“It’s important to be proud of where you’re from. I want to bring the traditional side of Santa Fe into the new modern contemporary world. I want to honor the traditions of the people that are from here.” – Bobby Beals
My name is Bobby Beals and I’m a fifth generation Santa Fean. My grandparents were very integral in raising me in Santa Fe. This is my home, I’ll never leave, I only leave for business and fun, but I always come back because this is my home. I have three children that I’m going to raise here. I’m proud to be a New Mexican. I’m proud especially to be a Santa Fean. I want to make my grandparents, who aren’t alive anymore, proud of who I am and what I do, and how I treat people here in town.
My family roots go pretty deep here. Eloisa Luna Bergere and Nina Otero Warren were my great aunts and they both fought a lot for women’s suffrage in the 1930’s. They created a place for women to get jobs and work and also begin to vote. I am pretty proud of that bit of history. My grandfather is John J. Kenney, and he was a Brigadier General and so most of my uncles and my mom traveled around the world with him. Their roots aren’t tied in as directly as mine would be coming from here because they traveled to Virginia and Oklahoma and places like that. My grandfather’s brother is Bergere Kenney who is a very well-known and respected doctor out here, people just love him. His grandchildren and I hung out with our cousins, so I always had family here. I always had cousins that I’d get in trouble with and run around and do funny things with and they’re very important to me. I still hang out with them. My family roots did really cool stuff and it’s been nice to hear these stories and research them. Santa Fe has a new school named after Nina Otero Warren called Nina Otero, so that is really cool!
A lot of my memories growing up here in Santa Fe are of running around the arroyos with my friends and cousins having dirt cloud fights and having this fun environment. You’d be home at dark and you couldn’t get into too much trouble because it’s such a small town. Someone’s tio is going to see you, if you’re doing something bad, or if you’re on the Plaza past a certain time and you’re not supposed to be there, someone would see you and call your family, and you’d get into trouble. I remember going on a lot of hikes with my grandfather, he was part of the Sierra Club. I went to museums,art galleries, meeting artists, hanging out with the art curators. [At first] it wasn’t really something that I wanted to do with my life, but it definitely had an influence growing up here. My grandfather would always take us out driving and talking about what kind of tree this is and why it’s important. We would always have a shovel in the back of his Subaru because we’d always have to fix the roads.
When I went to school in California, I was in culture shock because it was a just concrete jungle. Santa Fe was just so different to me growing up. I had to leave, and I wanted to leave because it was boring. As I got more mature, I just had this longing for Santa Fe, and when I came back that’s when I realized how beautiful this place is. The blue skies and the altitude that we’re at has this kind of light that artists are attracted to. I was attracted to it. The people are very important to me and when you leave here you don’t have the chile that you have here and that was my medicine. When I leave here I get a little anxious, I have a little anxiety when I get on a plane. When I come back and I fly in either to Santa Fe or Albuquerque and I see these mountains, the Jemez, the Ortiz, the Sandia’s and the Sangre’s and I think “ah yes, I’m back”. So it is so important and something that I try to instill into my kids. I want them to explore but the then come back to Santa Fe as well.
I went to California and studied film so I was going to be like Quentin Tarantino and make films and stuff like that. I ended editing in editing bay’s linear, splicing actual film and learning that whole process of capturing film. When I was going to school in ’94, it started to become nonlinear and digital and programs like Avid and Final Cut Pro kind of erased a lot of jobs for us that were splicing film. So being in southern California working, I would take these college classes that wasn’t something that I wanted to do anymore and so I would ditch school and go to the Getty. I would go to these different museums like the Museum of Tolerance and go to these art studios and I know that the teachers wouldn’t catch me there because no way would I be into a museum. I remember seeing these marble sculptures and these paintings by Bosch that just kind of freaked me out and I thought “whoa, this is amazing!” But it was always something unattainable to me. It was something that wasn’t happening.
I was looking at history, it was almost like every museum, even the Museum of Modern Art was a historic account of art so I didn’t even fathom that artists were actually working and buying paintings. I didn’t try to make a career out of it until I moved back here to Santa Fe to take care of my grandmother. I worked at this restaurant and these artists would come in to sale paintings and I got a job with one of them as an art assistant. I called it, Artssistant to his studio. I did everything from clean the brushes, clean the toilets, sweep the floors, stretch canvas, wire canvasses, ship canvasses wherever they needed to go, it was constant learning on the job training which was really important to me and fun. And then I would go and work the restaurant from 4:00 pm to midnight. I did the art assistant job for quite some time about four years, but in the first six months of it, I had about seven accounts then I got hired by a gallery. The gallery owner was pretty wild and he was going to Mexico for some reason and I watched his gallery for two weeks. I had no idea what I was doing. I would go to the library and people would say “oh that reminds me of Rembrandt’s brush strokes,” so I would go the library and study Rembrandt. I just kind of nerded out for a whole year just trying to learn, then it became a constant learning process and it hasn’t stopped yet.
