Part of Sep 2012 by

AHA Fest, Santa Fe’s New Art Fair for the People, by Young People

The AHA Fest was an all day event this past Sunday, September 16, starting at 11am with booths closing up just after 7pm.  It was busy and festive and if there was ever a doubt that people actually lived in Santa Fe, Sunday proved that not only do people live here, young people live here.

There was a lot going on and despite the complimentary performance schedule and seemingly endless paraphernalia siting where and when stuff was happening, I nonetheless floated around a little confused as to who was what and what was where.  It seemed best not to have a schedule and just go with the flow.  By four o’clock, artists seemed a little tired of explaining their concepts or perhaps just bewildered that I asked.  Or maybe it’s just not the kind of event where spectators inquire about the art object with vested interest.  As one booth artist confessed, it was hard to hear himself think caught in the middle of two sound stages and crowds of people.  Indeed, that is kind of the point of AHA Fest—to release enthusiastic young artists from the gallery space and into the streets were they might bare their creativity en masse.

And they certainly did.  Artists transformed their booths in ways that made it difficult to distinguish one from the other.  Without a charismatic officiate offering a way inside, it could be a little scary finding entry ways while the dread of the other side felt mildly exclusive—especially when you have to pay to cross over.  This was the case with Lara Nickel and Brianna Fristoe’s “Faux to Studi-aux” pop-up photo booth. The costumed twins looked like adorable yet manipulative Russian spies who denied entry without payment and yet refused to offer a hint as to their secret.  There were more artists who warped their identity like T. C. Mcggee’s solipsistic blogging booth that revealed and concealed the person behind the keyboard with a string of T. C. Mcggee impersonators and no, that’s not her real name.  Those who weren’t intentionally performing nonetheless had friends watching their booths, which amid the day’s chaos further blurred the boundary between authorship and the work.

Some artists did just want to show their work like good ol’ Luke Dorman, back for a second year, and then the extremely earnest Kat Dison and Julia Cizeski whose booth imagined a space where constructed owls descended onto antiquated ruffles and lace that invoked an eerie spirit animal of some small girl, an installation created from discarded objects.

In true art show style, money was everywhere.  Works may have only averaged twenty dollars but rather than just hang them on the wall with a price attached, artists found clever ways to take people’s money.  No need to inebriate the art buyer while stroking their ego and discussing market value, artist Tim Jag lets the art buyer off with a spin on his Jeopardy wheel!  Ten bucks spent on a spin and won, any “original work of art” on the wall is yours.  Ten bucks spent on a spin and lost, you go home a loser.  Brilliant.  Why doesn’t Gerald Peters do this?  Cannupa Hanska set up a dart game with “original” toy prizes.  Of course, it all costs money.

To assure sufficient glue to bind all these unfamiliar booth applicants, every art collective in Santa Fe was invited to bolster the energy, to showcase the community goods and offer familiar faces.  Unfortunately, AHA turned down some applicants, myself included (bummer!), in favor of invitation only spots for Santa Fe-mous artists like Scuba Hi.  Yes we want them there and yes a nascent enterprise like AHA Fest needs to assure success but is that progressive?  Regardless, participants walked around donning floating collars around their neck from SquirrelMart in mockup black-tie style à la Alice’s Mad Tea Party.  Meow Wolf’s installation debuted in the Railyard gardens with sticks protruding from the ground covered in neon paint, ready to glow at night with the helps of black light spots.  Axle Contemporary’s truck blew Michael Schippling’s flurry of pastel colored packing peanuts behind its closed walls in We Are Experiencing Some Turbulence.

The long hours of grueling work by unpaid volunteers must be congratulated and thanked but it does seem that AHA Fest is having a bit of an identity crisis.  Sure, it’s supposed to be dynamic but when it comes to the art, what does the AHA committee look for in their artists and who on the committee is serious about visual arts? What is AHA Fest? In true art fair style, it was full of fanfare. Is it progressive, is it supposed to be and does it matter? Yes it’s great for the artists and certainly great for the community and yes, we want to see AHA Fest become what it should be.

Editor’s Note: AdobeAirstream was not aware at the time the article was assigned or the immediate time it was published that the writer had applied for inclusion in the AHA Fest and had been turned down. The comment string was under way when I learned this and asked the writer to make the disclosure in the text above, and so I further decided not to unpublish the post but to let it stand. Readers below have commented widely as to their points-of-view and additional readers can read the string as desired (newest comments appear first last.) I stand by the post and the writer. As a matter of policy, AdobeAirstream makes strict efforts to discern writers’ real conflicts of interest before assignments are made.

Write us your thoughts about this post. Play nice.
  1. Alexis B says:

    I find this quite offensive: “artists found clever ways to take people’s money.” You do realize, I hope, that artists don’t just give their work away for free, right? You do understand that artists should be paid for their work, right? I think the artists found clever ways to display and sell their art while engaging visitors.

    You also seem to not understand what AHA or the fest is about. That could have been easily resolved by visiting the Info booth. AHA is a collaborative project among many art collectives in town, all which have different mission, vision, aesthetic. AHA was founded in 2010 to identify creative ways that music and arts promoters could work together to elevate Santa Fe’s music scene. The festival is a way for the different collectives to all work together, and create a fun community event. I’m not sure why you think there is an identity crisis…since the festival is doing exactly what the participating members set out to do, and this was only its second year.

    “Is it progressive, is it supposed to be and does it matter?” I’m not sure where you got the idea that AHA or the fest is progressive. It celebrates the young artists in Santa Fe, many of whom are progressive. Or, do you mean that the event should aim to improve every year? In that sense of progress, I sure hope so, and I think year two improved upon what was done in year one.

    You seem to have many issues with the event, and you definitely have an idea of what the event SHOULD be. Maybe you should do a follow up blog post and actually share your ideas.

