Communication Studies, Taos

During summer 2012, communication studies students in the Meadows School of the Arts are at SMU-in-Taos, where they are studying nonprofit management and working as interns at nonprofit organizations in the city of Taos. Students will focus on issues involving the environment, the arts, public radio and TV, and nonprofit community outreach.

The “Mañana” Effect

An update from Valerie, a junior majoring in studio art and journalism, with a minor in French, who is interning at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos:

A giant old tree at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house

As my time in Taos is coming to a close, I’ve been trying to put my finger on the key thing I’m going to take away from this place. At the start of the month it seemed like I had endless time sprawled out ahead of me, but now that I sit here writing on my second to last night here I can’t help but think how time has escaped from me. Between my 10 to 4 internship and exploring with friends, I haven’t really spent much time sitting still. Oddly enough, I think this is exactly what I’m going to take away from Taos. I call it the Mañana effect.

One of the many beautiful views from a town outside of Taos

Chatting over a nice dinner earlier this evening with Professor Flournoy and fellow students, we discussed our personal experiences in Taos and talked about everything from plans for the future to campus gossip. When I reflected on my time in Taos it struck me that one thing that really stood out about the people here is their attitude. Maybe it’s the artistic outlook of the town or the consistent weather out here, but it seems to me that most people aren’t too worried about anything. Thus, the Mañana effect, which means tomorrow, as in: “I’ll get to it tomorrow.” By contrast, Dallas is a fast-paced city full of lots of people with lots of commitments, busy lives and full planners. This leads to stress. And where has stress ever really gotten anybody?

The Santuario de Chimayo church, famous for its pilgrimages and healing powers

I think many people move out here to Taos to escape their hectic pace. Upon visiting the Mabel Dodge Luhan house with my class yesterday, I wondered why in the world a New York socialite would ever want to move out to the middle of the desert in New Mexico to marry a Native American Indian back in the 1820s. Maybe she just wanted to take it easy for a while. And Mabel wasn’t the only one. Starting in the 1800s Taos became the home of a rapidly growing community of artists and thinkers who put Taos on the map, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, who came to visit and stayed.  It’s easy to see why. For an artist, unrestricted time allows for creative flow.

Being out here, I have learned that some things can wait. It doesn’t hurt to take your time and stop worrying so much. I don’t mean that it’s OK to procrastinate on assignments or wait until the last minute to make important decisions. Adopting the Mañana attitude of Taos means to take a little time from busy schedules now and again to relax and do whatever makes you happy.

Wishing you all a fantastic summer!

One of Taos’ many glorious sunsets

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Working on Taos radio

 An update from Peter, a political science major who interned at Cultural Energy Independent Radio

I have spent the month of June interning for Cultural Energy Independent Radio here in Taos.  My first day of work, June 1, also happened to be my birthday.  After going over the work expectations for our individual internships, all the Communications students met Professor Flournoy back at campus.  She took us on a tour of Taos – we explored downtown, the Rio Grande gorge, the Earth Ships, and the village of Arroyo Seco.  There, Professor Flournoy took us to Taos Cow, a local homemade ice cream shop, and bought us all ice cream.  Then we walked down the road and watched a potter working with clay, while hurrying to eat our ice cream before it melted.

My internship has been a unique learning experience. Formed in 2003 for exclusively charitable and educational purposes, Cultural Energy produces educational radio pieces about communities in northern New Mexico, posting segments about current events, history and culture to the organization’s website.

Our broadcast content provides a balance of opposing opinions about the environment and culture in the region.  Since 2003 Cultural Energy has recorded hundreds of public meetings, interviewed candidates and hosted public forums.  Our segments have been broadcast on six stations in New Mexico, and nationally on the Pacifica Network.

In addition to my regular work duties, I’ve had an opportunity to conduct and produce interviews with local activist organizations.  I learned about recording techniques – where and how to record, which mics to use, how to conduct interview, and how to edit and polish my recordings into a finished product.

This month has been an amazing experience.  I came here knowing very little about nonprofit organizations – of which Taos has more than 200.  During my time in Taos, I have learned so much about the 501 c(3) filing process and the demands of running a not-for-profit organization.  Now I’m seriously considering pursuing future work in the nonprofit sector.