My oldest daughter is twelve and she is an amazing musician. When she was younger she wanted to be a priest and I never discouraged it. She is just an amazing person and since she was younger she would stick up for people. She’s brave that way. She’s the oldest, so she’s always looking out for me and the other kids. I always say she has three kids (laughing).
My second daughter is ten and she’s our fashionista. She’s very sensitive and cares for other people and it just an amazing child. When we had our youngest, she really took on spending time with him.
The youngest is six and he is just a great little kid. Boys are so different than girls. He is just a maniac really, but he is so caring and he is watching a lot. He watches his dad and watches his sisters, so you really have to act right around him. They are such good kids and have good friends and they are just great people.
I think it’s important to be proud of where you’re from. In Santa Fe has kind of a small town culture. Small town culture is important to me for bringing the traditional side of where Santa Fe comes from into the new modern contemporary world. I want to honor the traditions of the people that are from here, including Indigenous people, the Hispanic people that are from here, all the people that came together to form Santa Fe, and have this multi-cultural, diversity in the arts, as well as the music, restaurants, and the hospitality.
Beals & Co
We’re in the Beals and Company Showroom on historic Canyon Road. I started this showroom. I’ve been in the gallery business for 15 years and I wanted to do something a little bit different than a gallery per se, so I call it a showroom. The Beals and Company Showroom showcases one to two person shows or group shows that have a common theme to bring artists together. I also curate the art for the Four Seasons here in town (Santa Fe), Sanctuary Resort in Scottsdale, The Mondrian in Los Angeles Also different fine hotels across the country, including the Drury Plaza Hotel right here in downtown Santa Fe. The showroom will bring in new work and artists to showcase their work before we put it out into the world, into these resorts, and public venues.
I started doing this on my own about 8 years ago and I felt really young in the game and so I got a lot of adversity for that. I would want to join boards and they were like “eh, you’re kind of young.” Walking into the Santa Fe Gallery Association, I felt like they were like “we’ll let him talk but then we’ll get back to what we always do and how we always do it.” I love the Santa Fe Gallery Association and everything that they do, but that was a natural setback for me to try to change things because they weren’t working the way they were working. I think now they’re listening to me and I maybe it’s because I’ve worked with the Four Seasons, I’m synonymous with the Fairmont, and these brands out there. I’ve shown that I always pay my artists, I always pay my vendors, and landlords. I always represent the artists to the best of my ability and talk about them in the best way I can. After eight years of that, there’s a more of a perception of who I am. I’m getting older and look older so they kind of aren’t resisting so much.
What I do with the hotels and pop ups, there wasn’t anybody doing it when I first started it and the way I did it. There was no guidebook and I did a lot of research, from New York to Los Angeles, to everywhere. There was a lady named Sarah Eyestone who was curating art at La Posada and she’s doing a great job but that was the only thing and so there was no Artists in Residences. It was a setback in the beginning because people didn’t know what I was doing and I would have other gallery owners offer to buy me lunch and ask to see if I was eating and surviving in this world because they didn’t see me and didn’t understand what I was doing. And obviously I’d take the lunch. People were trying to understand what I was doing and I think still to this day I try to keep a little bit of that because it draws people into what I do.
It’s been fun to find out how different these artists are. They are like circles, they don’t fit into a box. You can’t take fifty artists and use the same programming and all fifty will be successful. It just doesn’t work that way. The setback was learning that process, learning about the individual artist and honoring that artist in the way they deserve to be honored. It’s not much of a setback because I love that part. I love figuring out that Tetris puzzle piece.
There is also artists out there that want to work with me that don’t care about me individually or my business, and they just want to make a fast buck. So I deal with a lot of that. I get about 100 portfolio submissions a month that I take the time and go through. Some artists just want to know how much money I’m going to spend on marketing their career and I want to know how much time they are spending on marketing their careers. It’s not really about money, it’s more about time and it’s about relationships. It’s like a marriage when you decide to work with an artist. It’s a commitment and some artist’s don’t honor that commitment and some do. In particularly here in Santa Fe, it’s a small community so if you sneeze you’ll get a bless you from somebody you never met. It’s important for me to continue and cut through these setbacks. I don’t hold onto things, just try and move through them.
There’s a lot of what I call veterans in the game that have been super nice to me and I try to take them out to lunch and pick their brain with ten questions and they’ve answered. A lot of them would say, “don’t work in Santa Fe as an art dealer, go to a big city with what you are doing.” But I beg to differ, Santa Fe is where I’m going to make it happen!
