Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whither Paolo Soleri?

This week, the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe hosted its last scheduled event, a Lyle Lovett concert. The open-air performance venue and architectural gem is in dire straits, with its future options ranging from none whatsoever (its demolition was the plan) to sale, takeover, designation as a historical site, rebuilding it somewhere else (the worst idea) or, what may be most likely, temporary abandonment until its future is figured out.

In an article largely sympathetic to the plight of its owners, the Santa Fe Indian School, alternative newspaper the Santa Fe Reporter quoted an estimate of $4.5 million needed to bring the place up to snuff. Basically, its infrastructure is crumbling and it needs a roof for when it rains or snows.

The SFIS had announced the Paolo Soleri would be demolished, and it was no idle threat, seeing the job they did to demolish most of the other buildings in the complex a couple years ago. No doubt they got some nasty feedback on this most recent demolition announcement, so they were backtracking: they would love not to demolish it, but
1) they don't need it;
2) they can't afford it; and
3) they don't really like the element that comes to concerts too much, either.

I went early this month to my first concert ever at the Paolo--Modest Mouse, it was--and found the place thoroughly charming, classically small urban (like Santa Fe itself), and very intimate. Yes, one could see the OK Corral-looking backstage area off to the audience's right, and the desert scrub comes right up to the back of the stage (for the rest of it). It's pretty humble--no comparison whatsoever to the godlike Santa Fe Opera faciiity.

OK, there was a heavy aroma of various blended pot smokes (the thickness something of an accomplishment in the open-air arena). The State Police was there, busting people who were too open about smoking or about filming the event (a guy two rows in front of me was taken down for doing both).

Nevertheless, the city needs it. I left thinking, SFIS should sell for $1, getting perpetual rights to use it, and the city council should authorize funding to fix it up. We shall see.

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