Dana Chavez points out a tile to Ronna Kalish (right) that was created at a the Socorro Community Arts Party. Due to the pandemic, Chavez has had to create arts programs that can be taught over Zoom.
Photo courtesy of Dana Chavez

After starting with the Performing Art Series at New Mexico Tech as a volunteer in 2000, Dana Chavez has now done almost every job the series has to offer. Over the years she has put on various events and her role got even bigger this year when everything had to be revamped to do over Zoom. She retaught herself video editing and how to live stream onto multiple platforms at once. Chavez also created new events during 2020 to keep Socorro entertained and active during the coronavirus pandemic.

How did you get involved in the Performing Arts Series?

I started out as a volunteer. I went on break from school and I started volunteering in 2000.

Why did you want to continue working with the series?

I love the series. I think it brings a lot of great things to Socorro, our tiny little town. It was an opportunity to help out and provide something fun for people to do. It was exciting for me to be part of it because there were so many great things going on.

What have you done with Performing Arts?

We’ve done everything. I’ve gone from being a volunteer to being a promotional assistant — putting up posters around town and helping with shows. I’ve basically done every step. I know the ins and outs of working at the Performing Arts series like the back of my hand. I’ve done every single job, except for the director’s job. Over the years, Ronna and I have become a really well knit machine. We work really good together. We’ve become this dynamic duo where we do the shows together, we plan the seasons together. I’ve become our in-house graphic artist over the years. I’ve taught myself that. This year, I taught myself to do video editing. I pretty much do everything that there is to do with the Performing Arts Series. It’s been an amazing journey.

What was it like teaching yourself video editing?

It was hard. Thank God for YouTube. I had given myself a crash course a couple of years ago when one of our graphic designers got sick and wanted to help. It was a challenge to go back to it and basically relearn everything that I had tried to block out. This year, 2020, has been pretty interesting in that way. I had to relearn a lot.

Why did you want to relearn video editing?

T he way the year has gone and the fact that we can’t mass gather, that is basically what we do. It is pretty much our job description to bring together 200 people or more to the theatre. We couldn’t do that. We had to get creative this year. We decided that we were going to live stream the shows on YouTube and Facebook and Twitch. With the help of Macey Center and New Mexico Tech ACT, we figured out how to do all of that fun stuff. We ended up doing extra things. We started doing a lot of social media posts and putting a lot of stuff online. Basically our whole season has been online this year. We’ve put some extra things online too like Dana’s Delicacies and our whole 4th of July event was online. We ended up getting messages from people around town and businesses around town and we combined them with our summer Socorro Sessions series, which we did with our wonderful local artists here in Socorro County.

Everything we did this year that has happened has caused us to think of entertaining Socorro in a different way. The best way right now to keep everybody safe is online. That was the main reason that I ended up learning how to do video editing and a little bit of cinematography and our social media. We’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

What was it like switching everything from in-person to Zoom?

It’s been a little traumatizing. Our job encourages us to be so social. We go from being around everybody and seeing everybody all the time to nobody in person. It was a little crazy as I think most can attest to. We figured it out (and) so far so good. As the year progressed, the capabilities of Zoom have progressed and have made things a little more versatile. Now that I do Dana’s Delicacies on Zoom, we can also live stream it to YouTube or Facebook. People can follow along that way. In the beginning, over the summer, I was doing the live arts party at home for the kids during the summer months. We were doing that Wednesday’s at 3 p.m. on Facebook Live because it was a little too complicated to figure out how to do it on Zoom at that point of time. I think over the year that Zoom has progressed so much that it’s made it a lot easier now. In the beginning, it was really complicated to figure out how to make that transition.

What new events were created over the past year?

We created Socorro Sessions which is our local social distancing showcase. It’s a concert series showcasing local artists. In the summer, we mainly did Socorro County artists (in) small one hour concerts to an empty concert hall. It was really great. It was definitely nice and something uplifting to happen. We started in May and it really gave us a nice thing for live music again, even if it was online it was still live music. That helped to support our artists as well because they are really struggling at this time, not being able to go out and play gigs and such.

