Jonathan Boyd first came to Santa Fe, NM to attend the undergraduate program at St. John’s College. From there, he followed a trajectory that lead him to green building into real estate investing and then his furniture business: Boyd & Allister. His newest venture, Vital Spaces, seeks to activate empty commercial buildings in Santa Fe to provide studio, gallery and event spaces for Santa Fe’s creative and artistic community. Vital Spaces will host VitalMIX from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, May 16.

In advance of VitalMIX, we spoke with Boyd about this new project, which seeks to both help under-represented artists as well as increase Santa Fe’s civic vitality.


What was the genesis of the idea for Vital Spaces?

It was because of my background as a real estate investor, and then moving into being a craftsperson, and seeing and experiencing the barriers of entry to people who were trying new things and who are trying work that isn’t done here as much. Because of my background in real estate investment, I knew there were empty commercial spaces, and I also know how to handle leases and property owners. So that lead to the realization that what people really need to succeed in both the arts and creative culture is having the opportunity to be seen, to have experience, and to have space. I thought there has to be a synthesis between all the empty spaces and all the need for space by people trying to do things. When I started talking to people about this project and getting ideas, I got connected to Anita Durst of Chashama in New York, which does exactly what we’re doing with Vial Spaces. In many ways, we are a branch of the model of her organization and she’s been instrumental in helping us get structured.

How do you describe the project when you’re explaining it to people?

At this point, we are taking advantage of any empty spaces and making it specifically available for our creative community. We’re trying to utilize whichever space we come across to its best potential. With a space like the one on Otero Street, where we’re going to host the MIX event, it’s downtown and we’re encouraging activity and encouraging events. It’s not really a gallery space…but it really lends itself to working studio spaces. Our second building on Johnson street is really a prime gallery show space and we’re working actively to program for people to show work there. [Artists can apply for these opportunities here].

What does your outreach to landlords sound like?

We’re looking to take advantage of any temporarily vacant space. That might mean the building is for sale, and we will activate and bring energy into the space and it will sell faster. Active and lively spaces sell faster than empty and vacant space. The two projects, on Johnson and Otero, are re-development projects. They have long holding times …and that is just time this building would be sitting empty. We can come in and maximize engagement for the community and it really is no harm to them. In some cases, we’re willing to pay some amounts of money or cover costs; for example, there was a roof leak [at Otero], and if the building had been empty, that could be a really big problem. So, there are a lot of reasons landlords are amendable to having activity and to this project. 

How many spaces are you hoping for with this project?

I want every empty space in the city. I don’t want there to be any empty spaces. We are absolutely looking for applicants, for donors and landlords. These are the three things that keep this project ticking. We really want people to engage with it.

Learn more about Vital Spaces here and sign up for its mailing list here.

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