  2. Ellen Berkovitch says:

    This comment makes me reflect on a conversation that I had Monday at an ARTSpark event in Albuquerque (Aspiration Tech, a digital trainer from San Francisco, was also there.) The ARTSpark organizer asked people – of whom many were artists – to move to physical poles in the room to reflect how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement that “art can be sustainable without money. Money is not necessary in the pursuit of art.”
    I was pretty much at the completely-disagree pole but stayed quiet long enough to hear what everybody else said. A dancer reflected on audiences. An artist commented that he’d feel like even if he were starving creativity would still be a tool for him. Finally I said my piece, which included (as I reflect) that artists tend to be asked (are asked) more than any other group to give away things, often in service of fundraising efforts by organizations they then have to compete for inclusion in. I see that as a problem that’s endemic to the organizational system. I also see another problem that is more pernicious which is that art and money tend to get posited as distinct opposites: art is pure, money is polluted. Hash.
    This is a really valuable conversation to have. Clearly I am commenting here as the editor of AdobeAirstream and thus the editor of this piece, which I encouraged the writer to write as she saw it. I hope more people will weigh in on the idea that seems to have irked Alexis B. regarding a critique of money strategies. Perhaps the issue lies in whether the “gamesmanship,” such as it were, were seen as necessary to getting people to buy art for art’s sake. More voices welcome.

  3. Danae says:

    Thanks for posting a review of Aha. I went and was unimpressed. It’s fine if young artists want to have a festival, but money for work, and attendance, is a symbol of relevance. Personally I find the cliche of the starving “pure” artist old and tired. You kids (and elder kids) go on ahead, but don’t presume a loyal or built in audience, or sustainability, unless Aha has some Aha to it.

    • Alexis B says:

      Would care to explain why you were unimpressed? How do you see the format as unsustainable? True feedback might help the coordinators improve the event next year.

      The event was free to attend, and this included 8+ hours of free music. So, I am confused as to why people are so hung up on the artists wanting to sell their work. Do people go to Spanish Market and then complain when they are charged to purchase something? What about a gallery? What about any other art fair in existence any where?

  4. Lucy M. says:

    Very interesting. I do note, that shortly after the author mentions “clever ways of taking money,” she sites one way as brilliant, and not sarcastically, I don’t think. I’m not sure there’s an (intended?)i nsult in “clever ways of taking money.” I agree with Ellen, about artists being asked to do things for free or being expected to give away their work.

    I would like to ask the author how she imagine a more progressive AHA, in terms of things costing money, “of course.” Artist sponsorship, free work?

  5. Bob says:

    In response to the article itself, it is a shame that the author has written with such an insulting tone, carelessly critiquing all the hard work that was put in to this festival with words of indolence.
    In regards to the topic of money, it seems irrational to complain about artists wanting money for their art when that is their livelihood and they are trying to get their art off the ground.
    Sorry the red carpet was not rolled out for the author who was throwing around her entitlement, declaring, “I’m Press, what do I get for free?” This artwork did not fall out of the sky. Money was put into it to create it. “Of course, It all costs money,” — you couldn’t have said it better.
    It’s really too bad that this article was not written objectively, but with a slant of negativity because the author didn’t make it into the show. Sorry AA but this author has no ethos as far as I’m concerned.

  6. I don’t think this author is relevant. Let’s get that out of the way. Art critics are irrelevant until they have attempted (and most likely failed) to create and showcase work to a general audience. You cannot have a relevant arts & culture voice unless that voice is experienced in the world of manifestation and cultural influence.

    If she was, she would have been able to dig a bit deeper into the event. Anyone with with relevant skills in event production, art installation, music promotion, social organization, or city planning would have come away with at least a basis of ‘ Wow, something big is happening here’ and gone from there.

    But when you are a consumer, and have no relevant experience as a producer, then of course you see things as a consumer would: ‘This should be better! This must satisfy my needs! I like chocolate ice cream! Whaa-whaa-whaa’. :)

    With that said, and as someone who has successfully and (more times than not) unsuccessfully produced large events intended for cultural change, I first would like to say ‘Wow, something big is happening here’. A couple thousand young adults wandering Santa Fe on a Sunday afternoon, in the new culture district of town that rarely sees much activity, is an accomplishment in and of itself. Believe me, I have tried to centralize this kind of crowd, and it is incredibly difficult in our sleepy and measly-populated city.

    All-day music featuring some of Santa Fe’s best local acts? Brilliant. Nice work AHA. Do I have issues with some of the curatorial choices of acts? Sure, but guess what? I chose not to involve myself directly with the fest. And in this universe, and in our generation, griping without participation just looks weak. And it looks consumerist. Hannah Hoel, your article makes you look like a bratty consumerist. And, funny enough, that is the culture we are trying to shift. Bratty consumerists be gone! Active makers and participants, come forth!

    As for the art, I think the intention is incredible, and I think the seed that has been planted is ultimately fruitful. Of course, I can only have this perspective because I have relevant producer credentials that allow me to see the bigger picture, the extended arc, the symbolism and the energetic and the invisible property of momentum. It is no surprise to me that Hannah missed this because, well, she has no relevant experience with these sorts of elements.

    Does the artwork need more of a curatorial encouragement? I’d say so. Something a bit more than just ‘Here’s your booth’? Yeah, lets work towards that. Grow little plant, grow.

    And finally, on the topic of selling art, it actually dumbfounds me that this is the author’s centerpiece concern. She comes across sounding so young, inexperienced, idealistic, and embarrassingly out-of-touch. Again, someone who talks but does not do. Without relevance. Our generation of artists have taken on the task of reshaping the art industry. It is an elite, exclusive, esoteric, expensive and dull world, laughably caught up in its own abstractions. We believe that there are different markets for art, and through those different markets arise the potentiality for the expression through new medium and new venue.

