paola soleri protest

I Petition To Save the Paolo

As we have reported here, the Paolo Soleri Ampitheatres future has been uncertain.

If you are a reader of adobeairstream who wishes to sign a petition to save the Paolo Soleri Ampitheater, addressed to Chairman Joe Garcia and the Governors of the All Indian Pueblo Council, Santa Fe Indian School Superintendent Everett Chavez, and New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingman, please click on this link.

Conrad Skinner first published this essay that has proved critical to the fight to save the Paolo here.

And on June 21, George Johnson (photo: left) who has covered the Santa Fe Indian School demolitions in detail wrote about the Stewart Udall Memorial, held at the Paolo Soleri Ampitheater, at which Sen. Tom Udall pitched a save for the Ampitheater.

In recent (   small) reporting that I conducted, I learned that the rumor mill has indeed cooked up some doozies about the fate of the Paolo and the efforts of one or another unidentified constituency to assert an agenda. But reading agendas is notoriously hard especially when no new land use has been identified for the plot of now bare land on the Santa Fe Indian School campus. The current state of affairs began after the administration took down a whole mess of old campus buildings in 2008 (see George Johnsons reporting here), without warning or notice. This act of fiat or right seemed to raise the issue of sovereignty on Indian land a  whole subset of which is this: Is an educational institution in a specific place – school and locus each conferring its own mandates – enabled to re-zone for commercial use? What has been most at issue for the architectural and design activists is the Paolos independent virtues, its architectural distinction as one of the Italian born architects only realized buildings and a visionary act. The Ampitheater has been place to incredible performances and testament to creativity on Indian land among Native peoples among all peoples.

The group on Facebook is called Save the Santa Fe Indian School Paolo Soleri.

Here (reproduced verbatim) is a thread that started something on August 6, a Sunday morning:

Jamie Lenfesty of FanMan Productions: Rima- Have you or anyone heard that there was an actual feasibility study done, supposedly by Suby Bowdens firm, for a Casino there at SFIS? Someone who shall go nameless told me that yesterday and supposedly has the actual study… can anyone corroborate that?

Rima Krisstt at 11:01 am: Jamie~ Yes, I heard this a few weeks ago. Ive thought about it and the bottom line is that, regardless of whether or not a Casino is or was being considered, we need to proceed as we are anyway to save the Paolo.

Regarding a possible Casino, Ive been told by one source that, and I quote, “Thats a lie! and whoever is saying those things are liars!” A few of us have also been told by a couple of sources (I dont think this is a secret) that the Paolo site was to be turned into a parking lot for the planned Wellness Center, and that all of the Casino talk is basically just hogwash.

Again, bottom line is this letter is the next step. Regardless of what else ultimately gets built on the campus, it is the Paolo we want to preserve. The rest is truly the business and the right of the Indian leaders as to what they choose to do on sovereign Indian land and we have to respect that. However, you can be sure that the Senators have respectfully requested the correct information re: plans for the future to the campus, particularly if there will be any federal funding involved in any part of it…

At 11 13 am
Cynthia Canyon publisher of Trend magazine
Jamie I do not have to be nameless I am passing forward true info from good sources and the game of truth is so much better then the political way. regardless of what has been studied to be on the land and the reasons for removing the trees- the goal remains the same coming together to unify to save an architectural treasure, we are all passionate and motivated towards the same goal and it seems our dedication is producing fruit.

At 11 19 am

Erin Jeffries PR
Wow, I am so happy to see such great enthusiasm to save the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater! I am about to leave my position with the Cosanti Foundation, but will still be working on this some and am happy to help in any way I can! -Erin Jeffries, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Jamie (Lenfesty): Okay, well,anonymity aside then, Cynthia says she has seen this casino study… so that is where that comes from… For what it is worth, I am actually not anti casino at all just curious. While unpopular it would be an economic boon to have one right in Santa Fe and had even said to SFIS on several occasions, no matter what they were building be it mall or casino, that making Paolo a part of that new development, a centerpiece with a new entrance with restaurants and shops around it would be a win for all.
Having been shown this discussion thread on August 14,  I called Suby Bowden on August 16 to confirm what was true about the casino study and the mention of her firm as having possibly done a “feasibility study.” Suby Bowden told me this:

“In November 2006 (my firm) was  hired by Fan Man Productions to assist (Jamie) Lenfesty in developing drawings for providing a cover over the Paolo Soleri that could be retractable for different events. We predominantly volunteered and produced a 3d computer model that you can look at from above.”

Bowden, winner (with J.D. Morrow) of the 2008 Jeff Harnar Award for Contemporary Architecture, explained that informing this plan was the idea of taking a proposal to Santa Fes McCune Foundation to get a roof put on the Ampitheater. Letters were also written then to then New Mexico Congressman Tom Udall and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Bowden said.

That was November 2006. Bowden said her next involvement with the Ampitheater occurred after the buildings came down in 2008. She said Zane Fischer who was reporting on Santa Fe Indian School actions for the Santa Fe Reporter approached her for input on some drawings he had seen.

Bowden described these drawings as “a site plan only that showed full build-out.. (but) none of the drawings indicated what the building use was and (the size of the drawings was) reduced so much you couldnt determine scale except by the size of the space for parking.”

Bowden said she  conducted a use analysis based on the parking spaces count, and theorized “they were proposing something that was extremely high retail or hotel – or it could be casino… (But)
None of those three would be allowed because the property is zoned by Santa Fe as institutional meaning educational or governmental.. (And) under the laws that exist by the city of SFe and by the Bureau of Indian Affairs  they must be institutional, educational or governmental.”

Concluding (in 2009) that the parking count for a retail, hotel or casino development, would not be allowed “without a mutual agreement between City of Santa Fe and BiA to change the zoning,” Bowden said.

In other words. Same old problem. Meanwhile, the Paolo appears to remain a separate issue from can be built on the parts of Santa Fe Indian School campus gone vacant in 08.

Another discussion thread, Modern Phoenix neighborhood networks discussion thread is here.

I have a few more new calls to make but really the news is that you have to think layers not endpoint when construing a situation that puts on the table many maybe-agendas and probably-realities and could-be-futures. Between what might have been forseen in rosier economic times, between rights that are still rights and architecture that still merits admiration not demolishment.

All  ultimately speak to the fact that the architecture, the Ampitheater, has been a powerful pull unifying voices behind design, creativity, aesthetics, working on behalf of a structure that is irreplaceable (it cant be moved for it is concrete, cast in place), and that lends a stand that has instigated border-dissolving arts-activism, creative-economy-urgency, all things we believe in strongly.

Leaving the Paolo Soleri standing seems viable, valuable, and do-able. If you believe in that please sign the petition. Ill update this story if I learn anything new in the next few weeks.

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