Public protests couldn’t save the mural.

Neither could a recent federal court appeal.

But a local businessman intent on finding a way to preserve artist Gilberto Guzman’s mural in downtown Santa Fe has appealed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to buy him some time to do just that.

Joe Schepps, president and co-owner of the Inn on the Alameda, has paid for a California-based restoration expert to come to Santa Fe to review the mural and see if it can be saved — and if so, how.

“I’m in a race to stop it from being washed away,” Schepps said. “It’s worth a compromise even at the 11th hour.”

Schepps placed a paid ad in The New Mexican Wednesday asking Lujan Grisham to step in and “allow time for this professional attempt to preserve the mural. Construction does not need to be halted.”

He said he also hand-delivered a copy of that letter to the Governor’s Office on Monday.

The Halpin Building, on which the 40-year-old mural is painted, is scheduled to be renovated and turned into the Vladem Contemporary, a modern art branch of the New Mexico Museum of Art.

The decision to remove the mural as part of changes to the building has been a source of controversy, with opponents saying it is an example of cultural disrespect and the gentrification of the city.

Scott Haskins, president and head of conservation efforts for the California-based Fine Arts Conservation Laboratories, said by phone Schepps has contracted with his company to have a conservationist examine the mural and determine whether it can be stabilized and restored.

But he and Schepps said that plan depends on whether the state Department of Cultural Affairs, which is overseeing the museum effort, agrees to let Haskins’ company review the project. Schepps said that expert is scheduled to arrive Wednesday and can visit the site Thursday. Haskins said his expert would probably only need “a couple of hours” at the site.

A spokesman for the Department of Cultural Affairs in an email Wednesday suggested that would be unlikely.

“The process of determining that it cannot be preserved involved several years of assessments under the prior administration as well as the current one,” spokesman Daniel Zillman wrote. “The state appreciates the intentions of members of the community seeking a different path, but the architectural, construction, and budgetary facts of the situation require this resolution.”

He added “neither the Museum of Art nor the Department of Cultural Affairs have been contacted by any third-party seeking access to the site.”

Schepps said Wednesday that while he did speak to a foreman at the construction site, he had not reached out to the Department of Cultural Affairs. He said he planned to do so.

So far, all efforts to save the mural have failed. A federal judge in Albuquerque recently declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would halt the removal of the mural, saying the artist’s petition failed to meet the criteria for such a measure.

Guzman’s federal lawsuit seeking permanent protection for the mural and ownership interests under the Visual Rights Act is still pending, according to court records. But U.S. District Judge Kea W. Riggs’ ruling means the mural’s future is tenuous while the lawsuit works its way through the legal system.

Theresa Sanchez, a friend of Guzman’s who has become his spokeswoman, said she still holds on to a slim hope the court could step in to either preserve the mural or allow Guzman to create a new one, with the help of other artists, for the new museum. “We’re just pleading one more time, please revisit this,” she said.

Schepps, who has lived in Santa Fe for 50 years and who has been involved in fundraising and restoration efforts in the Railyard in the past, first got interested in preserving the mural early in 2020.

“I think this new building [museum] needs this mural,” he said. “It anchors it to the Railyard.”

He said if any effort to preserve the mural is initiated based on the California conservation expert’s report, he would find a way to raise funds for the restoration project.

In the interim, construction is underway at the Halpin Building, and a large tarp has been placed over the mural.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(29) comments

James Rutherford

This is how a city is supposed to take care of its cultural/artistic heritage: https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/mural-restoration-at-the-watts-towers-arts-center

Nicole Panter Dailey

Mr. Rutherford,

The link you shared is for a crowdfunding site. Not "a city taking care of its cultural/artistic heritage." So no, there is no equivalence.