    For instance, many involved in the ‘art world’ denounced the idea of paying $10 to see The Due Return. But without that model, without that market, an exhibit like ‘The Due Return’ cannot exist. Thankfully, the ‘art world’ is such a small percentage of the potential art-going public and The Due Return welcomed many visitors who happily paid $10 to see the ship. This allowed Meow Wolf the freedom to continue down the path of immersive installation art, knowing that there is a market and model for its success.

    AHA Fest, and the artists participating, are attempting to find a market and model that works for their medium and venue. That market and model involves games, it involves entry fees, it involves experimentation. And as it is with all experimentation, sometimes it does not work. You then keep searching.

    Hannah, your ignorance (as in ignoring) of the deeper issues and bigger pictures of the AHA Fest represents your level of relevance as an art critic. And honestly, Adobe Airstream’s choice to print your review represents its level of relevance as a source for art review. Had I been editor of this piece, I would have marked in big red letters at the top of your draft ‘This is shallow, especially considering the many deeper issues that AHA is representing. Try again.’

    In my mind, the author’s perspective, the subsequent piece, and the blog that decided to publish this piece are simply irrelevant.

  7. Jorm says:

    oh she went to St. Johns… makes sense

  8. o says:

    It seems strange to me that an article like this could get past the editor. Where are the facts? Where is the critique? This is pure OPINION and lacks any substance as a piece of journalism.
    It seems that the editor is trying to save a bad article by elevating the subject of money strategies + art, when the author herself only shallowly complains about this issue- about clever ways to take people’s money. Was Hannah Hoel paid to write this article? Can anyone honestly expect anyone to do anything for free?
    Oh yes, the volunteers! All of which are involved in Santa Fe’s art world or are interested enough to spend endless, unpaid hours to help this event- the author would have found this out if she had done any homework or simply visited the Information booth.
    Regarding money, (since there is absolutely nothing to actually discuss with this article) I am surprised that the author felt she was entitled to anything for free, since, as she declared at the festival, she was “press”. Are artists supposed to kiss the press’ ass- even when the “press” fails to identify who she is press for- and asks in a way as if she is already completely unimpressed by this silly event?
    I am sorry to say, but the author’s own sentence, “Unfortunately, AHA turned down some applicants, myself included (bummer!)…”, completely discredits her entire article…and explains her attitude toward the event.
    If you are going to write a critique you had better offer constructive, objective criticism and facts. Even with the artists the author did like she doesn’t explain how or why, instead using phrases such as “good ol’ Luke” or “extremely earnest Kat”. Where are the author’s own thoughts?
    This article sure has “generated a lot of thoughts” but not by the author- rather by those who have left comments, including the editor. The author only briefly poses questions at the end such as, “who on the committee is serious about visual arts? What is AHA Fest?…Is it progressive, is it supposed to be and does it matter?…we want to see AHA Fest become what it should be.” Well…what are Hannah Hoel’s actual constructive thoughts?
    I am sure that anyone who participated in the AHA Fest would welcome a professional critique- because frankly, as a journalist, you were not very curious.

  9. Todd says:

    Has anyone experienced the other art fairs in Santa Fe, SOFA, or the contemporary art fair? These are events that you must pay to enter, contain no affordable work, offer little to nothing in the way of entertainment. And there presence here in Santa Fe, brings very little attention to Art except for those already deeply involved in the art world.

    AHA is the answer the opposite of the traditional art fair formula, and deserves to be considered “progressive” in those terms.

    Much of the work that can be shown is not dictated by money but the fact that it is an event that only exists for 10 hours, outside! That means you have to be able to hang and break down in an hour. Well what kind of work can you show with those constraints? Obviously, some people where able to create incredible installations, but for the drawing and painting artist, this is probably not the time to bring out the huge works. It’s a time to show smaller works, and then hopefully find a way to engage your audience.

    I think much of the observations are done in humor and as a reader I can appreciate those clever comments. But I think this fair deserves to be reviewed in the context of the other art fairs in Santa Fe. In that respect it accomplishes more for our artists and community then any other fair. It delivers a fresh perspective on our city and offers the chance to connect to each other, when so many of our cultural events are really about tourism, not about us.

  10. Alice says:

    I am a bit confused as to why people think the author did not appreciate the efforts of AHA fest. The first lines of the story emphatically support what I understand to be one of the key objectives of the festival. I also understand that she interviewed a key organizer of the event so there is little chance she was uninformed. The insertion of the full disclosure line means that she has also seen first hand the materials provided by the festival to potential participants. Clearly she attended and spoke with several of the exhibiting artists.

    Money is not mentioned until the 5th paragraph so I am unclear how this is read as the centerpiece of the article.

    I have to agree that paying for the privilege of spinning a ‘wheel of fortune’ without being presented the option to purchase work – in other words the money was a bet at a roulette table and the artist pockets it without applying the funds to a purchase – seems a bit mercenary and not in a good way. If on the other hand a losing spin of the wheel entitled the consumer to apply the funds to the purchase of a piece of art at full price instead of perhaps a discount, more art would have been sold and visitors may have felt more engaged in supporting the artist. It is hard to deny that this particular method of marketing is very akin to a coin toss at a fair in hopes of winning a cheezie stuffed animal. I think it is worth discussing the equating of art with a carnie. Is that a goal of AHAfest?

    I am curious about the comments regarding invited participants who may have replaced young artists looking for exactly this sort of opportunity. There is only so much space in the rail yard. If a portion of the booths were given to invited artists versus applying artists in need of exposure does this contradict another key objective of the festival? If so, it was appropriate for the author to point this out.

