The Paseo: Pt. 2

Hot on the heels of Burning Man, the Paseo Project Festival segues into Taos this weekend.

I mention Burning Man because clearly the annual festival has informed a new generation of multi media artists, who combine technology and creativity to produce art that is simply out of this world.

Out of this world – Space, both inner and outer – is the theme for this year’s Paseo Project Festival, a return to the full on original vision Matt Thomas and Agnes Chavez had when they birthed the concept in 2014.

Last year’s Paseo Party in the Plaza was a step back for the pair; a moment to take a breath, regroup and rethink the Paseo’s mission and intention.

“It had become too big for us to handle alone,” Agnes explained when I met her with their new staff recently.

Now with the spectacular crew they have in place – Lili Rusing, Shanti, Duval,  Estacia Huddleston and Rita O’Connell – there’s no stopping this extraordinary event!

Last week I met with Agnes, Rita, Janet Webb and Matt (on Skype), to discuss this year’s extravaganza that centers around the Space Cloud installation in Kit Carson Park, and emanates like rays of light from there to Civic Plaza Drive, Bent Street, the John Dunn Shops, through Juan Largo Lane onto the Plaza, and up Kit Carson Road.

Teresina Lane, home to Twirl who have always partnered with the Paseo to bring creative and educational play to kids in our community, will as always have their own spectacular interactive installation in their outdoor courtyard.

When I arrived at the Paseo headquarters (the HUB), Rita O’Connell was already there and let me in as soon as I knocked.

Rita was one of the first people (along with Matt and his husband Richard and Agnes), whom I reached out to when I first started taoStyle, seeing them in the front lines, spearheading a cultural renaissance in Taos. Obviously there are so many others, but I’m not at all surprised that almost four years along, they have teamed up.

We sat at the big conference table in the main room, and Rita got Matt on Skype. He was in Vermont doing a two-week artist’s residency, and was talking to us from the big, white studio he was working in.

He looked relaxed and showed us the space (and the gorgeous work in process pinned to the walls), before sitting down to chat.

“It’s so green here,” he commented as we opened the conversation. “Hot and humid too.”

He was close to the Canadian border and Montreal. I asked if he’d visited that great city yet. He hadn’t, he was fully engaged in his process with the short span of time he had.

I dove right in.

Matt (who is the Collections Manager at the Harwood Museum and founder of Pecha Kucha Nights in Taos), is an architect as well as an artist; space, place and zoning for a livable, sustainable community is his thing. What inspired him to come up with the concept of the Paseo in the first place. His recent Acequia Aqui project along with bringing the Mobile Museum of American Artifacts to Taos, both speak to that, and I wanted to talk to him more about that direction.

“Well clearly we see the Paseo Project as being more than just an annual party,” he responded.

“And we hope to do far more with the Town and County to bring art to the streets in an everyday manner.”

He cited creative crosswalks and his idea for art installations along the old acequia networks in the Historic District as examples.

“Plus with Agnes’ focus on fusing science with creativity to stimulate a love of learning and education in young people, the Paseo Project has always contained  a bigger vision than simply putting on an annual event.”

Agnes arrived just then and picked up the thread. It’s obvious these two work not only in tandem, but are pretty tuned in to one another’s thought process as well.

“At the bottom line it’s all about community,” she said. “Education made exciting though creativity and scientific application.”

Agnes (who happens to be married to an architect), resonates with the urban planning aspect Matt brings to the table, and her creative force along with a formidable scientific sensibility, has enabled her to make inroads into our educational system that are starting to bear fruit with kids coming out of that program now involved with (UNM) Digital Media Arts on a broader scale.

I’ve covered both Matt and Agnes (and Paseo), extensively here on the blog, so do hit on the highlighted words to read those posts.

Rita, who has come on board to manage the Festival, brings her own administrative and creative skills to the table, including a background in theatre which no doubt serves the entire team as the Festival kicks into high gear. Working with thespians in my opinion, gives one an edge when it comes to understanding artists in general!

It also gives her an edge regarding timing.

When Janet arrived, it was Rita who succinctly summed up the conversation thus far, enabling her to easily jump right in.

“The great thing about the Paseo,” Janet observed,” is how it has evolved almost organically.”

“It’s never been forced, in fact it has and is continuing to happen in its own time.” She said. “I think it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in Taos for decades.”

“Since the Talking Pictures Festival, at any rate,” She added.

“Which Morten (Nilssen) was a founder of,” Agnes observed. Morten, along with Janet, sits on the Paseo’s Board.

Matt, who had been quietly listening until this point, chimed in.

“The Paseo has always been somewhat of an experiment,” he noted. “A way to engage the community in a greater conversation.”

“And what makes our Festival different from many others,” he observed, “is that it is free, there’s no cover.”

That first year, in 2014, when Matt walked into the Fall Arts headquarters proposing a way to engage people on the street as they made their way from one event to the other, seems a million light years away.

Having paid back the five thousand dollars seed money they gave him on that fateful day, and since becoming a non – profit, the Paseo now has a life of its own. And this year it stands alone.

“Two nights, the weekend prior to Fall Arts,” said Agnes. “It’s all grown up!”

“You know when they (Agnes and Matt), told us (the Board), they wanted to become a non-profit, I advised them not to.” Janet interjected. “I told them that as it was they could do whatever they wanted, but once they had non-profit status, they would have to follow rules.”

They all laughed.

“But they were right,” she noted, “because it’s enabled them to get more Grants to help finance both the Festival and ongoing events they produce throughout the year.”

“Right, because it’s not just a party we throw once a year.” Said Agnes.

“Which brings us full circle to the beginning of this conversation,” Rita observed, tying it up neatly.

With Space as the theme of the Paseo 2018 Festival – the exploration of both inner and outer space – artistically, socially and scientifically, from self-identity and space exploration to human impact on the environment, along with defining who we are, where we come from and where we are going, the Paseo promises to take us on a journey of the senses to parts unknown, via art and technology. And light.  

This year’s festival looks at the role of art, science and technology “in contemplating our place in nature and re-imagining society.” Reads their website’s introduction to the event. The main feature this year is The Space Cloud by design/architectural team Espacio La Nube of Madrid, Spain, an inflatable pavilion made of air and light housing multiple events and installations.

There will be other installations in Kit Carson park along with The Space Cloud. The Festival will also take over Civic Plaza Drive, Bent Street – from Taos Blue all the way down – the John Dunn walkway (short cut to and from CPD, next to Emily Ruffin’s on Bent St,), the aforementioned lanes leading to the Plaza, as well as Kit Carson Road. In fact most of the Downtown Historic District will be lit up by projections, installations and other surprises.

Several eateries will be open during the event including the Bent Street Deli (who also serve beer and wine),  the Alley Cantina (open late) and the Mesa Brewing Tap Room (also open late.) Lamberts, the Taos Inn and the Gorge will all keep regular hours. Chokola say they’ll stay open until they run out of chocolate and two hot dog carts (one vegetarian) plus Marshall’s Noodles will be serving food all night. Chances are, Martyrs will stretch their envelope as well. 

The Paseo After Party (hosted by Joshua Cunningham of Burning Man Radio fame), will be held as usual at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership.

For much more information on the Paseo Festival 2018, please visit their site linked below this post.



The Paseo Crew were photographed by Zoe Zimmerman, the official photographer for the event.


Image of The space Cloud, thanks to the Paseo Project