By Matthew Chase-Daniel Towards the end of 2020, the City of Santa Fe New Mexico, where I live, released some small grant money through a call for artwork in public space that would address Covid-safe practices. The city Arts and Culture Department was wanting to both promote safe behaviors and get some money out to local artists. A large percentage of that department’s funding usually comes through a Lodgers’ Tax on hotel stays. During the Pandemic shutdown, that tax wasn’t much at all. As both an artist and a co-director of a small alternative arts organization (Axle Contemporary), I was looking for new ways to get art out to people who were no longer able to visit museums or galleries.
So, I was thinking about art and mask wearing, and the iconic Zorro came to mind: a hero, always masked, helping the disadvantaged and vulnerable, bridging cultures, making the world a bit better and a bit safer. I wanted to invoke Zorro as a pro-mask culture hero. My wife Julie and I drove to the post office and the grocery every week or two, checking in and stocking up. While we did these ventures into the abandoned cityscape, we looked around trying to come up with ideas for places to display art. My first ideas were to make flyers and hang those in windows (but the businesses were largely closed) or staple them to telephone poles (but no one was walking the streets very much). Julie had the idea to ask movie theaters to user their exterior poster frames. The theaters were shuttered and the posters were still hanging for films that were cancelled months before. I found an old Spanish-language Zorro poster online and reworked the imagery and text to address mask wearing and Covid-safe practices. I approached several different businesses and organizations to get the posters out in the world. Everyone said yes! The first round of prints were made in different sizes and placed in front of a local homeless shelter, wheatpasted on the side of a bakery, printed as inserts in our local free alt-weekly newspaper, and hung in poster frames at both the Lensic and the Violet Crown theaters in Santa Fe. Peter Grendle, the manager of the Violet Crown loved the poster and remarked that he could imagine many other movie posters reworked like this. I was inspired by his enthusiasm and went to work, with new text and images from other posters: A French Lone Ranger, Italian and German Zorros, and then others.
Peter hung all seven in Santa Fe and contacted the Violet Crown in Austin, Texas who hung seven there as well. I researched historic and independent theaters around the country and sent letters of inquiry. Positive responses poured in. Now there are posters going up in Los Angeles, Pasadena, North Hollywood, and Oakland, California, and in Kentucky, Indiana, Arizona, and Massachusetts. The posters are currently being offered for free to shuttered cinemas and performing art venues who are struggling to make ends meet these days. Those who can are offering small donations to offset printing and shipping expenses. I hope that the humor and positive messaging will lighten some spirits, encourage safe behavior, and put some inspiring art in front of people who are shut off from the majority of art venues now.
See all the posters, some photos of the posters on location, and more about the project at www.chasedaniel.com
Donations to support the project are welcome! Contact the artist at email@example.com
Matthew Chase-Daniel (né Chase) was born in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1965 and lived in New York City in the1960s. He later raised tadpoles, minnows, and a raccoon, learned to fall off a horse, and hunt morels, wild violets, and rainbow trout in the Berkshire Mountains. In the mid and late 1980s, Chase-Daniel spent three years at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York (B.A.), and three years in Paris, France, where he studied cultural anthropology, photography, and ethnographic film production (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes & Sorbonne). Since 1989, he has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, renovating old houses, growing green chard, and making family and art. His photography and sculpture have been exhibited across the U.S. and in Europe. He is represented in Santa Monica, California by Craig Krull Gallery. He is the co-founder, co-owner, and co-curator of Axle Contemporary, a mobile gallery of art based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Editor’s Note: We urge you to visit the Axle Contemporary website, a work of art itself. The mobile gallery often changes with each exhibit so enjoy a tour.