    ! am familiar with the author’s experience outside her bio. She has been an event planner and coordinator in New York City. She has worked with town councils in New England to produce town arts festivals. She has exhibited paintings in multiple group shows on the east coast. The work was for sale and was sold. She has attended arts festivals around the country and throughout Europe. Assumptions about her experience and background are truly naive.

  11. Peter Holt says:

    Let me tell you a story:
    When I first moved to Santa Fe 25 years ago, I stayed with a friend on mine. She had retired from the corporate world and taken up art as a living. She made cute little key rings and did a little beading and made belt buckles and did some collages and hand colored photos.
    Basically it was finger painting but she was in love with her innocence and wanted to share it with the world.
    I spent much of my Sunday at the AHA festival and I read Ms. Hoel’s critique and I have read the responses to her article. I think she expected a grown up art festival and didn’t ooh and aah enough for your tastes. So what?
    You’re whining like she said you have an ugly baby.
    Maybe it is an ugly baby.
    Maybe it’s finger painting and we feel so special and in love with ourselves in Santa Fe that we want to believe that every one of our baby efforts is the most adorable and a lovable little thing you ever-did-see.
    Maybe we’re full of ourselves.
    I thought that the art part of the AHA festival was supporting the Santa Fe art scene. I didn’t realize that it was actually a subsidized outlet for a few handpicked artists to make a few bucks.
    I felt personally cheapened and regretted the money I had contributed.
    I wanted to see some non-commercial and stimulating art by people who were given a free platform to reach a big audience.
    Have a little class, guys: show your art and if someone wants to buy a piece, give them a card and invite them to your studio.
    And if artists/ craft-people are there to cash in, let them pay a fee and use that money (and my donation) to support non-commercial art and the broader underground art scene. Mr. Porter: I utterly agree with you that Raven Chacon’s bird in a cage last year was sublime and mature.
    I see Meow Wolf making a big name for themselves. I like their finger painting. My kid thinks it’s really fun. I like that people can be playful. I think people are in love with their innocence. Cool but bad art.
    AHA festival: cool but bad art.

    • Alexis B says:

      My initial response to you was a string of curse words. You just managed to discredit every young art collective in Santa Fe, some of whom have been curating shows and making art here for over a decade, most of whom have high levels of training and skill. Your attitude is exactly why AHA needs to exist: because the condescension towards young artists in this town is debilitating towards their work and towards a scene young people can enjoy. Next year, keep your donation and use it towards something you like. Maybe a nice coyote sculpture or landscape is more to your liking. As for me, I’ll keep supporting art that thinks out side of the box. I’ll keep supporting artists who have fun with their art. I’ll keep working to make this a town where it is not impossible for a young person to survive and thrive.

      As to your comment about “a few hand picked artists”….IT’S A JURIED SHOW JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER ONE IN THIS TOWN.

    • gal says:

      Peter Holt, I wish I could “like” your response because its my favorite in this conversation. cool but bad art sums it up. & The baby analogy is perfect.

  12. Katherine says:

    This review disappoints me. Not because it’s negative. I would welcome concise constructive criticism. But it is scattered and misinformed. Let me first address the most glaring instance of misinformation. Hoel writes “unfortunately, AHA turned down some applicants, myself included (bummer!), in favor of invitation only spots for Santa Fe-mous artists like Scuba Hi.” SCUBA went through the application process and the curatorial committee discussed their proposal just as they did with Hannah Hoel’s proposal. The only difference is they were excepted and she was not.

     In fact no artist was turned down in favor of a invitation only artist. One example of a booths that got invited was Meow Wolf publishing. They had curated the poetry component of last year’s festival and were asked to play a similar role this year.

    Now to address Hoel’s claim that “In true art show style, money was everywhere.” In a typical art show (craft show, Indian market, Spanish market, ect.) Close to all the artists are selling their work. At the AHA festival less than 50% were. Out of 32 Artists in booths and around the festival grounds only 15 of the artists booths were selling work.

     Hoel takes umbrage with artists Tim Jag and Cannupa Hanska carnival games. What she does not take the time to note is that you are still welcome to buy the pieces. In the case of Cannupa Hanska work you could buy one of his “prizes” for $100 or try your luck for $20. And win a beautifully hand crafted ceramic face sound onto a stuffed animal. As someone that has followed and loves Cannupa work but never been able to pay for it. I was more than willing to risk $20+ and have to chance to own one of his beautiful pieces. I saw it as a bargain not a scam.

    At the end of her piece Hoel proposes that the AHA festival is having a identity crisis. Let me reiterate this is only the second year of the AHA festival. How can it have an identity crisis when its identity is not fully formed? 

    • Katherine, well-stated. Very nice run-down pointing out where the author got it wrong. The identity crisis part is the part that most notably showcases the author’s inexperience with being the creator of something. The AHA Fest actually has a pretty solid identity for being its second year. Nice piece, thanks.

    • Lucy M. says:

      Ohh, my understanding from the author, is that’s not what SCUBA said. Clarification?

      • Katherine says:

        Some artists had a hard time submitting applications through the website. SCUBA email AHA saying he would like to participate but was having trouble submitting his application. So his application was submitted manually buy a member of AHA based on their conversation. The curatorial committee then discussed his application just as it did with all the other applicants. I do not know what the author was told by SCUBA but in a case like this she could have done some quick fact checking with AHA prior to publication. I hope this is enough clarification.

  13. Bob Bobby says:

    Shameless lazy criticism for your own reflected self revery is never enjoyable to read…

  14. Alexis B says:

    I still have not seen any of the naysayers – the author included – provide any CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Peter says that all those who commented in support of AHA are “whining.” No, we’re just reacting to the list of insults. If you knew how to provide constructive criticism, then we would all benefit. As it is, you just look like assholes.