Angel Ortiz

Let's be honest, the destruction of this mural is the result of big business and our Government moving forward without caring about the historical cultural value of our community. Something referred to as gentrification. Gerald Peters took our local downtown and others have followed. While many of us can place the blame on outside business interests selling out our community, those of us who can actually identify as locals are to blame. We are not taking care of our culture. This begins with educating ourselves, our children and fighting to keep our traditions and culture safe from those who do not value what has been here for decades.

Nicole Panter Dailey

Where was the community concern for the mural as it sat degrading (in plain view of all) beyond repair for 30 years? Why is Mr. Schepps making this grandstanding gesture long after the last possible moment has passed? Is the idea that conservationists will keep being hired until someone finally says "yes, I can save it?" after all the "no, it's too far gone" assessments? It's not like this matter has been a secret for the last few years. And let's say, if it cost $2,000,000 to save it, will Mr. Schepps pony up the dough? This argument is about so much more than a mural, which nobody bothered to take care of during its lifetime.

Rick Martinez

I have asked for a simple resolution from our Mayor and City Council also County Commissioners to support the mural and still no response. But they can write resolutions for all kinds of other issues that have nothing to do with the community and our voices. Also I reached out to our State Representatives and Senators who to my knowledge have a bigger voice has to what happens to state property which the mural sits on. Once again dead silence.

The big question is are bureaucrats in charge because right now no one is listening not even our elected officials. I thought we had their ear - turns out all they want is a big campaign donation.

Carmen M

Looks like a lost cause despite commitment of so many who seek to preserve the mural.

Perhaps Mr Guzman could be contracted by his many supporters to design new mural on city property. Private funds and community labor.

Steve Gonzales

It’s a crumbling, ugly piece from a non-local artist. This is hardly a loss of “our culture.” Good riddance.

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

Sloan Cunningham

[spam]

Paul Davis

35 years is a long time for a painted mural to last *anywhere*. It's a very long time in a climate that is so unforgiving to paint.

If you want to make art that will last for centuries, do it in stone or metal or maybe glass. Wood too, if it will be indoors.

I don't think that anybody who understands art (and the mural process) expects a outdoor painted mural to last for more than a few decades. I don't know why this expectation has grown. Sure, you can "restore" them if you really want to, but I'd prefer to give the present get a chance to creates its own visions.Art isn't supposed to be a static never-changing thing, and you can double that for outdoor painted murals anywhere. Change is the only constant thing in this world, and if you try to fight that, you're going to lose. That doesn't mean that all change is good, but the default assumption shouldn't be "we must preserve what already is".

Richard Reinders

Spoken like a true outsider that just doesn't get it, for the locals it is like losing a hand and has more meaning for what was happening at the time it was painted and yes it can be cleaned up and touched up for a long time

Paul Davis

It's nothing to do with being an insider or an outsider. Only a xenophobic person would cast in such a light. If you can't argue with someone's ideas, just call them a "true outsider" and wash your hands. It's pathetic. You think Santa Fe is the only place with heritage? That it's the only place that has to deal with change?

It's interesting how you use the term "locals" to make an implicit claim that everybody born here shares the same opinion, which they do not.

As to the people who feel that losing this mural is like losing a hand, then I'm sorry, but I think that their understanding of public fixed-placement outdoor art is shaped more by their own wishes than by reality. Cities put up art all the time that will not last forever.

Now, I understand that some people *want* the mural to be restored and retained, and that's a legitimate feeling. But that's also a political/development decision, and when such decisions are made, there's almost always a group of people who disagree with the outcome. They may have legitimate complaints about the process (they might also have some not-so-legitimate complaints).

That's a very different story than the angle that what is going with the mural is somehow unusual, that the default is that outdoor painted murals always last into perpetuity, that once created a piece of public art can never be removed.

Richard Reinders

Are you from another country? xenophobic meaning "having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries". Not only am I not local my heritage is from another country, but I understand what has been happening to the Heritage of the Spanish people in Santa Fe and whether you see it or not it is another attack..

