You Like the Nightlife? AHA Fest Invites You In Daylight (Sunday, 11-9)…
AHA Fest is days away (Sunday, September 16th, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.) and after last year’s huge success, this year’s Railyard extravaganza promises to be another cultural pinnacle for the City that was in the past indifferent to nightlife and alternative concerns for those under 35 (or over 50). In anticipation of this year two for the nascent art fair-music festival filling up Railyard pathways and stages, I spoke to AHA (After-Hours Alliance) coordinator, Shannon Murphy. Also, check out AHA’s Indiegogo campaign for more info and to donate as little as $1 or as much as you’d like.
First off, should I call it AHA Festival or the Progressive Arts Fair? Last year wasn’t it Progressive Arts Fair.
The AHA Fest: progressive arts and music at the railyard. Last year we chose the name Progressive Arts Fair because we weren’t sure we would have more than just arts. Now it’s a festival with music within the Santa Fe Reporter Arts Festival.
After Hours Alliance was founded to support Santa Fe’s music scene but most people know AHA from last year’s Progressive Arts Fair. How does this compliment AHA’s music mission?
Well, we were founded to address the music scene. And we were founded as a coalition of people to do music promotions. As we started to work out a concept for it, it became really clear that most of the people in the room also did art. All the music promoters are also artists.
We’d like to see more visual art integrated into the nightlife. There’s not a lot to do in Santa Fe, so anything to get people out. If there’s just a band playing, it’s a certain niche. If you have other things, it’s a bigger niche. So we decided to do a music festival combined with arts. And AHA itself started collecting more people who were interested in the visual arts.
How is AHA Fest different/changed from last year?
More artists. There were about 75 last year… and there are over 100 this year, counting individual people and we didn’t increase our budget. We engaged the local art collectives and the ones that didn’t apply, like Warehouse 21. They are right there. Inviting groups in is a really good way to showcase the groups and the artists. The Facebook page is the most up-to-date and complete list.
We are physically bigger. Rather than do the inside of the El Museo, we are extending the Festival into the park and keeping it outside. Team Everything will be way out into the park behind Site Santa Fe. Meow Wolf is debuting an art installation that they’ve had planned for a long time near the kids playground area. In the future we’ll try to fill up the whole space.
Are there more booths?
There are probably fewer booths but there are a lot of people that are in a fixed space but not in a booth—because of the limited availability of those. But there is the same amount of artists under the shade structure.
How many applicants were there this year?
Almost 100 applicants this year. But they weren’t all visual artists. They were performers and stuff. At least half of them were in some way interactive.
Last year the whole M.O. was for the artist to do whatever he or she wanted with a white booth, to transform it. Is there a bigger emphasis on performance art this year?
Last year a lot of people just wanted to hang their art in a booth. The only thing we had to offer was the booth. Last year we decided to do the festival before we had the money. We approached The Reporter and they agreed to help fundraise but that didn’t give us a budget. So the application process was just for the booth because we didn’t know if we would have the money for the other stuff. We raised $3,000 on Kickstarter.
What exactly is The Reporter’s role in AHA Fest?
The reporter is our primary sponsor. They put together the media package for us. Last year, because it was just the AHA festival, they did a lot fundraising for us. This year, they did the same but also built a music festival around it. It’s twelve days of concerts. They created this music festival that’s a much higher ticket that our event is now contextualized within. That’s a lot easier to sell sponsorship.
AHA Fest has grown a lot in two years.
Yes it’s not hugely bigger. Steady growth. I think it is important for us to sustain it for a long period of time. We are all volunteers. No one is getting paid for this. It is hard to sustain things year after year. We were all exhausted after last year. But this year it came together really easily. There was a lot of support whereas last year no one really knew what we were doing.
So all of the AHA organizers are volunteers? Does anyone get paid to put this on?
We pay laborers and technicians. None of the organizers are getting paid. In the long term, AHA would want to have a staff. But for now it’s something that can be done by volunteers
How does AHA hold its grassroots energy?
That’s a hard question to answer. I would worry more after four or five years if everyone were still volunteering.
The energy that characterizes the event and the artists comes from the artists. We didn’t know how this year would be different until we saw the applications. We saw the applications and there was a very low percentage who applied last year and those that did were doing something really different. There is a lot of energy when artists you’ve never heard of approach you and say “I want to do this.” That’ll hold. Especially when we try to grow the festival and we are inviting artist from outside of New Mexico and other communities.
Everyone who was attracted to AHA were people who it was a labor of love to do what they do in the community. We’re talking about a group of people who is really committed to making Santa Fe better. That characterizes everyone who is in the group. They want to see Santa Fe be a really proud place to live in and when our friends come to visit, we are proud to show them around.
It’s definitely a different Santa Fe than when you and I came here in 2005. How will/is AHA Fest a reflection of this new Santa Fe?
Santa Fe is a city whose large portion of its economic base relies on its arts. Tourists come here and money is spent to support the city of Santa Fe. There’s a huge number artists though where the traditional gallery approach isn’t really viable. We need an event that validates that approach for making a living off your art for the benefit of the artist and the city. That’s a nation-wide trend. We want the artists to be able to feel that they can support themselves with their art without going through the gallery. The average piece last year was under thirty dollars. AHA Fest is more intimate where people are selling to the community and to their friends.
Our hope for this event long term—is this something that in sixty years we will look back and see that it’s something we did for a few years and then stopped? If it doesn’t go on to be the next Indian Market, then it wasn’t really worth doing.