There’s a lot of history here, and I skate this street a lot and I remember it. I remember the little grocery stores, and I remember where to get ice cream, and the galleries or little restaurants now so historic Santa Fe. Skating downhill through Canyon Road brings me a lot of joy to pass by these buildings that have so much history there. I just see growth. Everyplace has its theme and motives and you can’t achieve those same motives as you can in Chicago as you can here, it just doesn’t work, it’s not set up that way.
We built the Railyard and put a lot of money to the Railyard Arts District but the rent there is just ridiculous. I haven’t seen their statements but I know from talking to people that it’s $20,000 a month to just be out there, and that’s hard for someone like an art dealer that’s trying to promote art to survive. But you do have the Railyard Arts District and you have these art fairs that come here like SWAIA’s being doing this for 94 or 95 years, the Indian Market, then you have the Hispanic Contemporary and Traditional Market. So there are a lot of markets that come out here that generate people and art sales.
As far as Canyon Road, I think it will always be that charming street and I hope actually that it doesn’t become super commercial. People in the other galleries might be like, “hey, don’t talk like that!” But I really hope that it remains charming for me and my business. I can have a brick and mortar here, but I also have an online business and I can be cutting edge online as well. I can have cutting edge shows and pop up shows, but we need to honor those traditions and those traditional artists. I think Canyon Road is the perfect place to do it.
My ambition was to conquer the world and share art with the world and I did that and went a lot of different places and traveled around. I really pushed the art scene and put a lot of sacrifice into the art and presenting these artists while making sure I had food on the table and they were getting paid for their work. I think I worked more than anybody I know honestly. I lost a lot of my family element, you know my kids. I blinked and they are just a little bit older and they look different. So the past two years I changed that, I dropped about twenty hotels and about seventy artists. Now I have twenty artists and my goals are a little bit different, they’re more dedicated to these artists and enjoying life and being happy. I want to treat people well, my vendors, my collectors, the artists, everybody we touch.
My ambitions are to keep going with this, I really don’t want to conquer the world, but I want to share these select artists with the world. Last year and this year, I went to Dubai. Art Dubai is a big affair out there and the Emirate people are so kind to us and the southwest art. I was the only art dealer out there from the United States and they are super kind with what we were trying to do.
Even going to Albuquerque and doing a pop up there and people are embracing it. My goals have changed a lot. I obviously want to make a living at it but I also have the skateboard company to help out with that and I can always wait tables again if I need to. But this is my passion and it is working out. I find that the minute I chase the money is the minute I am losing and not being happy. So I just decided to do what I want to do with some collective consciousness.
I’m hoping that I can grow a successful business that is consistent, continuous, efficient and that I can step out of my role. Maybe have some key players helping me do that so I can move onto mentoring other artists and art dealers. It’s very important to me to keep that realm of respect for artists and I’m a guardian of that.
I was just asked about when I plan to retire and I was like “what? what is that?”, I’ll never really retire! Hopefully I can mentor and step into that role. I know a lot of people who dive into consulting and they consult with non-profits. I want my kids to look at me and think ” wow, that’s what a business man is.” So that’s what I hope to accomplish and then have fun. If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it! I’ve learned that now, you know, I’m 41 and so if I’m not having fun, I’m not doing it. If that means making less money, fine because I want to stay alive. I’s easy to fall into these traps of chasing what you think will make you successful. Hopefully in 5, 10, 15 years from now, I’m continually keeping myself in check and having fun but also helping others.
Santa Fe Art Scene
I think that art scene here is pretty amazing actually. There is a tradition of artists that came here from New York and Chicago and started these art collectives in the 1920’s. Georgia O’Keeffe came out here in 1922 and Agnus Martin came out here. And you have the Taos 7 that came here, they were painters and sculptures but they also came out here with musicians and poets and there was this bohemian lifestyle that they created. It was a collective of artists. Then you had the Cinco Pintores that came here off of Canyon Rd. in the late thirties and forties and they also had this kind of collective going on. They were influenced by a lot of writers that came out here and talk about the culture here and they would paint these paintings of sunsets then send back to New York and people in New York didn’t believe the colors!
In the last five years we’ve had these artist collectives joining and coming together to kind of create that same environment and they are passionate in what they do. You have Meow Wolf which is a big name and then Stranger Collective is doing some really cool shows. These are people with humble beginnings that kind of joined forces, they totally Voltron’ed up to make a bigger impact and I think that is the future of our Santa Fe art market. I hope that it continues to grow like that, we have big supporters.