    • Ellen Berkovitch says:

      And now for a word from the facts.
      Original article adjectives regarding the fair: “busy, festive, mildly exclusive.” Regarding the money strategies: “Clever, brilliant.” Regarding the participants or their booths: (“..resembled adorable but manipulative Russian spies;” solipsistic blogging booth,” “extremely earnest.”) The questions included: “when it comes to the art, what does the AHA committee look for in their artists and who on the committee is serious about visual arts? What is AHA Fest? … Is it progressive, is it supposed to be and does it matter?
      Now to the commenters’ adjectives: “Offensive. Insulting. Ignorant. Indolent (sic–insolent?). Irrelevant. Condescending. Debilitating. Not objective. Scattered. Misinformed. Young. Inexperienced, Idealistic. Embarrassingly out of touch.)
      I currently have a query in to the AHA organizers regarding how the curation process factually worked.
      The author interviewed organizer Shannon Murphy in a post published before the event ( — and she also attended the event and interviewed participants. SCUBA, an interviewee, hold her he had been invited rather than applied. I’m still left musing on the factual answer to the question (and will publish an answer as soon as I know): How was the mix made up; and were applicants aware if they applied that they were competing with invited applicants who were pre-approved? Again, just a question. Not a trick question.
      In Vince K’s suggestion, a post that was other than “shallow”, would have reported twice, “Wow, something really big is happening here!” The end.
      I echo the request for “constructive” criticism. Commenters or other readers who wish to submit an essay on alt economies, alt exhibit strategies, send me a quick 100 words to my email address at ellen at adobeairstream dot com. And no, I’m not trying to elevate a bad post, I’m trying to elevate a discourse beginning to play dirt ball.
      What is clear here without loaded adjectives is that we’d all like to receive unconditional love when we try hard. But sometimes, yes, sadly, the unfair world says things could still be better, or this or that struck as gimmicky, and unwelcome dissonance rocks the cradle of self-regard. Here for a little levity (as in, lighten up, people), is my favorite art show title of all time, made by one of 11 young art collectives that was practicing last year in New Orleans: “My Mother Says My Work Has Really Improved.”
      Finally in terms of alt economy and publishing, also a few facts. AdobeAirstream for those who read it (30,000 per month) is a free vehicle for users. The makers are some 10 paid contributors across 5 cities all at most a day’s drive from Santa Fe. It’s four years now that we’re around. I personally went to Wesleyan and Northwestern (that EXPLAINS it!@#%$) and have been in the journalism game for 30.
      In something I like to do almost as much as I like running this magazine (joke), the so-called “teachable moment” is always reciprocal.
      In the words of one wise you know what: “The smaller the stakes, the bigger the fights.”

      • @Ellen, the problem is not that she found issues with AHA, it is that her arguments for those issues were so thoughtless and did not explore the many layers present at the fest.

        The article is shallow and your blog loses credibility because of it.

        And @Peter Holt, whether or not Meow Wolf creates art that is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (seriously still using these terms? haha, lol) we are certainly psyched to have created pieces that will be remembered for decades and beyond.

        • gal says:

          “we are certainly psyched to have created pieces that will be remembered for decades and beyond” #meowwolfmegalomania

  15. Lucy M. says:

    Wow clearly people have a lot of very (very) personal, emotional feelings about this post and AHA. Did anyone actually bother to read the entire article? Or the author’s Q & A? I think it’s fair to discuss the article’s intention, possible short comings, insights – but launching a personal attack on the writer? Laaaame.

  16. guy says:

    i read the piece after hearing that there was flak about the writer’s review. I see no problem with the review. After all, art criticism, blogs—they are all are just one person’s opinion, not the Word of God. If anything, the reviewer did get some who were somewhat irate to express their opinions, which also is, again, just opinions—again, NOT the Word of God. I say: if you don’t like what a writer writes about a show or an event, fine. But understand that the writer has the same right to express his/her opinion. If those who are complaining/whining want “puff pieces”, I suggest they look elsewhere.

  17. I am a core organizer of this event, and with the exception of Katherine Morgan, I don’t think any of the core organizers have commented here. So I’d like to weigh in with one clarification re: our application process, as Hannah has made a criticism of it that is fair but possibly based on a misunderstanding.

    I spoke with Hannah in our pre-event interview re: our application process and explained that we do invite a few people for booths. This year, in terms of booths, there were 3 artists that were invited that did not apply through the process everyone else went through. We had approx 90 applicants total, including performance. However, we do not turn applicants down in favor of these invitees, as Hannah suggested in the piece. (I wish she would have clarified that assumption with me but she probably didn’t realize there was an uncoverable nuance present.) Rather, we go through the applicants as a pool and select those that we feel are a good fit with the event based on various criteria. This process took about three weeks. I sent a personal note to each person we turn down and encouraged them to apply next year. I also offer to answer any questions they might have, and when asked I explain the factors that went into the decision so that they might have better luck next year. Then, after we have concluded that process and only after, we think about who else we might ask to participate to flesh out the event. This year that resulted in three additional artists being given booths, a band from Albuquerque being asked to play on the main stage, two performance artists being asked to do dance pieces, and a few collectives / orgs e.g. Meow Wolf Publishing and W21 being asked to curate something. This takes the un-symmetrical number of selectees we end up and fleshes out the physical space and schedules with a few additional offerings. We consider this necessary to keeping the event from feeling like it has holes in it, and beneficial to everyone involved because the people we choose to invite are generally more well-known than average among the pool of applicants. (Generally.)

    If we had concluded our selection process and has our space and time slots 100% filled, there would be no need or desire to invite others. The applicants are considered first.

