The PASEO Makes Connections


Next month, the Paseo Project will be back on our streets!

Once again, local, national and international artists will come together in Taos to participate in The PASEO 2019 festival on September 13 and 14.

A couple of weeks ago, I met with a few of the Paseo crew over at their new (temporary), Hub on Civic Plaza Drive. They are housed across the street from their old/new location, and although they have their board up, it still felt a bit like they’d just unpacked the necessities but lots was still hiding in boxes. “After the last Paseo, we had a flood in there, “ Matt explained, “so the Town gave us this building to use meanwhile.”

“I’m not sure how long we’ll be here,” he shrugged “So yes, we are still a bit like gypsies. But we have our board up.”

Although the Town continues to support the event, the festival’s organizers are mainly funded through Grants. (The LOR Foundation are a big supporter, and the Paseo peeps got on board with the Geocaching event happening through the end of next week, August 17th!)

Lucky for them Lili Rusing remains of their Board (and still writes Grants), even though she and her husband moved back East to the new hipster haven of Hudson. “We were awarded our largest ever thanks to her,” Matt told me. Lily has been a fundraiser for the Guggenheim among others. 

Agnes had recently returned from Switzerland where she’s been all summer installing a permanent installation at CERN. This is a huge honor, not to mention a really amazing accomplishment for Agnes, and she was still riding high.

“I have to go back,” she told me, “to finish it after Paseo.” She smiled. “But this year, it’s a lot easier for me,” she said, “I’m only involved in the Educational side of the festival.”

Agnes Chavez is a sci-artist and educator working “at the intersection of art, science and technology. In 1996 she developed the Sube: Teaching Language through Art, Music & Games – a curriculum now serving half a million elementary grade children in second language learning. In 2009 she created the STEMarts Lab an R&D Lab that explores an interdisciplinary exchange between the arts and STEM (Science, technology, engineering, math) as a way to engage youth in creative 21st century learning through social practice.

This has since  become a huge part of the early exposure to digital media arts and sciences in our schools. All of which are involved in Paseo this year, with all the visiting artists doing hands on work with the kids in all of our schools. “Even Questa!” Agnes looked pleased. “Eleven schools this year!”

The STEMarts@PASEO Curriculum Tool was specifically designed for the PASEO Festival. Every year the Paseo builds free STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) educational programming and online curriculum tools around the visiting Paseo artists that integrate STEM into their art-making process. 

The festival  brings local, national and international artists into the schools and in turn, brings students to the festival for engaging STEAM experiences such as classroom workshops, online curriculum tools, artist talks and internship opportunities.

This STEMarts curriculum tool is one of many free activities and events being offered to middle and high school students and teachers. Participating Taos County schools can use the site to learn about the artists before the festival to deepen the learning experience.

Students and teachers anywhere in the world can also use this online tool to discover exciting new media artists and the science research and STEAM activities related to their work. Learn more about this free program by visiting the STEM/Paseo link included below the post.

Matt Thomas is an architect, artist and founder of Studio Taos, an interdisciplinary design and research firm based here in Taos, New Mexico. A graduate of Columbia University Architecture and Urban Design Program and long dedicated to our incredibly diverse creative community, Matt is also an organizer of Pecha Kucha Night Taos and until recently, managed the art collection at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos.

Paseo was always envisioned by its founders (Matt Thomas and Agnes Chavez), as a community event. They have continued to keep the ethos of their mission clear; the Paseo will remain as such, a free Community Event. And with that in mind, this year Matt zeroes in on a few things near and dear to his heart.

Having just vacated his post as Collections Manager at the Harwood, and returned from an Artist’s Residency in Finland, he like Agnes has his fingers in several pies. “I’m feeling good about this year’s festival,”he told me. “It feels like the first one that I really got to take the lead and I’m excited to present to our community.”  

“This year’s theme is “Connections.” A series of immersive and participatory art installations will celebrate, contemplate, and question our interactions with each other, nature, and the world.” He explained. “I have curated 32 artists this year, including our amazing acequia aqui artists.”

There’s been an open call for artists in Taos to apply to participate in this aspect of the Festival, begun last year. I featured the Paseo Project’s  Acequia Aqui at the time. Water is life, especially up here in the High Desert and at least one of the Paseo’s featured artists is all about our water!

Rica Maestas is a burqueña artist, author, educator, and social practitioner working in Albuquerque.  Rica is inspired by the surreal aesthetics of the desert and Southwestern folklore, as well as linguistics, history, and film.

“Acequia Madre” by Rica Maestas, In collaboration with Tessa Cordova and Las Pistoleras Instituto Cultural de Arte, is a series of surreal sunset and evening tours of the Taos acequia system led by the “most infamous acequia mother of all, La Llorona.”

During these performative tours, we will not only learn about the historical and cross-cultural importance of acequias in Taos and around the world, but also befriend the multifaceted, ghostly mother many  learned to fear as children. Though her tale varies by culture, region, and teller, La Llorona has many lessons to teach us not only about her own story, but about our precious desert waterways and the people that use them (you!). Like acequias themselves, she is a complex and dangerous giver of life in desert communities around the world. 

Along with the thirty plus other visiting artists making Connections, like Rica, this is the first time the Paseo will host an Artist in Residence.

“This is very cool and exciting development,” Rita chimed in. “It elevates the Paseo to another level.”