I think the internet and social media has kind of created an environment because you can easily follow what someone is doing because they are posting all the time and you’re aware of what’s going on at a certain capacity. I’m trying to share as much as I can about the process of putting on shows and trying to be normal on social media so other potential art dealers out there can see that you don’t have to be a certain way to do this. So I think people are coming into their own and joining forces, and collectives are pretty important for this community.
At this point it’s my responsibility to represent Santa Fe like I do, like others do in the community. Including Randy Randle of the CBB, Amy and Caitlin who do such a good job with Simply Santa Fe, Carole Baker with Cherry Pie Social. They all care about this city, not all of them are from here, but they embrace it and that makes me proud.
Kamagraph started with a couple friends of mine who are no longer in the company. We basically wanted to do something that was more artistic and culturally sound as far as the skateboard community. We created these skateboard decks and all the skateboards every time we release have sold out! Even the appare!l And we decided to donate the money to certain causes so that’s what we are doing full time with certain charities.
Last year we raised money for NAMI Organization, the National Alliance for Mental Illness. This year we are dedicated for a young mentoring program called Young Fathers and so we want to help these potential parents. Some of these kids are just lost because they don’t have guidance and a lot of this generation turns to skateboarding. You have these “skateboarding punks” that are really good, good kids, and it’s amazing to see how they really understand falling down and how to get back up. Because they literally fall down and get back up.
I couldn’t do this, design skateboards on my own, so I turn to artists like David Santiago and Frank Gonzales and we started having other artists come forward and wanted to be part of this project. Unselfishly they would create their art on decks and donate it to us. We would have an art show and sell the deck and donate all the proceeds to the Young Mentor Program. It’s really something that’s really interesting.
Damon who owns Initiate Skateboards has been so influential and has donated his time to mentor these young adults and teenagers. There’s also Casey who owns Downtown Subscription who said “put the skateboard show in my coffee shop and we’ll have a skate jam outside.” He’s a skater too. You find all these old guys like us who want to make a difference. Even in Albuquerque with Carlos Contreras who used to Promote at Tractor Brewing, I was telling him about this project and he’s like “okay, can you do a show in two months?” and so I was like “Yes!” He’s been an integral part of this and getting artists in Albuquerque to help out.
A lot of artists are finding that the process of painting on an actual deck is has kind of liberated them from other mediums and kind of transformed their art and they really like that curved surface. Kamagraph also takes people to the Santa Fe Opera and Chamber Music Festivals. Kids that normally would not get a chance to ever go there and those organizations have donated their tickets and time to get kids into these shows. They’re seeing something different and we’re just kind of changing a little bit of how they see the world. We also take them to restaurants and have chef’s teach them how to make a certain food item that’s simple and inexpensive, but damn good!
I’m having fun and I have good friends like Nick Colavecchio who loves to skate all the time with me and Percy Stith who skates all the time with me and we take our kids skating. We can make a difference with the skateboard community and I don’t know anybody really doing this.I think if we do this right we can encourage other companies to do the same and that’s what Kamagraph’s about, making a difference. We call it Skate-Art-Culture. It’s definitely skate and we have skaters that skate like Loveless Johnson IIII and Clay Shank are really great skaters that skate for us. But we have art. We have these artists that come forward like Michael Martinez and some amazing painters that are coming forward and just like “yes! let me do this, let me donate this!” The culture part is providing a different culture, like taking them to the park to shoot hoops or taking them to the opera or going to the Chamber Music Festival. I have three kids so I know what’s it like but it needs to be done and we’re doing it here in Santa Fe. Hopefully we can create a good business model that it can be duplicated into other areas like maybe Albuquerque or Las Cruces or Taos or places like that. So that is what Kamagraph is.
About the Artists
I would like to highlight the artists that I work with are pretty amazing and they work night and day no matter if anything sells or not. They pay bills just like any of us. If you are hearing this or reading this check these artists out on the Beals & Co. website, bealsandco.com or @bealsandco on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter we have a Vimeo at vimeo.com/bealsandco and you can see video on them talking. Artists are very important and the reason I do this and they inspire me all the time and I have their back like they have my back. It’s important to have this group of people working towards this common goal and we’re here to share beauty with the viewers, the collectors or the non-collectors that see the art, we want to make an impact that is positive and you’ll see that in all the art shows we do and all the artists we represent. It might have some painful imagery but there is positivity on that and blessed into that. I would just encourage people to take a look at these artists, see what they are doing, follow them on their social media and be inspired. If we can inspire you then great! This world needs art in it and I’m super happy to be part of that and I’m super happy to be a New Mexican and a Santa Fean. I am honored and humbled that Humans of New Mexico wants to talk about me and what I do so I really appreciate that so thank you!