REPRESENTATION WITHOUT TAXATION LA TIENDA EXHIBIT SPACE
Imagine an art gallery where the artist walks away with a 100-percent return on sales. It’s a ludicrous notion, particularly in the high-stakes art market of Santa Fe. But that’s the arrangement at the La Tienda Exhibit Space, in the La Tienda business complex in Eldorado.
The 2,000-square-foot gallery is the brainchild of Destiny Allison — artist, gallery manager, and part owner of the commercial center. In August 2009, Allison, along with Steve Ewers and Josh Rigsby, purchased the struggling shopping and business complex and began to rethink its raison d’etre. “The philosophy of our venture began with three things we felt were missing in Eldorado — connection, convenience, and enrichment,” Allison said. “Every business in the center needs to offer at least one of those three. In addition, the center as a whole and every business in it needs to give back to the community by specifically doing or providing a community service. For example, SpinDoc — a bicycle supply store with indoor cycling facilities — has raised thousands for Doctors Without Borders, while Barn Dogs — a horse supply, ranch- and work-wear place — is a sponsor of The Horse Shelter in Cerrillos.”
The not-for-profit gallery grew out of Allison’s vision for a sculpture park. “Having an art center at La Tienda was part of the original plan, as well as a sculpture park. After the EX.EX V exhibition at La Tienda in December 2009, we realized that our concept was shortsighted and decided to move the exhibit space forward instead,” she said. “The gallery itself is not a lucrative business venture. With some serious planning and implementation, as well as the support of the community through contributions, we believe it will eventually break even. We believe very strongly in this project, and the reality is, it’s good for La Tienda too. The exhibits bring traffic to the center, build community goodwill, and provide a kind of advertising that we could not buy for what it costs us to run the space. Ideally, it will eventually pay a reasonable rent and cover its own expenses, but truthfully, that’s not our objective. As business owners, La Tienda is also required to give back to the community, and the exhibit space is one of the ways we do that.”
Although the gallery is not a moneymaker for Allison and her business partners, it should not be thought of as a co-op. Exhibits and artists change every four to six weeks, and as a general rule, artists must not be affiliated with a commercial gallery. They must also show in groups of four or more, and their work must be approved by an advisory board. Any New Mexico artist may submit work for consideration.
“I guess the best way to describe this is that the exhibit space is neither a co-op, a gallery, or a museum,” Allison said. “The objectives of the space are to promote economic development opportunities for New Mexico artists. Sometimes that just means letting an existing artist group organize and put on a show. Other times it means teaching artists the business of art and helping them through every step. But exhibiting artists are required to have an opening reception, share in promoting the exhibit, sit in the space for mutually agreed-upon hours, and return the space to its original condition. Artists are also required to donate a piece of art for our annual art auction to help support the space.” Hours for the gallery vary, depending upon artists’ schedules, but are posted for each exhibit.
The space has hit the ground running, with 12 exhibitions already completed and a full schedule in place for 2011. “We’re currently taking submissions for 2012, which shows a growing level of excitement and interest from artists from around the area,” Allison said. Jane Otten, a painter whose work was recently shown at La Tienda, concurs. “Being able to display my work in a large space right here in Eldorado has been an incredibly positive experience for me. Showing with other artists and gaining feedback from a cross-section of people is boosting my energy and impelling me back to the studio. What has struck me is the number of children and teenagers who have wandered in — with or without parents — and have genuinely been engaged by the work.” Artist Charlotte Scot sees the space as a teaching tool, as well as helpful to new artists. “Having a free exhibit space allows artists to invite galleries to see their work,” she said. “In addition, a number of people who have come through the gallery have been introducing their children to painting.”
Award-winning illustrator and painter Braldt Bralds — whose work has been featured in Time, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and National Geographic — is scheduled to exhibit at the gallery in February. “The gallery in Eldorado is a great and much-appreciated venue for artists who are not currently in a regional gallery, as well as for those who wish to go it on their own,” said the Netherlands-born artist. “I’ve always liked the creative juices that get flowing when you’re in command of your own destiny, and the art space offers just that.”
Now that it boasts 17 businesses, with another scheduled to open within two months, what’s next for the La Tienda complex? “That’s a difficult question,” Allison said. “We only have three vacant spaces left. We will, of course, stay true to our vision and our philosophy. We are only a year old — and what has been accomplished in that year, in this economy, is absolutely incredible. At the moment, our plan is to help the businesses succeed in every way we can, to grow and mature our community events, and to reach out in as many ways as we can to the community we serve. Down the road, who knows?”
– Douglas Fairfield
La Tienda Exhibit Space is at 7 Caliente Road, Suite A-6, off U.S. 285 in Eldorado; 428-0024.