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The Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) and our Midtown Arts and Design Alliance partners are thrilled to be selected by the City of Santa Fe to enter into an Exclusive Negotiated Agreement (ENA) on August 30, 2023 for use of the Visual Arts Center and Barracks at the Midtown Site in Santa Fe. Execution of the ENA with the City will allow our team to move forward on preliminary feasibility studies toward our vision to build a vibrant and creative cultural hub in the center of Santa Fe, with a mission to improve lives through art, design, education, service, and entrepreneurship.

The Midtown Arts and Design Alliance (MADA), led by SFAI, will redevelop the Visual Arts Center and Barracks facilities to be a cultural, economic, and community connector – bringing together Santa Fe’s north and south sides; connecting creative practice with education and career pathways; and connecting Northern New Mexico with artists and creative practitioners from around the world. Our team brings the following values and expertise to the project:

  • Revitalization and Equitable Development: Using a mixed-income model and community-based strategies, we will prioritize deeper resources and leadership development of our local creative ecosystem;
  • World Class Community Arts and Design Programming: We are all trusted and invested community organizations and regional institutions who will bring unique and world-class arts, design, and educational programming to revitalize Midtown as a new and critically needed cultural hub;
  • Resource Sharing and Collaboration: We share a common vision to optimize and share resources, services, and space, and to collaborate on meaningful projects and programs for the benefit of Santa Fe and the Northern New Mexico community;
  • Education, Youth and Child Development, and Workforce/Enterprise Development: We will increase access and opportunity to live and thrive here, through multi-generational educational and community programming and through socially just, work-based learning tracks that meet local labor market needs and allow an emerging workforce to gain access to marketable skills; and
  • Regenerative, Holistic, and Healthy Design and Operations: From working with local vendors to investing in renewable energy, we will bring a holistic “beyond sustainable” lens to the way in which the Visual Arts Center and Barracks facilities are re-developed and managed.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a larger arts district at the Midtown Site through excellent design and planning. We are thrilled to partner with the City to create a world class arts and design hub that is accessible, equitable, and which serves adjacent neighborhoods and the entire region.

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Project Team

The Midtown Arts and Design Alliance is composed of arts, design, service, and educational organizations and institutions, including SFAI, MASS Design Group, Youthworks; Make Santa Fe; Littleglobe; CENTER; Black Rock Editions; Vital Spaces; Creative Startups; Currents New Media; Girls Inc.; Clay Works; Glass Alliance; Santa Fe Indigenous Center; and the University of New Mexico STEAM NM program, the School of Architecture + Planning (SA+P) and College of Fine Arts (CFA).

This award-winning coalition of local and regional partners are already trusted members of the Santa Fe community, providing excellent programming, workforce and enterprise development, and social services. Re-locating in proximity on the Midtown Site will allow all of us to deepen our collective impact through shared resources, shared programming, and stronger connections on behalf of our constituents.

The Santa Fe Art Institute, doing business as the Midtown Arts and Design Alliance LLC, is the project developer and operator. The project has an amazing development consultant and advisory team with national and local expertise in developing, managing, and financing social infrastructure projects as well as award-winning work and expertise in design and construction, energy infrastructure; leasing, marketing, and shared workspace; and legal counsel. This team includes National Development Council (NDC), Homewise, MASS Design Group, Sarcon Construction, Microgrid Systems Laboratory, Co-Fe, and Talia Kosh, Bennett Law Group.

Public Engagement

In 2018, SFAI applied for and received a highly competitive National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant, for the purposes of activating the site after the Santa Fe University of Art and Design closed in 2018, and to conduct public engagement for the site’s equitable redevelopment. The first project as part of that grant was cultural asset mapping. With community liaison partners Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Chrissie Orr, and Alicia Inez Gúzman, we engaged local residents to map local cultural assets near Midtown, in order to understand the stories, histories, and identities of surrounding neighbors and neighborhoods.

In 2021, we worked closely with the University of New Mexico Design and Planning Assistance Center (UNM DPAC) as one of the Midtown Engagement Partners (MEPs), alongside Chainbreaker Collective, Littleglobe, Youthworks, Earth Care, as well as Santa Fe Indigenous Center, La Familia Medical Center, Fathers New Mexico, and Friends of the Santa Fe Library. Though these MEPs all have very different organizational missions, we were all united in our vision for equitable redevelopment of the Midtown property.

Listen to our Tilt Podcast Episode 10, We Are Stronger Together, here.

In October 2021, SFAI led the Midtown Block Party, in partnership with our Midtown Engagement Partner team and the City of Santa Fe and with funding by the NEA Our Town grant. The Midtown Block Party drew over 1,000 participants to the site to hear music, engage in multiple fun activities including screen printing, a community mural, participate in video workshops, get a free pumpkin, and complete surveys and interviews.

UNM DPAC and the MEPs submitted a Public Engagement Report to the City of Santa Fe in Spring of 2022, which documents the surveys of over 2400 Santa Fe residents, many of whom are native Spanish speakers, youth, and from low income households.

Download pdf of Midtown Public Engagement Report Here

These recommendations formed the basis for the City’s Community Development Plan. They are also the basis of the Midtown Arts and Design Alliance vision and goals!

More information and a timeline can be found at the City’s Midtown website here.

Loeb Fellows

In 2018, SFAI applied for and received a Loeb Alumni Grant to bring Harvard Graduate School of Design Loeb Fellowship Alumni from around the country with expertise in development, planning, and real estate finance to Santa Fe in Summer 2018. Loeb Fellows toured the Midtown Site and learned about its history, met City Councilors and Mayor Webber, and after two days, presented their recommendations and strategies regarding governance, planning, implementation, and site activation. Participating Loeb Fellows included Daniel Hernandez, Deborah Friedan, Jair Lynch, and Marc Norman.

In 2023, SFAI received another Loeb Alumni Grant to bring Loeb Fellows to Santa Fe to discuss the Midtown Arts and Design Alliance (MADA) organizational and governance structure and to bring their knowledge of creative placemaking/ placekeeping to the feasibility phase of the project.

City of Santa Fe Planning Guidelines

SFAI partnered with the City of Santa Fe in the spring of 2018 to help steward preliminary architectural visions for the Midtown Site. Five architect, landscape architect, and planning teams were selected to envision the future uses, density, and character of the property. Their ideas were presented to the public at town halls and helped the City to prepare preliminary planning guidelines for the future use of the property.

Participating design teams included AOS Architects, Autotroph, Michelle Negrette and Christie Green, Spears Horn Architects, and Surroundings Inc. View excerpts from their visions here.

Learn more about the City’s planning guidelines and process here.