Reach Out, Revitalize, RE:MIKE

18 Sep

By Clara Hittel

If you live in Santa Fe and haven’t heard about a project called RE:MIKE yet, it’s time to pay attention. The movement has begun working on a transformation of the St. Michael’s corridor, hoping to turn it into something other than what RE:MIKE contractor Zane Fischer calls “an aging vision made for cars, mini-marts and parking lots.” Daniel Werwath, a community development contractor for RE:MIKE, is a resident of the area and wishes his neighborhood wasn’t solely “a place to go the bank, a place to get gas [and] a place to whip through at 50 miles per hour.”

The goal is to turn St. Michael’s Drive into something of an urban center where larger numbers of people can live, where young people can afford to start their own businesses and pedestrians can actually enjoy walking.

“The success of the college is…important to the whole community,” states Werwath. “Vibrant neighborhoods need generators.”

Santa Fe University of Art and Design needs a more appealing locale to continually attract new students. Werwath feels that St. Michael’s requires more entertainment and culture to do so, and maybe even nightlife.

As a temporary sample of what the RE:MIKE crew hopes St. Michael’s can become and a way to generate community feedback, they are hosting an event from September 21-23, which will include live music, film screenings, a beer garden, art installations and cool pop- up businesses run by people who hope to one day permanently open shop on St. Michael’s. The closed-down Cinema Café will even see some action during the event. Peter Grendle, manager of the Screen and professor at the university, was excited to hear the news about the Cinema Café, as well as how RE:MIKE hopes to improve the area for students.

“How do you get the youth of Santa Fe? You put on cool stuff and hope something clicks,” he says.

“Clicking” down the street from the university and perhaps a little ahead of the game is OmegaMart, an art installation open right next to the RE:MIKE office. Inadvertently proving how ready Santa Fe is for the St. Michael’s area to take on some cultural responsibility is the arts collective Meow Wolf, which chose to open OmegaMart on St. Michael’s Drive due to a lack of available space downtown. The fake grocery store attracted a lot of attention before it opened in early July, launching a realistic advertising campaign with a website, full-page spreads in the papers, fliers on car windshields, and even job listings on Craigslist (an unfortunate side-effect being that people actually applied to work there).

The stunt fooled a lot of people. Vince Kadlubek, a major power behind Meow Wolf, declared that about 50 shoppers were waiting outside the store on opening day and people continue to come expecting a legitimate grocery store.

“People walk in and feel like they don’t belong, like they’re on ‘Candid Camera,” Kadlubek says. Seeing products such as bottles of “Synthetic Oxygen (from real trees!)” and packaged chamois leather organs instead of the usual bread and milk has caused a few walkouts, but “no one’s been overly upset,” according to Kadlubek. Typically, the misunderstanding breeds “a lot of laughing,” which is most likely the response that the artists were hoping to elicit.

In this case, the artists were students from lower-income Santa Fe public schools, and their involvement attracted generous donations from organizations such as the McCune Charitable Foundation and the Black Rock Arts Foundation. The students had a say in every aspect of the store, from names and dosages on medicine bottles in the pharmacy (“Inner Workings: Consume several”) to in-store propaganda (e.g., a poster of Dick Cheney holding an orange with the caption “We are supported by strong world leaders”). At OmegaMart, where they offer “Alpha products, Omega savings,” you can actually buy the “nationally localized” and “organically recommended” items on display. “We’ve been selling stuff,” says Kadlubek. “We’ve backed ourselves into actually running a grocery store.”

OmegaMart has inevitably become included in the upcoming RE:MIKE activities, and is scheduled to close on September 23 with the conclusion of the RE:MIKE event. For more information on RE:MIKE visit remikeable.com, and head over to 1636 St. Michael’s Dr. to see OmegaMart in person.

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