Albuquerque-based Artful Life will facilitate a series of public discussions on controversial monuments in Santa Fe as part of a process that city officials hope will lead to reconciliation.

The City Council unanimously approved a contract with the organization late Wednesday, more than nine months after protesters toppled the Plaza obelisk during a demonstration on Indigenous Peoples Day.

”There are no safety rails to democracy,” Mayor Alan Webber said before the vote. “Democracy is an experiment that has to be proven every single day, and tested and affirmed every day. We do that by participating in this process, by proving that Santa Fe can rise to this occasion, the ways we’ve done in the past by putting our best selves forward.”

Webber spearheaded the Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process, which will include public meetings, fact-finding and peer-to-peer feedback.

The framework is modeled after a similar process that took place in Albuquerque, though Artful Life had no role in that process.

Artful Life is led by Valerie Martinez, Santa Fe’s former poet laureate, and Jenice Gharib, grants program and policy director for New Mexico Arts, the state arts agency.

The group describes itself as an “organization dedicated to transformational change through the beauty and power of creative collaboration.”

Santa Fe has budgeted around $265,000 for the CHART process.

Members of the public raised concerns over Martinez’s claims of having Diné and Pueblo ancestry, but she said Wednesday she was not affiliated with any Indigenous groups.

Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler questioned Martinez about her involvement in the city’s decision to end the Entrada, a controversial pageant that commemorated the Spanish reclaiming Santa Fe from Native Americans in 1692.

Martinez said she became involved in that process after the decision was made to drop the Entrada.

Councilor Renee Villarreal raised questions about Martinez’s mother, who serves on the city’s Arts Commission, and any potential conflict of interest.

Pauline Kanako Kamiyama, director of the city’s Arts and Culture Department, said Martinez’s mother did not serve on the selection committee.

Councilor Michael Garcia raised questions about a meeting between Webber and Artful Life and the public perception of bias surrounding the selection process.

“This proposal has only created more division within our community, which is saddening,” Garcia said. “This is a process that should be bringing us together, but to hear people say things like, ‘Your voice is not being heard,’ it’s really having me question are we getting this process right.”

Webber said he reached out to Artful Life after the selection committee recommended the group facilitate the CHART process. He said he wanted to discuss how the group intended to introduce itself to the city and rebuked Garcia for what he said was an attempt to impugn his ethics.

”When you say we are giving the appearance of bias, there is no appearance of bias that took place,” Webber said. “What you are creating is the appearance of bias, rather than detecting it, and insofar as you attempt to impugn my integrity, I simply find that unacceptable.”

Councilor Signe Lindell said she didn’t see anything as being predetermined.

“I don’t know what we call success or failure and what the outcome of this is,” Lindell said. “Is this the right process? We don’t know, but we have identified this process, and it took a lot of time doing it, and I think it deserves our commitment to work as hard as we can at it to see where it does take us.”

(8) comments

Kiki Martinez

This already sounds like a set up. More bad politics and you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Wow.

Richard Reinders

What is the CHART process? (Santa Fe)

Joe Brownrigg

I have studied years of editorial manipulation on an interview. I have studied deception and baseless claims. I have studied changing the subject in order to avoid a genuine issue. I have studied the careful misdefinition of terms and processes.

This video does it all.

At the very least, pay attention to the editing.

Richard Reinders

Let the Nuremburg trials begin, Webber and the Council are blind if they don't think this is divisive and racist. It is a sad day in Santa Fe, it is the beginning of the end for the culture.

Joe Brownrigg

Richard, this is spurious on your part. You've offered NO facts to back up any of your attack. You have an obligation to present reasoned arguments, not unfounded attacks.

This process might or might not bring reconciliation. I have my misgivings, but I'm willing to give it a try. I'm not excusing or supporting anything Alan Webber has done or said. But let's give it a genuine try. Please.

Richard Reinders

The purpose of CHART is to look at all monuments and judge what they represent so they can be removed, and now the process is even more removed from the public by shopping it out to Abq. I don’t trust any move Webber and his council does. You are welcome to believe what you want. But historically Webber has gone behind the public back in his decisions to remove monuments. A leopard doesn’t change his spots. He has an agenda.

Joe Brownrigg

Richard, you have not responded to my previous post.

This is NOT the purpose of CHART. Do some honest homework.

Stefanie Beninato

Thanks, Joe. I have to say that Valerie Martinez's presentation was very slick and well practiced as to her heritage and the "guilt" she carries. I understand there were only two applicants who met certain requirements but if you saw the RFP you would understand why--I think it was at least 65 pages and required immense documentation of different sublayers which I am not sure anyone could provide before being selected.

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