    I don’t think that it is un-progressive to do this; if others disagree I’d be interested in their analysis. And I think I speak for everyone when I say that we are open to changing our process, and expect it to change over future years as the event evolves–this is just how it’s emerged over the two short years we’ve been doing this.

    One additional thing that has come up internally as a goal for next year is to make the application process and selection criteria more transparent through sort of a how-to-apply guide or “what we look for” thingie. After two years, I think that we can do this. Honestly, the height of the proverbial bar for our selections is really dictated by the whole body of applications that shows up. We look at them, and we say “this is the nature and quality of event we can curate.” In other words, it’s grading on a curve. In the first two years I don’t see any other way to do it, but going forward I think we have increased ability towards transparency.

    Re: art vs. money, or however we want to frame that debate, I’d be interested in weighing in on that as well but I’m not sure that this article’s comments is the best place to do it. I’m not 100% sure I understand Hannah’s comments/critique of the carnie-game atmosphere but I don’t think she was saying that artists shouldn’t be paid for their work. Maybe she was–I’m just not sure. Maybe Hannah would like to clarify?

  18. gal says:

    Vince is exercising the same kind of bullying here that he used to take over Zozobra recently and frankly I think he’s getting a little power mad. Ok, Vince you are part of a collective that is able to successfully get kids in Santa Fe to attend events through the magic of glitter, booze, and irreverence. Because of this, you and Meow Wolf have been given a heap of attention and opportunities from the community. What you haven’t given us, however, is great art. And ruh-roh someone had the balls to notice?

  19. Senor Zozobra says:

    It’s interesting that an article by such an “irrelevant” writer has generated this kind of response by Grand Poobah Cat Wolf Vince. If it were truly irrelevant, and not an opportunity for bullying, why would it elicit any response? I agree with Senor Vince that calling into question an author’s credibility is fair game. But let’s be honest, what are we talking about here? We’re not talking about some totally arcane subject that requires years of training. We’re talking about the credibility of someone to talk about art and an arts festival. If art isn’t intended to be intriguing, exciting and understandable by a large swath of the public than who cares?

    If a reasonable criticism exists, it can be made without resorting to elitist condescension and ad hominem attacks.

  20. gal says:

    If calling an authors credibility into question is fair game, can we also call Meow Wolfs cred into question please? What credentials do these people have to make visual art, performance art, a publishing press, an education program, etc. MW does all these things with little to no regard for credentials. It really screams hypocrisy when you try to call a critic into question for being out of her element. MW you live out of your element. I’m sure you will run for public office next. You just do whatever you want to do, and we’re just supposed to sit here and applaud every hackneyed glow-in-the-dark bs you decide to condescend to send our way? Apparently you think its fine to label a review bad but under no circumstances should we ever question the quality of MW or AHA’s art. Srsly?

    • Alexis B says:

      We get it: you don’t like Vince or Meow Wolf. But, this article is about AHA.

      • gal says:

        I know I’ve gone on a tangent, I just think Meow Wolf’s public bullying has gone to far on facebook, the sf reporter, whatever. I realize they aren’t AHA, but the same criticism that I’m applying to MW holds true for AHA. I get that there’s a problem with their not being enough of a social scene in Santa Fe, I really do. Does that mean we have to attack everyone who offers sane criticism and not to mention free coverage/advertising for social events? If this article was written about one of the major galleries in town no one would have blinked an eye. No one. AHA needs to realize you look ridiculous when you try to attack the field of art criticism in general because of delicate feelings. This was a mostly positive article about a completely helter skelter event. Grow up.

        • I would just like to clarify, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that only two of the people involved in producing the AHA Fest have commented on this post–myself and Katherine Morgan. And we commented in order to provide clarifying information, not to stifle criticism. We welcome criticism and all it adds to the process of developing this event.

  21. sigrid says:

    This is all very difficult to stomach. I claim no expertise on any of these issues, and indeed, each one requires separate advanced degrees to comprehend in their entirety. However, as a mediocre art student myself, I have noticed that school impresses upon us the importance of critique. Comments related to: How is this piece relevant? What does this piece mean about the past, present, and future? How does this piece have an effect on its audience? (and of particular concern in Hannah Hoel’s article:) How can this piece be improved?

    While none of these questions have tidy answers, the thorniest is always that last one. Nothing conjures more ire than hearing that things could be better or different, especially when blood, sweat, and tears went into making something. I refuse to take sides in the debate, but what I want to offer is the liberty for people to look at something and say, “Wow, something really big is happening here, but what is it? And what does it mean?” I will spare everyone the “free speech” lecture in favor of an exhortation to “grow up”. Take everything here with a grain of salt.

    If AHA fails in three years, Hannah will have been visionary, and how will you feel then? Perhaps she is just trying to protect art in Santa Fe by asking the hard questions. I applaud her.

    • gal says:

      I agree sigrid,

      I think people who really care about young in Santa Fe are working to make it better by doing what Hannah has done. She’s covering something that may not have been covered otherwise and she’s offering some input. That AHA has jumped down her throat about it reveals to me that they are insecure. If you have confidence in your work you should be able to take a little criticism. Hannah’s article is pretty restrained as far as I can tell. If she were treating them like big girls and boys she would have taken the kid gloves off. The fact that they react like this to minor criticism is just sad and doesn’t do any favors for young art in SF.

      • I would like to clarify here as well that most of the people that have been commenting here are not representatives of AHA. Only two members of AHA’s event production team have commented, myself and Katherine Morgan, and we have done so to provide clarifying information (in my case, at the request of Adobe Airstream). AHA has no interest in stifling criticism, and I personally am happy to hear anything critical, constructive or otherwise, than anyone has to say about the event. We are two years into a long-term endeavor and criticism in all forms is vital and important to the ongoing development of the event.

