Activate or Deteriorate: Avoiding ‘Spectrum Syndrome’ in Santa Fe

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About six weeks ago, I found myself in a time trough between appointments, looking for shade and coffee in a part of town not known for its cafes. I stumbled upon Spectrum which won me over with its excellent coffee and commitment to community.  While doing a final fact check last week prior to giving them a plug in my blog, I called their number. Disconnected. Like some crazed EMT-wannabe doing CPR on a cold corpse, I redialed four times. Finally, I called neighboring Pizzeria Espiritu and learned from the friendly voice on the line that, in fact, the cafe had closed the day before.

I shouldn’t have been shocked.  When we spoke to Shalene Dailey, who co-owned Spectrum with her husband Nathan, we detected the ozone of exhaustion, centered on the challenge of finding professionally-minded staff.  But what heartened me was to hear Shalene frame this challenge as a big picture service to community.  She wanted her employees to learn life skills they could later apply to their own passions and to model the same for her own kids. She wanted the cafe to serve as a locus of community.

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Last week, at the urging of Red Cell, we met with Dan Werwath and Shannon Murphy who were collecting info for the next MIX Santa Fe from locals-in-the-know about Santa Fe nightlife. I’m hardly one to tap on that subject, but Changing Gallery–our endeavor to support emerging and independent artists–has made occasional contributions to the downtown night scene. So we talked about common ambitions and perennial problems. If you haven’t heard, MIX Santa Fe “is a public/private collaboration that [uses] creative micro-stimulus initiatives, job resources and regular networking to [attract] new ideas, business growth and energy to Santa Fe.” That’s the short version. Visit the Mix website for the full bio on this local effort to make Santa Fe a better, more economically-friendly home for the city’s young professionals. MIX even caught the camera-eye of CNN.

Every month, MIX poses a question with a prize for the winner. May’s “Mix Pays Revenge of a Question” was, “What, besides money, do you need to launch an entrepreneurial idea or business?”  The responses pointed up both the sandpits and fairways of launching new venture, including a rant about how the city is controlled by a small cabal of status quo players with longstanding ties (here termed a “gerontocracy.”) Positive suggestions included assembling a group of taste makers to vet and bless new ventures, and providing a gathering place for entrepreneurial folk to share ideas.

Whatever it doesn’t have, Santa Fe has no lack of talent.  The challenge is how to interlock that talent to make it go further.  I was going to propose that the wished for groups of tastemakers and entrepreneurs make Spectrum their meeting place, and that Spectrum tap the pool of young professionals for ideas and action to create a full scale entrepreneurial “factory,” but Spectrum didn’t make it.

So what HAVE we got? Changing Gallery uses on-market real estate to showcase the work of emerging and independent artists.  Sure, I’d love a large warehouse with walls into which Jennifer Joseph could hammer her gorgeous installations, where a day cafe could make way for a nighttime performance space for indie musicians.  But what I have are listings and artwork–both of which need to be seen in order to be sold. Through intersecting needs, everyone wins.

Last month’s Mix Pays winner was Rob DeWalt, who suggested “extending the Santa Fe Trails bus service to 3 a.m. on limited routes on the weekends for a 3-month trial period…. “In order for it to work, though, people will have to put their money where their mouth is and actually use this new public transportation option during the trial period.” (italics mine) “We’d like to try to put Rob’s idea in motion but we need your feedback…,” said Mix. “What would it take to get you and your friends to ride it? What routes would be most important? Leave it in the comments or show up at the next MIX event (every third Thursday) to tell us in person.”

As of this writing, there wasn’t a comment in the box.  This is what I’m calling “The Spectrum Syndrome”: the passive belief that somebody will give feedback; somebody will set up the program; that if it’s a good idea, it’ll happen. I know I’m guilty of this; Spectrum’s my witness. Are you?  Here’s hoping that those whom the talented creatives behind Mix are seeking to serve will offer what they can easily spare–opinions and support for a good idea–lest the fine potential that is Santa Fe Mix become just another case of Spectrum Syndrome.

**Answer August’s $200 MixPays Survey on the issue of public transportation in Santa Fe and earn a ticket toward a free drink and a chance to win $200 if your answer smokes the competition.

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