2021 Hands-On Curatorial Program

by | Aug 1, 2021 | Hands-On Curatorial Program

Goodbye, I Loved You. Goodbye, You Sucked


The 2021 Hands-On Student Curatorial Program looked a little different for our 2021 curators. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we were working on a smaller, though no less impactful, scale. Despite being virtual, we were able to work intimately with two returning Hands-On curators, Lesly Esparza and Veronica Silva, who were seniors at New Mexico School for the Arts. Lesly and Veronica’s third year working with the Coe as curators and their passionate vision directed the project in ways only young creative minds can.

Check it out1! Click here to see the Zine.

Since we could not meet on-site and interact with the artworks in our collection, Lesly and Veronica were inspired to curate a zine as their public exhibition. In case you are not familiar with the form, a  Zine is a printed piece that is self-published in a small circulation and non-commercial. Zines, often associated with DIY, punk, activist, and alternative communities, art, and music are ways to share images, words, and ideas easily and affordably with the public. Creating a zine aligns perfectly with the Coe’s vision of making art accessible and breaking down boundaries between the public and art.

Lesly and Veronica decided to focus on the question: What does community mean to you, and how has it impacted your sense of self? As students who have spent the majority of their senior year in pandemic isolation and who are about to venture out beyond their community as they decide where to attend college, this question of community and identity seemed particularly significant. Both Lesly and Veronica were born and raised in Santa Fe and have attended an arts-focused high school for all four years, but they both expressed feeling relatively cut off from the arts community of Santa Fe. They don’t know many working artists aside from their teachers; they don’t know musicians performing music for folks their age. In short, they don’t feel that they are part of a community of creators in a city that purports to be a bastion of creative types and inclusivity.

So, they set out to find a group of practicing artists of all backgrounds who they could meet with over Zoom and chat with about that very question. After the initial conversations, they asked this group of artists if they would contribute original work to their zine. Beautifully, everyone responded yes!

Lesly and Veronica gathered these artworks, created a layout and design, sourced pricing for printing costs, and created their contributions, as well. The release of the zine was significantly delayed by the school pivoting due to COVID. They finally completed all the tasks. The zine was released and celebrated at the Coe Center outdoor summer event in August.

This year of Hands-On curators’ intention was to create a space where others, young or old, who might not have found a creative home in Santa Fe, can learn about a group of brilliant artists and learn from them what art and community mean in their lives. Participating artists were: Talon Claybrook, Will Wilson, Arista Slater-Sandoval, Yvette Serrano, Eliza Lutz, Christian Gering, and Lesly Esparza, and Veronica Silva.


Although COVID has caused this program to pivot the last two years to virtual or a hybrid of virtual and in-person, the Hands-On Curatorial Program provides an opportunity for high school students to work hands-on with the Coe collection of over 2,500 works of Indigenous art from around the world. Through museum visits and weekly sessions over eight months, the curators learn how to create their own exhibition by selecting and researching objects, creating the exhibition title, writing a catalog, executing the press release, designing and installing the exhibition, and working with the public. Within this program, young curators gain a foundation of skills that they can take anywhere throughout their lives. The participants build their own exhibition from the ground up!

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