"The Importance of the Cause" a conversation with Ana Reinhardt
Ana Reinhardt is a local matriarch of radical expression and the mind behind the teen art center Warehouse 21 which is very near and dear to my heart.
Ana had a mission to create a safe space for kids to explore their inner creativity no matter their circumstances because she knew first hand how impactful the arts could be.
So tell me about how you started off as an executive creative director of sorts trying to bring arts to young people, especially young people that possibly couldn't afford it?
Ok. Well, back in the eighties when I moved back to Santa Fe, I'm from Santa Fe, but I was living in Oregon and I moved back in the eighties and my son Sonny was about eight and he was really creative just on his own with his friends they were always creating little imagination type things. And he got involved in break dancing on the plaza known as the Plaza Rats back in the day and his little break dancers would go with their little cardboard boxes and break dance. And um anyway, long story, he ended up going into some break dance competitions and would win, you know, at the age of eight, he was so cute and that encouraged me to create a program for kids in theater because I had started doing programs for the neighborhood kids and businesses would give me a place to have them in their buildings to do workshops and stuff and they did small performances. I ended up putting on a play based on the plaza rats called “Romero & Julia: The Southwest Side Story” our take on West Side Story. And it was a musical and we ended up with 55 kids from the plaza, the Punkers Breakers and Metalheads that auditioned. And we did this musical with the Army for the Arts in ‘85 which sold out almost every show. It was a brilliant show. And then we did another one, another musical with some of the same directors and musical directors called Alice through the Microchip. And it was about the computers back then coming into effect. And all these kids were computer programmers and it was real cute. So, um I thought, gosh, you know, I've never done, I've never produced theater, but I learned how to do it in my own way. You know, it's called Diy. Do it yourself. You just learn as you go and you get advice and from mentors in the field. So I did that and then that rolled into meeting two other women that wanted to start children's theater. And we created the Santa Fe performing arts school and company in 1988. And we did that for seven years. We served young people in summer programs. I was still a nurse at that time and what also encouraged me was working for 10 years in California, Oregon and New Mexico in psychiatric wards. And around the same time, I was doing Romero and Julia. I thought, why are we discharging all these kids into their dysfunctional families after they're coming out of locked wards? You know, with all these psychiatric issues. And that was another reason why I started these programs because I felt like kids needed a community center. There was nothing in Santa Fe in the eighties for kids. I've always been supportive of the arts because my son, you know, if you ever become a parent, you'll find that you love your child so much, he'll do anything for them. And I just followed his dreams. I just kind of started making programs for him until they grew out of the neighborhood into these big nonprofits. And he grew up with them and he learned everything from dance to theater, to tech, to art, to all kinds of skills. And I decided, you know what, I'm gonna stick with it because there's a lot more Sonny’s out there. I always saw that little tiny seed in their little eyes and in their gestures and in their motivation where they were going, what they showed interest in and then we helped them get there with little funds that we had and we always did more with less. So, you know, I always appreciated young people for producing, performing and exhibiting their works. It was always fascinating. It was always better working with young people versus adults. It kept me healthy in mind, you know, it was always about healthy debate.
That's awesome. I'm always so happy to hear the entire story of it. And even though I wasn't able to do a lot of programs in my school I would hear those that would take all these classes or try to, you know, be creative. All of them still were very held down by the adults in charge they were very much told what to
See you guys provided the input too, even though a lot of kids didn't realize that I heard it. You know, I think the success of managing a youth center especially is about and raising money is about having good relationships and being a good listener and offering opportunities at all times and being cutting edge and uh unique, you know, one thing that made Warehouse kind of successful too, aside from all that was, we used to do things that many other people didn't do.
When you get young people into the arts, it generally offers opportunities for academics and careers and community pursuits, you know, and they also give the opportunity for audiences of all ages to witness youth culture, which I always liked. That was a real appreciation thing, appreciation of the arts and the young people in the arts, you know, showing off their talent and sharing their freedom of expression and their provocative thinking. So those are all really important.
Storytelling and putting on these shows and, and what it all means and like the kind of message that we're trying to portray and ourselves, the art and the artist together. And that's kind of like you have these programs that are integral to that togetherness and about the kind of people maybe don’t usually get the spotlight or even in spaces they don’t feel seen in.
Right now we've been doing outreach with kids since the pandemic because I've had some grants. So it's varied. But the current one, we're just now finishing, is called “The Emergency”. And it's about young people writing about what they think the world is all about now or how they're inheriting their futures or, you know, issues, personal issues or social issues. So we've had gun control and shooting in the schools and climate change and LGBT rights. Uh, you know, uh adults don't think we know how to love and media and corruption and all that. So all these kids are writing from the schools and then we have a teacher that turns their writing into a script and then their script becomes a verbatim audio drama and then the kids learn voice acting and then they record the audio and it becomes an MP3.
That’s amazing, thank you so much ANA for your time and for all you do and continue to do for the community of rascal kids out there. It’s stories like these that keep kids no matter where they come from knowing that what they value and what they think matters and their voices deserve to be heard.
Ali Esmeralda Marin
Broadway Bound Live Season 2