SFUAD Shines at AHA
People tend have many preconceived notions regarding art, and specifically, art students. But SFUAD students have always, as several university advertisements and the school Pinterest proclaim, “unconformed” to the rules, and proved it this past weekend at the AHA Festival, putting on a fantastic showing of their multidisciplinary talents and communal support for university and local Santa Fe artists alike.
Visitors to Sunday’s 4th annual AHA Festival for Progressive Arts on Sept. 14 were greeted by a row of white stalls, each containing a different artist and medium, each eager to interact with the crowd. A woman walked around on stilts. An exhibit called the Squart-O-Mat distributed small goodies such as temporary knuckle tattoos. Flamingo Pink crooned songs while listeners “sketched what they heard.” People yelled and waved to old friends while getting to know new ones. Vendors sold their wares. Pieces of paper stapled to wooden posts read #ahafestival and #howtosantafe.
If there is indeed a way to “Santa Fe,” AHA undoubtedly has it down pat.
AHA, which stands for After Hours Alliance, was originally founded and organized in 2010 by Shannon Murphy in an attempt to elevate Santa Fe’s after-hours activities through music and art. In an email, Murphy expressed that one of the goals of the festival and the After Hours Alliance is to engage local university students, specifically artists.
Many SFUAD students participated in the festival, such as Keynan Johnson, a senior performing arts major, who attended the event with his Interdisciplinary Arts class for an assignment.
“We wanted to answer the question ‘what is a collective’, so we put together bags full of pieces of art to give to the public that we think answers that question,” he says, pulling out a brown paper bag, No. 28 of 100, to demonstrate. Inside the bag are a multitude of miniature art pieces, such as a chip off the SFUAD campus graffiti walls, an origami paper crane and a beaded keychain.
“The bags went really quickly, we finished giving them out within 10 minutes,” Johnson says, clearly enthused about the public’s reaction to the project.
Local musical talent, including SFUAD bands the Sex Headaches and campus darlings Venus and the Lion, book-end the festival from two stages at opposite ends of the Railyard, generating a maelstrom of riffing guitars and soaring vocals. Patrons cheered from the nearby outdoors patio of Second Street Brewery, relaxing and enjoying the music.
Several SFUAD alum also made a showing at the festival, among them Rebecca Alvarez, a recent graduate of the graphic arts program. Her project involved a collection of letterpresses made from different materials, such as Plexiglass, that portrayed various words and phrases.
“It’s inspired by a letter I wrote to an anonymous person, about questions I have for certain people that I wouldn’t ask them in person,” Alvarez explains.
Further down, members of the SFUAD dance program performed a piece by guest choreographer Micaela Gardner that was created especially for this event. The silent dancers, accompanied by Louis Armstrong’s La Vie en Rose, mesmerized the crowd with their liquid movements, putting the observer in mind of a classic silent movie.
“I wanted it (the piece) to have a domestic shopping quality to it,” says Gardner, following the final performance of the afternoon. “I created a pathway moving throughout the area, I had the dancers manipulate the gravel as if it was a chore, so there was a very domestic quality.”
Gardner also had high praise for the students she worked with. “They were super lovely. Great dancers, great kids.”
Many SFUAD faculty were also involved, such as Dana Levin of the Creative Writing department, who collaborated with local poet Christopher Johnson to create a Poetry Poet-Tree. Festival patrons responded to opening lines of verse written on fabric tree branches by contributing their own verses on fabric leaves. A few stalls down, Julia Goldberg, also of the Creative Writing department, interviewed festival patrons.
Although this is only its 4th year on the Santa Fe art scene, the AHA festival brings a fresh take on art and music to the community, and gives students and local artists an excellent chance to showcase their work and talents.