Santa Fe’s former poet laureate wins National Book Award

Arthur Sze, Santa Fe’s first poet laureate, won a 2019 National Book Award for Sight Lines, his 10th book of poetry. He received $10,000 and a bronze sculpture at an awards ceremony and benefit dinner in New York City on Nov. 20. Established in 1950, the National Book Awards ( celebrate the best writing in America in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. Since 1989, the awards have been overseen by the nonprofit National Book Foundation. Books are nominated by publishers, and finalists and winners are selected by a panel of five judges in each category.

“Winning the National Book Award is the opportunity of a lifetime, and having my book selected as the best book of the year is a huge honor,” said Sze, 68, a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts. “I had to give a short speech [at the awards ceremony], so I said that poetry matters now more than ever. Poetry is an essential language. Poetry helps us see clearly, feel deeply, and envision what really matters. It has a crucial role to play in our society and in the world.”

Sze’s previous books include the 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist Compass Rose; 2009’s The Ginkgo Light, winner of the PEN Southwest Book Award; and 1995’s Archipelago, winner of the American Book Award. His 2001 book of Chinese poetry translations, The Silk Dragon, received the Western States Book Award.

Santa Fe Desert Chorale executive director steps down

After five years of leadership, Janice L. Mayer leaves her position as executive director of Santa Fe Desert Chorale on Jan. 15. “I have dedicated the majority of my professional life to advancing the vocal arts, both as an arts administrator and as a manager of classical vocalists,” Mayer says in a news release. “It has been an honor to lead the Santa Fe Desert Chorale — a treasure in the chorale world — through this period of national expansion and increased depth of programming here in New Mexico.”

Mayer began her career as a National Opera Institute Fellow at the New York City Opera under general director Beverly Sills, who became her mentor. Mayer went on to work in leadership positions at The Shubert Organization and the Metropolitan Opera, among other organizations. She was vice president at Columbia Artists Management Inc. and founder and director of her own New York-based artist management firm. During her tenure with Santa Fe Desert Chorale, mainstage revenue increased by 8 percent, foundation and government grant income increased by 470 percent, and individual donations more than doubled. Among her initiatives were Santa Fe Sings! an annual workshop for avocational singers, and Hearts in Harmony, a weekly choral sing at Santa Fe’s Interfaith Shelter. Santa Fe Desert Chorale was founded in 1982 and is one of the longest continually performing professional organizations in New Mexico. According to a statement, the organization’s board of directors will soon launch a search for Mayer’s successor. 505-988-2282,

National Dance Institute names artistic director

Master dance instructor and choreographer Rodney Rivera is the new artistic director for the National Dance Institute New Mexico’s Dance Barns. Rivera trained at the Julian Blanco Classical Ballet School of Puerto Rico, the Ballet Concierto of Puerto Rico Conservatory, and Point Park University in Pittsburgh. He was a principal soloist with Ballet Concierto of Puerto Rico and artistic director of the School of the Performing Arts at Bayamon and at Ballet Brio in Chihuahua, Mexico. At the Dance Barns, Rivera teaches the Boys Ballet Boot Camp and is choreographing pieces for advanced dancers at the school. 505-983-7646,

Santa Fe poet laureate and School for Advanced Research win big at New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards

Elizabeth Jacobson’s Not Into the Blossoms and Not Into the Air won the awards for Best New Mexico Book and Best New Mexico Poetry Book at the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, which were held on Nov. 9 at the Tanoan Country Club in Albuquerque. Jacobson is the current Santa Fe poet laureate. Paul Reed and Gary M. Brown took the top prize in the anthropology/archaeology category for Aztec, Salmon, and the Puebloan Heartland of the Middle San Juan, A School for Advanced Research Popular Archaeology Book, published by the University of New Mexico Press. Other top awards went to Kari Bovee, who won the Hillerman Southwest Fiction Award for Girl With a Gun (Spark Press) and Sharon Niederman’s Explorer’s Guide to New Mexico (Countryman Press), which received Best of Show. A complete list of winners is available at

New Mexico Actors Lab announces leadership change, 2020 season

Nicolas Ballas has been named the sole artistic director of New Mexico Actors Lab, a role he formerly shared with Robert Benedetti, with whom he co-founded the theater group in 2016. Ballas and Benedetti now share managing director duties. Ballas has worked with numerous theater groups in Santa Fe, including The New Mexico Repertory Theatre and Shakespeare in Santa Fe. With New Mexico Actors Lab, he appeared most recently in the 2019 productions of A Doll’s House, Part 2 and No Man’s Land. A news release announcing Ballas’ appointment also includes the titles for NMAL’s 2020 season. Ballas directs Radiant Vermin by Philip Ridley (July 9-26) and Reasons to be Pretty by Neil LaBute (Sept. 10-27). Benedetti directs The Children by Lucy Kirkwood (June 4-21) and The Cradle Will Rock by Marc Blitzstein (Aug. 6-23). The season opens on May 7 with Shining City, by Conor McPherson, directed by Jeff Ware.

New Mexico artists to appear on PBS

Two upcoming episodes of the Peabody Award-winning PBS show Craft in America feature prominent New Mexico artists. Navajo quilter Susan Hudson, from Sheep Springs, New Mexico, makes pictorial quilts about her mother’s experiences at Indian boarding schools, as well as the hardships endured by her ancestors as they encountered colonization and oppression. Cochiti Pueblo potter Diego Romero makes comic-book-inspired pieces that transcend Native American traditions and connect to Greek pottery and Pop Art. Craft in America: Quilts and Craft in America: Identity premieres on Channel 5 New Mexico PBS on Friday, Dec. 27, at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively.

Antiques Roadshow seeking hidden treasures in Santa Fe

The most-watched show on PBS, Antiques Roadshow, comes to Santa Fe on June 16 in search of family heirlooms and prized possessions. The appraisal event will result in three episodes of Antiques Roadshow, scheduled to air in 2021. No location has yet been selected for the Santa Fe stop, but according to a press release, the site will be historic. Independent dealers and experts from the country’s leading auction houses will provide free verbal evaluations of antiques and collectibles brought in by about 3,000 ticketed guests. 888-762-3749,

Taos museum names new executive director

Greta Brunschwyler will take on the executive directorship of the Millicent Rogers Museum, in Taos, on Jan. 6. Brunschwyler comes to Taos from the Briar Bush Nature Center in Abington, Pennsylvania, where she was the executive director. She has held leadership positions at the Nevada State Museum, High Desert Museum in Oregon, and San Diego Museum of Man. She has served as president of the Western Museums Association and as vice president of the National Association for Museum Exhibitions. Currently, Brunschwyler is a museum accreditation reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums. Established in 1956, the Millicent Rogers Museum houses art, jewelry, and other artifacts from the collections of the late East Coast socialite, who made Taos her home in the final years of her life. 575-758-2462,

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