Every year, all nine City of Santa Fe Arts Commissioners take their seats in the Nambé Room in the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and launch a two-day public adjudication marathon. On the other side of the table are leading and emerging (but mostly leading) nonprofit arts organizations seeking a chunk of the city’s arts-related grant money, which is largely supplied through the 1% Lodgers’ Tax. During these sessions, commissioners review applicants’ organizational business models, promotional efforts, and the caliber of their artistic output. When voicing their individual assessments, they rarely mince words.
“I think giving constructive feedback is part of the arts. Anybody in the arts has to become accustomed to constructive criticism,” Debra Garcia y Griego said. The native Santa Fean was appointed director of the Arts Commission last year. Unlike the commissioners, Garcia y Griego is a full-time city employee and has no vote in the granting process. She said that the tradition of offering feedback during the public adjudication sessions has existed all of her nearly 15 years as an Arts Commission employee. (I witnessed this tradition personally while attending the April 2011 public meetings as a Center for Contemporary Arts volunteer.)
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