based in New York City founded by actress Anita Durst that has secured over one million square feet for local artists. Since moving into a downtown property in Santa Fe in March of last year and establishing a midtown exhibition space shortly thereafter, Vital Spaces has made a significant presence within the local art community in a remarkably short amount of time. But its biggest breakthrough came this month after signing the lease to the campus of the former Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and the College of Santa Fe.

A collection of red adobe buildings now owned by Vital Spaces

The Santa Fe University of Art and Design includes a series of interconnected buildings designed by Ricardo Legoretta. (Wikipedia Commons)

The 64-acre campus, which includes a series of interconnected buildings designed by famed Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta, has been sitting empty since May 2018, following the university’s closure. This gave Boyd time to consider how the campus could become Vital Spaces’ most significant contribution to the local art scene yet. Currently, the organization has plans to use the campus in-part to one day provide four- to-six art studio spaces and a large exhibition area, with the hopes of bringing in other organizations to curate shows and propose a wide range of uses for the site.

Until the campus project is finalized, however, Vital Spaces will continue to focus its energy on the city’s smaller vacant properties, starting this Fall with the use of vacant storefronts throughout downtown Santa Fe as displays for the work of local artists. “When we give artists space,” reads Vital Spaces’ mission statement, “we breathe life into our communities with innovative artistic programming that inspires Santa Feans of all ages and backgrounds; we bring economic vitality to those communities; we raise Santa Fe’s profile on the national art stage.”

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