“Uncharted” is a new interview series created in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re talking to people in the New Mexico arts world and beyond to see how the community is navigating this unprecedented health crisis.
Head of Curatorial Affairs, New Mexico Museum of Art
Daisy Geoffrey: What’s your current mood?
Merry Scully: I’m super curious. I don’t love being so isolated, but it also is a completely different kind of time. I’m thinking about things a little bit differently. I don’t want to pretend like I’m spending all day being reflective, but because of the gravity of the situation and—for me, I live on my own—because of the isolation, I think about things. Not in a depressing way, but I’m very curious. I realize things that are more or less important to me.
What’s your biggest concern?
My biggest concern is kind of funny. I’m worried about the world, I’m worried about peoples’ health, but I’m also worried about not taking advantage of this time. I’m still keeping a very rigorous and full work schedule, but I always think, “If only I had this much time,” or, “If only I was able to spend more time at home.” Well, hello, you’re at home now, get on it! Some of it’s reading a book or working in the yard, or whatever.
What does your day-to-day look like?
We’re working on all of our advance exhibitions, but we’re also trying to work on ways to bring what we’re currently doing out to the public, different ways to deliver ideas and information from our collection, mostly through social media and regular email. I’ve been doing some interviews with artists who were in the recent Alcoves exhibition. Jana Gottshalk, our new assistant curator, has curated an online exhibition crowd-sourced from our Instagram. Erica Prater (Collections Manager) wrote a little about a Harmony Hammond sculpture of ours that toured with the exhibition Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989 and her experience with that and what was involved in getting it packed and ready to go. We’re trying to stay present in people’s minds.
What is an unexpected challenge you’re facing right now?
So much of what we do is about the exchange between art, artists, and ideas with people. I miss that back and forth. With the building closed, I am removed from both the collection and archives (art, artists, ideas) and people (visitors, docents, patrons, scholars) where that type of engagement happens. We are translating some of what we do online.
It may be that this is the same type of exchange that I am missing now while my contact with the outer world is limited and digitized.
The big summer markets—Indian Market, Spanish Market, and Folk Art Market have been canceled. Are you nervous about the economic implications that not having these major events this summer will have on all of the arts community?
There are huge economic and social implications. New Mexico, and Santa Fe in particular, run on this cycle that reaches a peak that we’re building up to now, and it goes until the end of September where everything’s at hyperspeed. We change our programming depending on that. If we know there is going to be a big market, we don’t plan events. We have a “Friends” membership group for which we don’t plan things in that season so much because there are too many other things going on. We’ve been having to cancel events, and then it all of the sudden occurred to us that we might be able to do these later in the year because people are normally so over-saturated with events and things to do, but they might not be this year.
I don’t know how it will work, I think it’s really going to hurt the hotels and the artisans. My understanding is they’re doing alternate strategies—second markets or bringing things online.
Native Treasures, the next big Museum Foundation event, is going to go online. But we’re going to miss the face-to-face component. That’s what’s so spectacular about Spanish Market, Indian Market, and Folk Art Market, that the makers are there. Maybe we’ll appreciate that more when we get to see each other again.
What do you want the arts community or Santa Fe at large to know at this time?
I think we should be proud of ourselves for flattening the curve in Santa Fe. And maybe we have a renewed appreciation for each other when this is all over. And for our location, I see more people out walking or using trails than before. We can appreciate being outside.