Rita O’Connell is on board again this year as Community Engagement Director& Festival Manager. As if she (like her cohorts), isn’t busy enough with other engagements (she’s a performer, writer, and producer of all manner of things), a co-founder of both KNCE 93.5FM and, she clearly is committed to the creative community here in Taos. 

She joined the Paseo team last year after living abroad for a time, while obtaining a Masters in Public Advocacy and Activism from the National University of Ireland, Galway. The Paseo crew are clearly a bunch of globetrotters and Rita is always on her way back to or from, somewhere! That afternoon however, she was in the building, albeit with a bit of a cold, but happy to be a part of Paseo.

“La Pocha Nostra…featuring  the transgressive Chicano performance artist,  Guillermo Gómez Peña, is this year’s Featured Artists in Residence!” She told me. “And you can learn more about that on our site.” I have included the link below.

La Pocha Nostra will host a workshop during the Paseo weekend. This 3-hour (1:00-4:00 PM) per day workshop includes a 5-day immersive in La Pocha Nostra’s foundational performance exercises & pedagogy.  Participants will be immersed in performance art with a focus on the human body as a site for creation, reinvention, memory and activism. 

The ‘Pocha workshop’ is internationally recognized as an amazing and rigorous artistic and anthropological experiment in which carefully selected artists from several countries and every imaginable artistic, ethnic, multicultural, and gender persuasion begin to negotiate common ground. “The workshop becomes the connective tissue and lingua franca for our temporary community of rebel artists.”

“There will be a lot more local involvement this year.” Rita told me. “New galleries and artists getting involved as well as our other local partners, like Twirl, of course.”

Rita is joined this year by Project Coordinator, Shanti Duval,  a web-savvy organizer who is passionate about giving back to Taos after a decade in NYC., but having grown up here. Shanti is the Youth  program coordinator. Another Project Coordinator, Jana Greiner  was at the Hub the day I dropped by. She’s also an installation artist who has been living in Taos for the past two decades.  

Estacia Huddleston also grew up in Taos. She’s a Community Planner and Placemaker working at the intersection of creativity and community.  She brings her experience in sustainable design, interactive art and place based planning to the Paseo for the second year. Program Design Assistant. She is now specializing in  curriculum and program design for the youth program.

UNM Intern, Audrey Valentine is a student artist at UNM Taos with a love for community art engagement and activism through medium, and is excited to be a support for the Paseo team this year.

“As this year’s theme is “Connections,” Matt reminded me, “it is a series of immersive and participatory art installations that will celebrate and question our interactions with each other, nature, and the world.”

“The festival will feature more than 25 works, ranging from low-tech to new media, but united by their active engagement with the public and with place, whether projecting on Taos’ adobe walls or highlighting its historic acequias.” He said. “This year we again take over the streets of Taos, transforming art and community. The artists and installations selected will again inspire and engage, while reminding us of the greater importance of connecting with each other, our physical world and most importantly, ourselves.”

“PASEO 2019 will feature the wild and wonderful to the quiet and contemplative.”

An international call for entries was held during the winter of 2018-2019. Hundreds of entries came in from all over New Mexico, the nation, and the world. A few highlighted artists coming to The PASEO 2019 are: along with the aforementioned La Pocha Nostra (Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Saul Garcia Lopez/La Saula, and Balitronica Gómez), San Francisco, CA ( the featured PASEO 2019 Artist in Residence.)

The Living Museum of Fetishized Identities is the next step in their performance research to develop large-scale interactive performance/installations that functioned as “intelligent raves and art expos of Western apocalypse.” 

This “living museum” is site-specific and is realized from a pre-festival workshop featuring different groups of local and international performers. Original music (live or prerecorded), video projections, cinematic lighting, taxidermied animals and twisted ethnographic motifs helped enhance the high-tech “robo-baroque aesthetic.”

Antonin Fourneau, from Paris, France, riffs on the water theme with Waterlight Graffiti, an interactive artwork in the form of a wall of thousands of LEDs illuminating in contact with water. The public is thus invited to express itself on this luminous surface by drawing or writing with a brush or a spray. 

And from Britney A. King (Diné / Chippewa Cree) and Jennifer Nev-Diaz (Chicana), Albuquerque TÓ ÉÍ ÍÍNÁ ÁT’É water is life- it connects us; cleanses us; fosters growth, and nurtures the world around us.  

There is so much more going on at this year’s event, it would take pages I don’t have to cover it all, but the theme of Connection runs through all the tributaries like a river; its confluence, the Paseo itself.

Connection to each other and the world we live in. What a great sentiment and one that could not be more timely. I’ll have more on the Paseo as we get closer to the date, but meanwhile check out their fantastic site for all the info on the amazing artists who will be in town this year, from near and far, and mark your calendars to save the dates!

For much more on the Paseo Project and all they bring to our community, please visit their site and both linked below.

The PASEO 2019 dates: September 13-14, sunset to 11:00pm


The Paseo Project’s mission is to transform art through community and community through art. The Paseo Project is a nonprofit 501c3 organization that brings projection, installation and performance art to the streets of Taos. Its new community space, The Hub on Civic Plaza Drive, supports events and experiences for the community throughout the year. The Paseo Project is supported by the Town of Taos, Taos County Lodgers Tax Fund and numerous individuals, foundations, and business sponsors.



Photos of Matt, Agnes and Rita by Zoe Zimmerman



Paseo images thanks to the Paseo Project