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Unknotting the line: A testimony to patience Part III

An update from Monica, a sophomore Hunt Leadership Scholar planning to major in business and communication studies. She is interning at Taos Community Foundation

I’ve always disliked fishing. My brothers were Boy Scouts, so each year I would go with them to Scout fishing events at a stocked lake. When I got older, I fished in Rhode Island (off a cliff ) with relatives. And I always felt terrible when I caught one, and had to rip the hook out of its mouth and release it. Actually, I’d make my Dad do the dirty work. But still, why needlessly cause the fish pain? But that doesn’t even begin to cover the boredom of waiting for a fish to bite.

So when I went fly fishing, I found myself pleasantly surprised. I loved it!

I was the only girl in the group to go fly-fishing. When we broke up into groups, I went with Anne Weil (my Wellness professor) and Van the Fisherman, a fourth-generation fisherman, I believe, who owned the company that took us out.

It felt like a dream to spend an entire day fishing on the beautiful New Mexico mountainside. Van showed me how to cast, adjust the line, where to look for fish, and various techniques. I caught several fish – the biggest was a 25 pounder!

Just kidding. My biggest was about 8 inches.

But it wasn’t about catching the fish, as Van said. It was about the process. And I liked that. My Wellness teacher fished just the way I do. She got excited about ‘strikes’ but didn’t really want the fish to bite either. It was funny, because when I got back to the group of guys, they talked about how they wished for bigger fish. Most people want that, but not me and my professor! We were content to sit all day casting lines and getting ‘strikes.’

Another part of the fishing trip that I would like to note is when my line got knotted. (To my defense, it got knotted because it was windy! Not because I’m a pathetic fisher or anything. I just want to set the record straight on that point.)

Anyway, my line got in this ridiculously hard knot. And Van tried to straighten me out. He played with the line for 15 long minutes. Every time he got close to fixing it, the wind blew and the line reknotted itself. And each time Van just said in astonishment, “I have never seen a knot like this.”

As he worked with the line, I thought, “Just cut it!” As time went on, instead of growing aggravated, I grew intrigued. I longed for the ‘easy way out’ and he simply wouldn’t take that route. He was not the type to succumb to instant gratification. I admire that.

I could go into a long spiel about how society loves to instantly solve its ailments and problems without thought of the long-term consequences – but I won’t.

I’ll just say that what I had mistakenly thought was a waste of time, is what he saw as a challenge. He’s unknotted thousands of knots in his time. Maybe he did take the easy way on some snags, but I’d like to imagine that each knot he encountered, he carefully undid with an acquired sense of patience.

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Izilwane: Call to Life

An update from Valerie, a junior majoring in studio art and journalism, with a minor in French, who is interning at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos:

Last Thursday at SMU’s campus in Taos, my Communications Studies class had the pleasure of hosting a documentary called “Call of Life.”  It was shown with the help of Izilwane, an organization determined to help us see the interconnectedness between humans, animals and the environment. Professor Flournoy invited Izilwane’s executive director, Tara Waters-Lumpkin, to speak in our class a few days before. Her devotion and passion for biodiversity and spreading the word about the human impact on the environment were inspiring. She urged us to take this message to other students. The “Call of Life” film screening provided a step toward that goal.

The film focuses on the extinction of species and the rate of human consumption of the Earth’s natural resources. As I’m from Australia, the concept of extinction and endangered species is nothing new to me. My home country hosts many native plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and if we Aussies are not careful, they won’t exist at all. So for me, the film was very eye-opening. I had no idea the rate at which the Earth is experiencing unprecedented global biodiversity loss. The facts are alarming. I watched the film wondering how many people are aware of what is truly going on?

That’s why Izilwane, founded by Waters-Lumpkin in Taos in 2009, is so important. Using a unique multimedia online platform, the organization highlights pressing global environmental issues and aims to inform the human population that by making changes and monitoring these issues, we can help. The organization does this all on its website, through storytelling, reporting, academic papers, blogs, social media, and by promoting documentaries like “Call to Life,” which bring to the forefront a very real issue: human survival and healthy eco systems go hand-in-hand.