      • Rachel J says:

        I agree with most of what sigrid has said. But would like to respond to Gal’s comment “AHA has jumped down her throat about it reveals to me that they are insecure.” as I read over these comments I get a very different impression. Yes Vince is harsh and insulting but in his first comment he says “Do I have issues with some of the curatorial choices of acts? Sure, but guess what? I chose not to involve myself directly with the fest.” clearly he is not speaking for AHA. And in Shannon Murphy’s comment she starts with “I am a core organizer of this event, and with the exception of Katherine Morgan, I don’t think any of the core organizers have commented here.” So it seems to me that the vast majority of these comments are from Festival attendees not organizers. and when organizers have commented it has mostly been simply clarifying facts referred to in the article.

  22. Ellen Berkovitch says:

    New Rule. Civility, please. From all, to all. Future comments will be unapproved for swearing, adjectival attacks, etc. As of now, this lengthy string represents comment exactly as AdobeAirstream has received it, unedited, from all who have wished to speak. Just as a point of clarification.

    Comments are going to stay live on here because I am waiting on a reply from Hannah, and that may take til tomorrow. But please do bear in mind this is a private site, not Facebook, not a prizefight.

  23. As one of the lead organizers of AHA, I would like to echo Ellen’s request for civility in this comment thread. Somewhere the impression has been created that AHA can’t take criticism, which is funny because in the weeks following the event we actively solicit criticism from pretty much anyone we can in order to improve the event and make it better. Please feel free to agree or disagree with Hannah, but please also refrain from making attacks on her character.

    For those that thought the event was lacking, we do read these comments so please feel free to offer your thoughts.

    • Katherine says:

      Well put Shannon. Thank you for saying exactly what I wanted to, but more articulately then I could.

  24. Some guy says:

    Couple things that trouble me:

    For one, when I first read this article the morning it was published it was missing the part where Hannah divulged that she was one of the rejected AHA applicants. I thought, given her tone, that she sounded like she may have been one of the rejected applicants, but the disclosure was not a part of the article and I think this omission and subsequent edit should be disclosed at the end of the article the way most sites do when they have added to a previously published article. I will admit that I am possibly wrong about this since I no longer have a way of seeing the article the way it was originally published, but it is my distinct memory that this info was not disclosed.

    Second, I think it was a mistake for the editor of this site to give the review to someone who had been rejected from being a part of the event she is reviewing. I think anyone who has been rejected from a juried competition looks at the works that were selected in a very skewed way, usually weighing their value against what they see as the value of their own work as opposed to the way one would normally judge art. I know that by its very nature it is hard for a review to be unbiased, but this seems like a major oversight and conflict of interest to me and I wish that the editor had caught this.

    • Ellen Berkovitch says:

      This is a legitimate point and I did not know that she had been turned down for a booth and so, yes, we had to retrofit the disclosure after she wrote the article. I had known that Hannah had some connection with the organizers because she is personally acquainted with Shannon Murphy and others. But just as point of reference, typically, no, it would not be accepted to have someone who had an interest in the event be its writer. But as I pointed out privately to Shannon yesterday, the great majority of commenters have not disclosed whether they were fest exhibitors, friends of; in some cases, their names even. So policing this matter can be more tricky than it appears. The disclosure was retrofitted within two hour of the post first going live, maybe even less, as soon as I learned, so I would opine that the majority of readers judging by the time stamp of comments knew this. But again, it is a legitimate point and thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

      • That same guy from above says:

        Ellen – thank you for taking the time to clarify this issue. The oversight made me concerned about this site (which I generally think is great) and I am glad to know that it was an accidental oversight and not a decision that was made consciously. I still would recommend adopting the practices of other journalistic sites which always make a note at the bottom of the article when any info has been changed or added to – the NY Times for instance will say “A Previous version of this article appeared where…” Makes me as a reader feel better knowing that, once content is published, it will remain in its originally published state and, if it is altered in any way, the editors will let you know. Makes one feel as though nobody is trying to put one over on them. Of course I do realize the difference in content and obligation between this site and a site like NY Times, but I just thought I give my two cents. Thanks again.

        • Ellen Berkovitch says:

          Thank you. I fully agree and it’s a good idea to do so (make sure the disclosure is fully clear. I am going to do that now.) I have just incidentally changed the order of comments to show the most recent first and the thread I believe will close soon.

  25. Keith Yohai says:

    Just to be clear, Vince Kadlubek’s opinions are not to be confused with Meow Wolf’s opinions. We are a collective and no one person speaks for all of us.

  26. peter holt says:

    A brief reflection before the forum closes (whew!).
    I said I felt cheapened by the merchant mentality at the fair. Please allow me to expand on this.
    If I were an artist and somebody gave me a platform and an open minded audience for free, I would jump for joy. It would be a chance to express myself in a singular and magical way.
    Imagination that: a singular opportunity to go a little crazy and experimental.

    Instead good artists were invited to make a couple of hundred bucks with low overhead.
    what a waste.
    let’s think a bit bigger. Generosity and expansiveness generates income.
    to the artists: don’t use your booth as a storefront; use it as an opportunity to really stretch.
    To the the organizers: noncommercial art will actually open markets and inspire the public, for the benefit of theyou whole community. Wasn’t that the intention? How about an annual progressive arts fair and a weekly or monthly art market on Sundays perhaps.
    This is my feeling and this is why I feel a great opportunity ended up as a slightly petty affair.

  27. After a day or so of reflection, I feel that the review was written as if AHA Fest was a gallery show. It was written as if an entity was producing product to be showcased in a small room, and a critic walked in a noted the items that she liked/disliked.

    And that is the problem.

    If you perceive AHA Fest in such a way, you are doing a TERRIBLE job as a writer, just right off the bat. Without being able to note and perceive the much larger story-lines, the deeper meanings at play, the larger context, then you are short-changing both the event and the readers of the blog. That is all.

