paseo à deux

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Inspired and inspiring, these two remarkable members of our vibrant Art Community, Agnes Chavezand J Matthew Thomas have gifted Taos with a gift that gives back!
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Let me say that this post is an absolute collaboration in the spirit of this fabulous community; Zoe Zimmerman captured Matt and Agnes’ combined dynamism ( and individual je ne sais quoi ) through her lens at a moment’s notice, and with magnificent artistry. This is her post as much as it is mine. As for our subject matter, well of course this is ultimately all about them and the magical momentum they have created while rebooting and reviving Taos’ legendary status as an American Art Colony.

When I first started taoStyle, I immediately reached out to Matt and his husband, Richard to feature them on the blog and to offer my support for the fledgling festival Matt had co-created with Agnes. That post has consistently been a fav here with my readers. Every time I share it, it gets hundreds of views. Matt’s a rock star!

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And so is Agnes Chavez. Yesterday, when I dropped by the Toolbox on Civic Plaza Drive (to pick up the surveys I’m volunteering my help with during this year’s Paseo), Matt told me Agnes was worried that these shots (with their sunglasses on) made them look too “Rockstar”.

“But you are rock stars!” Rachel Cohen, the Volunteer Coordinator exclaimed.

As someone who spent her wasted youth around too many rock stars, I can say with absolutely authority that these two qualify and then some!

In the Art World now, as with the greater World, there is change afoot. Art is doing its usual job of providing direction in an increasingly chaotic environment. And artists, the cartographers of our collective soul, are marking territory never before traversed.

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In Agnes Chavez’ case, art collides with education; there is no distinction. One feeds the other. It’s not about separating brain lobes and putting them in left/right boxes, but about nurturing curiosity, and going full tilt into the Future embracing Science and Technology as tools for this new creative Medium. The founder/creator of STEMArts, which brings science, technology, engineering and math projects to young people in schools and at workshops, (STEMArts is part of Sube, inc.), Agnes initially created the SUBE kit, designed to assist teachers to inspire children to learn English and Spanish interactively, using a multi-sensory approach to linguistics and is divided into different themes. The name, SUBE is a play on the Spanish verbsubir, meaning “to go up”

This American born daughter of Cuban immigrants was invited last year to show her work,Origination Point and present Projecting pARTicles at the Bienal de la Habana. Origination Point is a multi-media installation which uses sound and vibration from the Earth, recorded by NASA along with visuals of objects resembling cells and particles.

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Matt, who is half Lebanese (this is an International pair) has a solid background in Architecture. He graduated from Columbia University in NYC. His love of building and design held him fast to the world of spacial constructs while he explored other avenues of creative expression. Time spent in Beirut has informed his own art, which references the Arabian arabesques and intricate tile work of the war-torn region’s Golden Era.  A few years ago, Matt started Pecha Kucha nights here in Taos (one happens this year during Paseo at the TCA) drawing sold out crowds to the popular show and tell event. Evidently he also had a knack for organizing artists which I know can be like herding cats!

One night at dinner with Agnes and her husband Joaquin Karcher, also an architect (obviously zoning and planning comes into play with the Paseo), Matt and Agnes came up with the seed of an idea that would become the Paseo. In the Fall of 2014, during the annual Fall Arts Festival (which was in a state of flux) their brainchild took over Paseo del Pueblo Norte and points in-between, filling the streets with un-hangable art. Three years later the Paseo Project is its own entity, a 501 C3 not for profit Organization, with a Board of Founding Members.

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One of those Board Members is Janet Webb who as the Founder of Webb Design, has for over three decades been hugely influential in Marketing and Promoting Tourism to Taos. Click on Janet’s name to discover more about her and what she has done for our community over the years. She claimed to retire last year but remains as busy, if not busier with her own projects and Marketing the Paseo.

“I have to say that I have never seen anything like the Paseo in my 40  plus years in Taos.” She says. “I believe it will grow into something beyond a festival but I’m not sure what that will be.”

I met Agnes and Matt at the World Cup one afternoon last week. When I arrived, both were seated at the counter, laptops open in front of them, phones in hand. Clearly there was no down time to be had. They did switch off the tech so that I could fire a few questions at them. I was careful not to waste their time.

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Already the Paseo has galvanized the community. “Many reach out to us,” Matt told me. “From the beginning, when we reached out to the community, beginning with the Fall Arts Festival and the Town, (Matt approached both after the fateful dinner and was warmly received and supported from the start) people have responded positively. We’ve made a point of engaging with the local community and inviting them to participate and partner up with us.”

They also make a point of including our youth, students in the local schools in the events they plan. Agnes’ STEMArts Lab is central to the Paseo’s philosophy. Her installation  x)Trees a case in point –  a collaboration between herself and computer programmers who developed the algorithms for the trees. The data used to create the trees was taken from particular search words used in tweets and text messages. Chavez’s intention regarding the use of social media to generate the virtual trees was to illustrate how individuals are (virtually) digitally connected to one another.

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Agnes Chavez does an enormous amount of research for her work. While working on her interactive installation, Projecting pARTicles, she talked with physicists at the ATLAS Experiment at CERN, learning about particle physics. In 2015 she gave a presentation at the CERN library.

“Right now one of the artists participating in this year’s event is out with a class of kids collecting medicinal plants they will integrate into a piece they are collaborating on.” She informs me.

Both she and Matt feel the need for inclusiveness; for bringing cultures together, preserving traditions while celebrating differences. “We are a country of immigrants,” says Agnes. “We need to acknowledge that and open doors to the future, not close them.”

“I think there are still people here in Taos who are afraid of change,” Matt notes,  “but hopefully through what we are doing, we can change their minds.”

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Another visiting artist, Lionel Cruet, is a Puerto Rican born NYC resident who has been collecting stories, photographs and video from the immigrant community in Taos to use in his installation which will be displayed in a mobile container during the 2016 Paseo Festival.

This is interactive Art that inspires the viewer to be a participant rather than passive observer, more democratic, less elitist and far more proactive on every front. The Paseo brings artists to Taos from all over the world, brings Taos artists out of hiding and into the world while engaging, revitalizing and stimulating the town and its economy. It’s also cutting edge cool. I overheard someone outside the coffee shop explaining it to a friend visiting from elsewhere. “If you liked Meow Wolf (in Santa Fe) you’ll love the Paseo.”

Janet Webb sums it up. “Thanks to Agnes’s and Matt’s visions,” she continues, “it (the Paseo) combines new art forms from international/national artists with education in our schools, set against the adobe walls and landscape of Taos, making it 100% Taos.”

“It’s inclusive, it’s positive,” she continues. “I’ve just never seen a phenomenon like Paseo before – It’s been a joy to be involved and watch it come together and grow so beautifully.”

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The Dynamic Due will be on the street this weekend, when the Paseo pops up all over town in an unprecedented celebration of Art, Taos style.

For much more info on this fabulous event, please visit the site linked below.

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Janet Webb’s site link.

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Photographs of J Matthew Thomas and Agnes Chavez by Zoe Zimmerman

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

The Paseo Outdoor Art Festival

September 23, 2017
The Paseo Project is a free Art Festival held annually in Taos featuring national and international installation artists.

The PASEO 2016 Presents Robert Mirabal Under a Dome of Stars

Two-time Grammy award-winning performer, Robert Mirabal will present two unique performances (4:00pm and 10:00pm Saturday) during The PASEO 2016 titled “Star Runner.”

Richard Spera and J.Matthew Thomas

A native New Yorker, Richard graduated from Cornell University’s Hotel and Restaurant School before creating and managing several successful restaurants in the City.

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