After the film viewing at the SMU-in-Taos Dining Hall, I left wanting to know more, especially more about what I can do. I think a lot of SMU students felt the same way, at least I hope so. What can we do that will make an impact on the realities of global warming and the subsequent environmental threats? Our generation has a unique opportunity to make a difference. With more exposure to the facts, through organizations like Izilwane, maybe we can. Please read about Izilwane.

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Defining yourself; a slower pace? Part II

An update from Monica, a sophomore Hunt Leadership Scholar planning to major in business and communication studies. She is interning at Taos Community Foundation

This man would come into the Taos bank every day — shoeless, dirty and looking homeless. No one suspected he was a multimillionaire. According to the ex-banker who told me this story, a surprising number of people live like that out here. It’s just part of the Taos mindset. And you learn that you can’t just assume people are exactly what they appear to be. You can’t know if that man with the long stringy beard, walking alone down the road for miles, doesn’t have some extravagant life story.

Not to go all cliché on you, but shouldn’t that always be the case? You never know someone until you know them. We already know this on some level. But in Taos, most people think that what counts “is not what you’ve done, but who you are.” (I actually read this in the local paper).

Coming from the big city, this perspective seems backwards. I watched Batman Begins the other night, in which Rachel Dawes tells Bruce Wayne that it’s not who he is underneath that matters, but what he does. “It’s what you do that defines you.”

For me, neither of these two ways of thinking is entirely correct. But if I had to choose one, I would be inclined to side with Rachel Dawes. Action is what matters. I could think all day about how to behave, but the actions I take are the ones that push me to be the person I’m becoming.

Maybe that explains why I try to keep so busy. Everyone wants to feel like they have some sort of impact on others. Socrates made his impact by teaching, rather than being a simple, completive man. He made his impact by taking action, and his significant actions are why we remember his name more than 2,000 years later.

This urgent need to impact the world through our actions takes time. And since I always seem pressed for time, I never seem to get around to doing what I want to do. In Dallas, I rarely get enough sleep because I don’t want to miss out on anything. Yet here, that’s not the case. In addition to the beautiful scenery and sacred history of the land, I think the unique sense of time is what differentiates the people of Taos from others.

I’m not saying that they don’t care about impact or take action here. But there is certainly less emphasis on it, and less stress. Locals tell me a Saturday night doesn’t have to be full of activities to be successful. It can be spent at home reading a book. It’s not considered lazy just to stay home on a Friday night instead of getting together with friends. Interestingly enough, Taos folks seem to realize the value of a slower pace. And maybe by spending enough time here, I too can begin to recognize the value in slowing down a little.

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The energy of the land

An update from Monica, a sophomore Hunt Leadership Scholar planning to major in business and communication studies. She is interning at Taos Community Foundation

The thing that makes Taos so different is the energy. Professor Flournoy calls it a “mañana attitude.”  It’s relaxed and unhurried out here. At my internship at the Taos Community Foundation, while working with local volunteers and Foundation board members, we sometimes end up discussing astrology, how stars and planets cause problems and blessings right now, various massages to rid forms of “bad energy,” and herbal remedies for ailments.

One afternoon Prof. Flournoy drove the class out to the EarthShips near the Gorge outside of Taos. This community is composed of a group of mound-like solar homes made purely of trash and recycled goods. Colored bottles compose fences, tires provide foundations, and soda cans line exterior walls. These are the homes of people who seek to live “off the grid.” They want to walk this Earth without leaving footprints behind, carbon or otherwise.

My cousin, who lives in Taos, says the energy here is related to the unique geography: a deep scar across the Earth (the Gorge), mountains rimming the town, and the expansive valleys, all contribute to the unique Taos energy level. And of course, the Native American tradition (Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously operating pueblo) has a significant impact on the overall attitude.

Turquoise jewelry abounds. Chili peppers are the décor of choice around homes and businesses alike. I walked into a store in the Plaza the other day and noticed footlong, bundled tree branches for sale by the door. A bearded man behind the counter explained that these were used to cleanse a house from all that is bad. He said folks perform this ritual every day.

This awareness of energy and the spirits of the land are part of this deeply rooted culture. People here are allowed to recognize and develop a strong relationship with the land and deeper values. Taos is a place where the free thinker thrives. That is why artists, the LGBT community, and hippies have all found peace to express themselves.

