Creating the Perfect Santa Fe

Solemates, Acrylic on Canvas, by Mark Frossard, 2010

A great deal of ink and shutter snaps have been expended by writers and photographers in their efforts to capture the vivid allure of Santa Fe. The latest effort we ran across was “Celebrate Santa Fe” a piece published in Destinations Travel Magazine.

I’m a bit wary of outsiders’ assessments of Santa Fe, or of any city I know well.  Example: a recent Wall Street Journal piece labeling the Albuquerque area near Gertrude Zachary’s “Castle” –an area which includes the Elements Urban Townhomes, a desirable Green Development– as “Skid Row” and “derelict” is an egregious example of the distorted lens of distance.  But Darlene Perrone’s piece rings true in the main. As she says at the start, “There is no place on earth like Santa Fe….”


A little over a year ago, Zane Fischer, writer for the Santa Fe Reporter (Zane’s World), wrote a column entitled Mirror, Mirror.  In it, he said:

“On the whole, it appears the time is right for Santa Fe to head into the New Year understanding that accolades from travel magazines are nice, but clear-eyed assessments of how to move into the future are nicer. All of us need to consider the short- and long-term paths to maintaining the city’s integrity and character while positioning it as a genuine center for creative innovation.”

Accolades are nice.  We get a lot of them. But what’s more important than plaudits based on surveys and dreamy sketches by swing-through visitors is a healthy self regard.  Santa Fe isn’t perfect, but it is genuinely and deeply creative. Entities such as the Santa Fe Complex, a matrix of interdisciplinary cross-pollination, show this small town’s remarkable reach for innovative action.

On Monday, I read a piece Creating the Perfect City is About Illusions, Such As Shorter Blocks about a grassroots urban planner working to make his city more vibrant and liveable. Anthony Lyons, the planner, and David Green, an urban designer from Perkins+Will, have teamed up “to re-imagine how we address the challenges cities face in the coming decades.”  They started with the simple question, “What kind of city do we want to be?”

So how ’bout it Santa Fe: what kind of city do we want to be? Through Changing Gallery and this blog, I regularly cast my votes in support of emerging and independent artists and musicians.  Joshua Maes and I are also, through lifestyle, affiliations and advocacy, supporters of sustainability and Green initiatives. There’s a hot debate about incentives for the film industry, and bills under consideration covering education, energy, marriage and many other issues core to our civic identity. What do you think?


  1. says

    What a great post, Malissa! (Not that that’s a surprise given your writing abilities.)

    My hat is off to you for asking the question; it’s all too easy to think everyone knows the question, when in fact everyone waits for someone else to start the conversation. Communities so desperately need people who, like you in this post, continue to bring the questions back to the fore.

    A lot of this makes sense to me having grown up in a place–Cleveland–with an astonishing wealth of culture, history, business and talent but little common vision, almost no sense of “who we are.” As a result, Cleveland never took its spot, at least in the popular mind, among the great cities. Places become great when their residents decide they want them to be great. I think Clevelanders always felt that was snobby, but it’s a fine line between humility and invisibility.

    Anyway, keep up the heroic work here! I look forward to seeing where the discussion leads.

  2. Malissa Kullberg says

    “Places become great when their residents decide they want them to be great.” YES. Granted, there’s a lot of work that must follow upon the decision, but I respect the power of that first step. We have ongoing opportunities –through expressing our opinions on pending bills and donating our time and money, to name two avenues– to cast our vote as to the kind of city we want Santa Fe to be. I empathize with Cleveland’s reticence to toot its horn. I admire that Midwestern modesty. Yet cities pay a heavy price for silence and resignation. Detroit has been beaten badly by the economy, but check out this piece from Grist which supports, with myriad specifics, Detroit’s will to thrive. Where would Detroit’s residents be if they gave up?

    I envision Santa Fe as a dynamo of creative intelligence that attracts and retains young people, celebrates a broad spectrum of art and music, is a center for Green jobs and innovation, and continues to enjoy a strong presence by the film industry. Is there a gap between that vision and where we are now? There is, but I have high hopes that my little town can write its own glossy future.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *