The AHA Festival of Progressive Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico features three events throughout the year, The Art of The Machine in the Siler-Rufina Nexus in July, the Progressive Arts Fair in the Railyard in September, and String of Lights: A Holiday Market in Downtown Santa Fe in December.

Check out this video by Razelle Benally of the 2015 festival:

What is “progressive” art?

AHA believes that the arts should move people forward–as a community, as artists, and as the recipients of the experience of the work. When art and art forms get locked into boxes of commoditization and control, they can hold a community back. The progressive arts are about exploring ways to strategically remove the constraints that communities may inadvertently place upon the arts in order to create an inclusive space for exploration, allowing the arts to move everyone forward.

In an approach to honor this phenomenon, which is both local and global, the festival aims to create a platform for artists to experiment with showing and performing work free from the requirements that are often laid out by traditional art markets, performance venues, and gallery environments. At AHA, artists are not responsible for paying for booth space, drumming up their own audience, or generating revenue. We do not select artists based on their accomplishments–in many cases, we aim to showcase the work of people who do not self-identify as artists at all. Rather, we invite multidisciplinary forms of expression that embody interactivity, cross-pollination, social impact and community connection above the cost-benefit analysis that so often drives the creation of opportunities in the arts.

What does AHA mean?

AHA stands for the After Hours Alliance, which is the coalition of music and nightlife promoters that launched the festival in 2011. In choosing the name AHA Festival, we intended to also evoke the exclamation “aha!” that one makes in a moment of creative understanding.

Since our founding, we have increasingly expanded our focus from nightlife as a specific issue to encompass the larger, systemic issues of which nightlife is a part. We believe that Santa Fe is currently in the process of regenerating itself and its identity as an arts center. There has historically been an imbalance of support and infrastructure in the arts economy that favors marketable, salable forms of art over performance-based, DIY, and community-based art. This affects Santa Fe’s ability to develop not just a sustainable nightlife scene, but a sustainable community on all levels.

The AHA Festival of Progressive Arts aims to create possibilities for this reinvented arts identity and economy, as do our the other projects we’ve collaborated on over the years: co-producing The Business of Music Summit in 2014 with New Mexico Lawyers for The Arts; lobbying for the creation of the Nighttime Economy Task Force at the city; the creation of the At 7000 Music Video series, with local filmmakers; and collaborating on artist outreach for the Arts & Creativity Center, an affordable-housing and shared-resources development project led by Creative Santa Fe. AHA was originally founded through crowdsourcing process initiated by MIX Santa Fe.