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The Santa Fe New Mexican noted SAR’s “broader and more vigorous approach” to programming when SAR launched its new Humanities Festival in September. The Humanities Festival: American Identities was a micro-festival illuminating diverse American experiences through lectures, music, film, and discussion. A special SAR hallmark of these events was the moderated community conversations hosted by SAR President Michael F. Brown.

The well-attended festival events, each one at or close to capacity, attracted new audiences and delighted SAR followers. Audience feedback on the new festival format was very encouraging. One attendee commented that the festival was a “nice combination of subjects and entertainment: music, history, indigenous knowledge; just all around informative and interesting.” Another claimed that this was her “best week all year!” Based on this success, SAR will continue to present eclectic programming. The Humanities Festival will return next September. And another new series on the topic of inequality will appear in the spring. Stay tuned!

The Humanities Festival events, described below, were held at several Santa Fe venues. Recordings of some of the events are now available to view on SAR’s YouTube channel.

2023 Humanities Festival: American Identities Recap

At SITE SANTA FE on September 15th, the festival opened with the Delbert Anderson Quartet featuring Delbert Anderson’s (Diné) compositions of fused Diné melodies, jazz, jam, and funk. Following the performance, Anderson spoke of his approach to creating music and experiences as a touring Indigenous musician.

In his lecture “A History of Enslaved and Free Black Cowboys in the Southwest,” at the New Mexico History Museum on September 17th, Ronald W. Davis, II, curator of San Antonio’s Witte Museum, presented an illustrated lecture on the history of Black cowboys in the Southwest, particularly Texas, before the Civil War and in the period after Reconstruction.

In a sold-out show on September 18th at the Center for Contemporary Arts, filmmakers Natalie Benally (Diné) and Ernie Zahn were present for the Santa Fe premiere of their film Indigenize the Plate. In the film Natalie travels from New Mexico to a Quechua community in Peru to learn how they are addressing the link between food and cultural sustainability. After the film, Benally and Zahn discussed their experiences making the film.

At SITE SANTA FE on September 21st, the annual Mellon lecture had cultural commenter Ilan Stavans of Amherst College present the lecture “The People’s Tongue: English in a Divided America,” an exploration of what our ever-changing language says about our national character during a time when ideological polarization is breaking apart the U.S. As is SAR’s custom, there was a follow-up moderated discussion the next day in SAR’s Dobkin Boardroom.

We thank our event partners, SITE SANTA FE, the Center for Contemporary Arts, and the New Mexico History Museum, as well as our sponsors below for their generous support making this series possible.