Paul Davis

Xenophobic does not exclusively mean "fear of people from another country". Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:

"fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign"

Here's dictionary.com:

1. an aversion or hostility to, disdain for, or fear of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers:

2. fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself

Traditional (particularly pre-industrial) heritage is under attack all around the planet. While there are almost certainly unique elements to that process in Santa Fe, the overall story is playing out in depressingly similar ways no matter where it happens.

So instead of taking the approach that this is about protecting "the heritage of the Spanish people in Santa Fe" (an intriguiging angle given the mural's title), why not face it down for precisely what it is: the continuing struggle between those with power/wealth and those without it.

This isn't an attack on Spanish heritage, any more than it's an attack on native American heritage or Anglo culture. It's a move by those with money that stems from their belief that they should be able to do pretty much whatever they want. It just so happens that this time it has in its targets a piece of work seen to be representing local culture. Does the money care? I don't believe it does.

Nicole Panter Dailey

I'm a local and I find it a crumbling eyesore that no one cared about (and if they did they were awfully silent about it). Had the community actually done something to preserve this mural, it would be a different story. This is red meat for the "us" against "them" peanut gallery who is always happy to weigh in, but never shows up to do any of the heavy lifting.

Angel Ortiz

[spam]

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

Angel Ortiz

[thumbup]

Claudia Chavez

Thank you Joe! You’ve always worked with and respected the Barrio Guadalupe Community.

Richard Reinders

About the artist and the mural from Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories - Story by Nancy Dahl

For the full story: https://sflivingtreasures.org/index.php/treasures/287-guzman-gilberto.html

Gilberto Guzman

1985 New Mexico Magazine article, he said,

“Harvest shows people picking fruit and gathering vegetables on one side of the wall and on the other shows people picking roses. This represents the balance of life that is so important and that art can provide. It’s a dream I have, to get that balance between the beauty and the bodily needs of life. Art is what provides the beauty and makes it more possible for people to obtain a balance in their lives.”

“I never wanted to be famous. I don’t have the temperament for that—it’s really like having a second job. I just wanted to paint. I never expected to exhibit, much less make a living at it. Selling your art can stop your creativity. I think it’s good to work at other things to support yourself.

“I tell the young bloods that being a painter is not a business. It’s an attitude, a way of elevating your life to a higher level and being a better person. I tell them to be patient, and worry about the work, not about the dollars.”

Gilberto’s art is not only beautiful and accessible, but teaches us and reminds us of our connections to each other, to our community and to the world.—murals link us to life and celebrate who we are. His murals are both uplifting and instructive and add beauty and joy to our public spaces and buildings. He reflects the legacy and heritage of what makes Santa Fe so special.

Sloan Cunningham

[thumbup]

Al Chavez

A shot of the mural should be part of this story.

Alexander Brown

Losing this Mural is stupid. Then there's the faded but excellent Krigstein (?) mural on the old Empire Builders on Cerrillos Rd , Let's make a list of all the other murals around town to be restored and preserved .

Lisa Wooldridge

Agreed. These are part of our history and should not be lost.

BARRY SILVER

what's the rush? so, where is our appreciation for santa fe history now? if joe is having a professional in for one last look, why not? that mural, only 40 years old, represents santa fe as an arts center, & the revered tradition of the mexican muralists' school of painting as interpreted north of the border. and in 100 years it will be 140 years old. then our descendants will be protesting the removal of such an important vestige of santa fe's history.

in a town where manana doesn't mean tomorrow, but just not today, where's the harm in giving a few more days or a couple of weeks to revisit

the plan. ours is the luxury of not having to move at warp speed.

Stefanie Beninato

Given the H Board meeting to review the Vladim Contemp Art Museum occurred at least the summer before COVID (2019) and maybe the year before that--it is not exactly warp speed.

Stefanie Beninato

The Empire Bldg is a private bldg. I am sure someone could buy it and preserve the mural--but why should that be a city responsibility?

Nicole Panter Dailey

and who will pay the restorations costs?

Lee Vigil

[thumbup]

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.