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Sloooowing down in Taos

An update from Monica, a sophomore Hunt Leadership Scholar planning to major in business and communication studies who is interning at Taos Community Foundation

Ice cream at the Taos Cow

I am the oldest child with two brothers — one entering college and the other a rising  high school senior. The things I love most in the world include my friends, the color green, a good fantasy novel, the outdoors, my dog Muffin, an intense political discussion, well-choreographed musicals, and last but not least, all that pertains to my Catholic faith. So that’s me.

In Taos, I am working at nonprofit internship as part of my Communication Studies class. In my short time here, my routine looks a little like this: up at 6:30 or 7, eat part of a breakfast burrito with the fresh fruit and berries they set out each morning. Then I go on an hourlong mountain biking trek. If not that, then I go to a wellness exercise class at 8 a.m. where I can do yoga, Pilates, or boot camp.

Next, I shower and change for my internship at Taos Community Foundation. My friend and I both jam out to tunes as we drive into town. (Safely, of course. She is an excellent driver.) I am at my internship from 10-4 (which I’ll detail in a later blog post), and then we drive back to campus in time for dinner.

In the evening I attend my Nonprofit Communications class, taught by Professor Flournoy. After class, the nights vary … mostly school work, TV and board games, visits to the Taos plaza, or tennis and volleyball. Weekends vary, too, but include Wellness II experiences that take in the beautiful natural landscapes of Taos. (My photos capture some of what we do.)

To be honest, I was not looking forward to summer. It’s not that I don’t like my home in Saint Louis, Missouri; I love my home and the people there. But as most freshmen can attest, somewhere along the line college turns into your new home.  The new college friends somehow turned into my family, cliché as it sounds. There’s no definite beginning or end for this fantastic phenomenon, but for me, SMU was home from the beginning.

During freshman year I became the crazy overcommitted girl, running on very little sleep at a non-stop pace. With the close of the spring semester, when weeks were eliminated as fast as the contestants on American Idol, I began dreading summer. Summer, which I romanticized, seemed the temporary termination of my current college friendships. Melodramatic? Obviously.

However, I looked forward to Taos, and I came ready for an adventure, to make friends and to grow. It’s the perfect place to do just that. There’s something nice about slowing down. So that’s what I’m doing … slowing down in Taos.

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When in Taos, do as the Taoseños do

An update from Valerie, a junior majoring in studio art and journalism, with a minor in French, who is interning at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos:

Harwood Museum of Art

Having already spent two weeks in this mountain town, it is hard to pinpoint a specific moment or experience to call my favorite. In fact, much of this time has been spent learning about the culture and people of Taos as a whole, both of which are very different when compared to the lifestyle in Dallas. I don’t think I had ever properly seen a true hippie until I came to Taos. Nor had I eaten green chile on absolutely everything – which apparently is possible, too. In Taos they’re pretty fond of it.

In addition to the Nonprofit Communication course I am taking with Professor Nina Flournoy in Taos this semester, I’m interning at the Harwood Museum of Art. A lot of what I do consists of handling the art in museum storage, which allows me the unique opportunity to learn all about the artists of northern New Mexico and the history of the region. In my spare time I have been exploring the town, which is a melting pot of art in itself.

A ristra

Here are just some of the things I have learned while in Taos:

1. Ristras are garlands of dried chilies you see hanging everywhere. A local said this is simply because Taos has a lot of chilies.

2. Taos is home Taos Pueblo,  the oldest continually inhabited community in the United States, and the home of the Tiwa Indians.

3. Just a few miles out of town lies Taos Gorge, a huge and stunning natural crevasse running through the Taos valley, which hosts many natural hot springs.

The gorge

4. The Taos Cow in Arroyo Seco is hands down the best place to get ice cream in town.

5. Taos is home to the St. Fransisco de Asis church – which has been photographed and painted by famous artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. Every year, the community gets together to re-adobe the outside surface of the church.

St. Fransisco de Asis

6. New Mexico sunsets are amazing – bring a camera with you!

7. Just outside of town are the “Earth ships” – a community of sustainable houses built out of recycled products such as glass bottles, rammed earth and cans. As a result, they cost almost nothing to build. And they are very interesting to see.

Stay tuned for more about Taos!

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On Planet Taos

Students at the Earthship in Taos, a sustainable building project

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