    Poorly written, came from a shallow and immature perspective, didn’t cover the more interesting and integral elements of the fest.

    ** Oh yeah and also: SHE APPLIED TO BE PART OF THE FEST AND WASN’T CHOSEN! (Shame on you Adobe Airstream for not seeing this conflict of interest right off the bat. Credibility, lost.) **

    • Ellen Berkovitch says:

      You know, Vince, I’ve been happy to see your comments here because it’s an open string. But I’d like to add the following points:
      1. As the priest of credibility that you claim to be, you’re suffering from numerous sins of omission. One includes that you neglected entirely to disclose in your lengthy self-congratulations about Meow Wolf that the Due Return took $8000 from the purse of the first SPREAD. I understood from my journalistic research at the time that that $8k or so augmented the $50k or so your collective was able to raise privately from friends and family. So to present The Due Return as an opportunity for people who (your suggestion makes it sound like) funded the enterprise by their $10 contributions to get ont he ship, and how new all that is/was in art exhibition strats and economies, well, that’s up for the readers of this string to decide.
      Furthermore, SPREAD, as I seem to recall, is a production of an arts organization, SITE Santa Fe, that you’ve also assigned some adjectives to in the generic: “dull, elite, esoteric,” people can reference your first post in this string. (Disclosure: My husband Conrad Skinner was a contestant at the same SPREAD, for his work on a history of the Paolo Soleri Ampitheatre.)
      2. Thomas Robertello Gallery and Linda Durham Gallery both represented commercial opportunities for your work after The Due Return appeared. I may have my chronology wrong. But this would seem to bear out that you are hardly the model of a new world order that you would have the rest of us believe. And don’t get me wrong, I applaud efforts to turn grassroots success mainstream. If you can do it, more power. But in your case, the “more power” appears to have turned you into some kind of caricature, or else that stereotype of the thin-skinned bully that others have cited.
      3. I unapproved an earlier comment as I am tempted to do to yours that I am replying to here, on the basis that it consisted of personal attacks.
      4. As to AdobeAirstream’s credibility, fortunately the market does decide, not just you.
      And as to:
      5. You’ve never asked for anything from the public or the media, that’s a joke. Read above. You asked to win the SPREAD grant. You asked for probably many other public funding opportunities. And I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that you do, but seem so deeply conflicted about that, and that’s your problem.

  28. Hannah Hoel says:

    The writer responds:
    I met Shannon Murphy in 2006 and we used to sit on my front porch and wonder what to do. (There wasn’t much.) AHA wasn’t here in 2006 and 20-somethings were in a serious minority slump. Now, from both the AHA Fest and these comments, we are fully alive and kicking.

    Since my BA from Goldsmiths, I have studied art and art criticism seriously. Regardless of whether people find what I wrote “shallow” or “insolent” or “ignorant” or “offensive,” I have given this fair a lot of thought in both its years.

    Definitions can be tricky: In answer to the question re who said the fair was supposed to be “progressive,” The Progressive Art Fair was this fair’s name last year. It re-branded itself this year to AHA Fest.

    Shannon indicated the model is evolving. My criticism was offered to encourage this examination of what AHA really is. Progressive? Art? A fair? Yes, they are a fair.

    Last year, the convention of art fairs the world over — white booths — was the model here. The booths could be used “for any purpose (the artists) envision.” ( In art terms this white-booth is “the cube,” the very model of art hierarchy in the art establishment, and I was disappointed that the artists last year did not transform the cubes, into something really, but really, different. This year, lots of artists did.

    My point of view never was and is not that artists should not make money or charge money. I consider it progressive that artists don’t have to pay to be in the fair. It is the “gamesmanship” (Ellen’s word) with which I took issue. Commenter Alice also pointed out that by selling work like at a carnie, the work is equated to a prize. I don’t value carnival prizes and I personally do not want to see artwork treated like something you can “win.” It’s a gimmick and cheapens the art.

    Last year’s reviewer of AHA (then Progressive), Hannah Hughes, suggested that having a carnival style fair is a model for subverting the art fair. I disagree, especially because you can’t truly subvert market models as long as you’re trading real money. I hope that future applicants to AHA don’t feel that they have to have entertainment value in order to be selected as a “good fit”. However, receiving a booth for free with which to do whatever you want is a rare opportunity.

    As to whether my commentary came out of disappointment that I wasn’t included, of course I was but that did not motivate my critique. My critique is motivated by questions I ask all the time. In this case the big question is: Is being progressive one definition, or is there a special dispensation for being progressive in Santa Fe?

    I would like to see AHA in the future trust in its applicants to hold the event together. If there are holes, perhaps AHA could look to the residual applications to fill them. After all, they are what keep the grassroots energy alive.

    Where there is room to grow, there is room to improve. Let’s be careful not to over-glorify the experimenters.

  29. Shannon Murphy says:

    Before the thread closes I’d like to thank everyone who has given feedback on the event. We do a post-event survey every year, which will go out early next week via facebook (check the After Hours Alliance group page and the event invitation) and the criticism provided here will help us ask for feedback in a much more focused way than last year. The two main questions that have been raised here–whether the carnie-game and/or sales-oriented booths some artists chose to create serves the overarching purpose of the event (and its corollary, whether dictating what sorts of activities an artist can conduct in a booth serves same) and whether the curation committee should opt to relax its criteria rather than invite non-applicants to fill space–are in my opinion two of the most interesting and complex-to-consider questions AHA has faced during the event’s lifetime. If in considering them we discover that our conclusions may be relevant to pursuits outside the creation of next year’s festival, we may individually or as a group take Ellen up on her offer (earlier in the comments) to contribute a follow-up piece of some kind.

Comments are closed now.