We also did a live arts party which was a take on our annual community party. On Facebook we would do hands-on arts projects that would last about an hour using recycled materials that you could find around the house. At that time of the year, we didn’t want anybody venturing out. We used things like old paper towels and toilet paper rolls, old cd’s, things like that, that you could come up with to do some type of fun arts project, but also being able to stay home and stay safe. We would do that and have the kids and parents join us on Facebook. Now that we were in the fall, we did our social distancing concerts, but we were cleared to do them as a drive-in. We would take the concert outside of Macey Center. People would park in our parking lot at a socially accepted distance and we would have a wonderful outdoor concert. We did two bands an afternoon. Those were great concerts. We had a lot of fun with those. We had a food vendor there and we made sure that everyone was nice and safe. Those took the place of our beloved Socorro Fest that didn’t happen this year. It was nice to have a little something like that. We had a live audience. We’ve done that twice now and we are hoping to do that more throughout the spring semester.

We have also done Dana’s Delicancies, which Ronna named because she could and we’ve turned it into a painting party. It’s been a really fun time. It’s taken the place of our Tech Club Macey Canvas and Cocktail hour. I’ll get together with a restaurant or a chef from town and get them to video an easy appetizer that somebody could make at home that would be fun to have for the night. We have our wonderful mixologist at Macey Center and she puts together a delicious cocktail that you could make ahead of time or whenever you would like. It’s all kind of themed around the painting we are going to do that night. I’ve had people get together in small groups at home, it’s a really good girls night in or date night thing where you can get together, you can get all your supplies, make your drink and appetizer and just hang out online with people and paint. I instruct and go step-by-step for the painting. Everybody’s comes out differently. They look great. It’s been a really fun time. We have a blast doing it. Those are the couple of things we’ve started this year just to fill the gaps.

What events are you hoping to do for 2021?

We are still working things out. We definitely want to keep the whole vibe going and keep everyone safe at the same time. Throughout the coming semester, we are going to keep doing the social distancing thing. We want to do a couple more outdoor concerts. Dana Delicacies seems to be gaining a following so we are going to continue doing those as well. We have probably the biggest event of our season coming up, which is our Annual Community Arts Party. It usually brings in about 1,000 people. We used to take over Finley Gym and would have 40 arts and crafts projects going on. Everything was volunteer. PAS provided supplies for each project. We want to do something like that again, maybe on a smaller scale over Zoom and have all the projects provided like we’ve done over the years. We are going to go back and brainstorm and make sure that that wonderful tradition continues even in this weird time. It’s the best thing. It’s so fun. I’ve been doing it for so long that I’ve had teenagers who I remember doing projects come back with their children and their children are little and I’m like, ‘oh my gosh.’ I’m hoping we can figure out how to keep that going. More concerts, more social distancing, more fun. We want to keep it going and keep the energy up.

What other interests do you have?

Personally, I’m a huge geek. I’m a fandom crazy person. I also teach Zumba at Tech. It’s been a passion of mine. I started in 2006 and I just kept going until they finally told me to get my license. I did and there was a spot for me. I started teaching at Tech in 2016 and I kept going. It’s so much fun and such a big stress reliever. It helps to relieve all of the tension and anxiety. It’s a great workout. I can’t say enough about it. I also draw and paint — very crafty, very artsy.

What fandoms are you part of?

Supernatural is my go-to fandom. I loved them pretty much the whole 15 years. I’m a Dean girl and everybody online knows that. I love Harry Potter. I’m a hardcore Potterhead. I’m Slytherin, which people don’t realize when they meet me. Once you get to know me… Star Trek and Star Wars, both respectively. I love them all. I even love Twilight… I can’t help it. If you ever see my car, it has the bumper sticker that says, ‘Geek and Proud.’

Born and raised in Socorro?

I was born and raised. I’m related to probably half of the town. I love Socorro. I love the energy here. I love the small-town feel, but not being disconnected. It’s great. Socorro is my little diamond in the ruff, I love it.

What would you change about Socorro and why?

I would love to change the fact that we have a lot of empty buildings. The economy and I know it can’t be helped. A lot of times it can’t be helped. I’ve lived here all of my life so I’ve seen it bounce back multiple times and I know that it will again. It’s just one of those things, but honestly, that is the only thing I can think of that I would change about Socorro because it’s pretty awesome the way that it is.