Romancito’s gift

By Ariana Kramer
Posted 1/23/20

For three decades, Rick Romancito has excelled at documenting the arts in Taos through his work at the Taos News. As a photographer, videographer, journalist and editor, he has skillfully portrayed the stories of who we are and what we care about.

Romancito’s unique vision and honest critique have enriched our community. His comprehensive and inclusive definition of “art” and “entertainment” has been of service to the multi-faceted muses of Taos, and his coverage has extended to all reaches of Taos County – from edgy to traditional.

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Romancito’s gift

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For three decades, Rick Romancito has excelled at documenting the arts in Taos through his work at the Taos News. As a photographer, videographer, journalist and editor, he has skillfully portrayed the stories of who we are and what we care about. Under his watch as Tempo editor, the arts and entertainment section of the Taos News has flourished, covering happenings from the Taos Fiestas to the Taos Pueblo Powwow, community theatre productions to big-name rock concerts, world-class art exhibits to home-grown crafts fairs, PASEO to the Regeneration Festival.

Romancito’s unique vision and honest critique have enriched our community. His comprehensive and inclusive definition of “art” and “entertainment” has been of service to the multi-faceted muses of Taos, and his coverage has extended to all reaches of Taos County – from edgy to traditional.

With the new year, Romancito is retiring from his post as Tempo Editor to pursue his personal artistic interests and spend time with his family. It’s a change that has made ripples throughout the Taos arts community. Here is what a few colleagues and Taos creatives have to say about Romancito’s career and its impact.

In a phone interview with Joan Livingston, the former editor of The Taos News, said, “I could always count on Rick – there was never a question about meeting deadlines. As the arts and entertainment editor, Romancito had to juggle a lot, and deal with people with healthy egos. He handled it very well.”

“I really enjoyed working with someone who was a movie star,” Livingston remarked, a reference to Romancito’s former career as a professional actor, where he appeared in films such as “Rooster Cogburn” with John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn and “Showdown” with Dean Martin and Rock Hudson.

In addition, Romancito has directed film projects including “Warriors: The Native American Experience in Vietnam” and “Benito’s Gift,” which he adapted from his short story of the same name. Filmed in Taos and Taos Pueblo and starring all local actors, “Benito’s Gift” won the 2006 New Mexico Governor’s Cup Short Screenplay Competition. The film is dedicated to Rick’s parents: Richard and Rose Romancito.

Livingston, who now lives in Massachusetts, also praised Rick Romancito for his movie reviews, which she says she still reads today.

“He is a man of many talents,” said Livingston.

Virginia Clark, a long-time colleague at The Taos News, agrees. From photography to videography, movie reviews to social media postings – “he just did everything,” said Clark. “He’s so balanced in all these ways,” she added, marveling at what Romancito could get done in half the time it would take someone else. “He’s just really a workhorse,” she admired.

As a freelancer who has written for Romancito for the past ten years, this writer can say that it has been a joy to work with him as an editor. He is steady, focused, fair, and kind. His hands-off approach to management has been refreshing. His rare compliments – sincere gold.

“Without Rick Romancito the Tempo won’t be the same,” reflected artist Maye Torres. “For the past three decades, his dedication to reporting on the heart of the arts in Taos, from visual and musical to spoken and written word, traditional and innovative - Rick was there to cover and photograph the stories. It will be hard to find a new editor who has the same insight and knowledge, from a true local point of view, historical to now, as Rick Romancito. He is truly irreplaceable.”

Nancy Laupheimer, artistic director of Taos Chamber Music Group has worked with Romancito for as long as he’s been arts editor. She recalled the days before digitalization, when she would bring in black and white photographs to The Taos News office to hand to Romancito. Laupheimer noted that the Taos arts scene grew exponentially over the period of Romancito’s tenure, and said she admires him for his stability and equanimity through it all.

“I've always known Rick to be very professional in his work,” said Taos musician Billy Archuleta. “He's always in a good mood, friendly, and courteous. I've played at many of the same occasions where he's been shooting photos and he's always been very discreet, quiet, quick and friendly. He always has something good to say about everyone, and we joke around a bit when we see each other.” Archuleta added that Romancito is a “great photographer!”

Romancito has been the heartbeat of Tempo for decades, with what can truly be called a steadfast devotion to his work. When he took over as Tempo Editor in 1994, he had already been working for The Taos Newsas a staff writer, photographer, and more.

According to an insightful 2017 interview with Romancito by Lynne Robinson for taoStyle.net, Romancito’s award-winning career with the Taos newspaper began in 1989 when he responded to an ad for a copy camera operator. The interview notes that Romancito attended the Anthropology Film Center in Santa Fe where he studied documentary film making. Soon after starting up at The Taos News, then Tempo Editor Melody Elwell recognized Romancito’s talents and background and asked him to photograph and write for the paper. Melody and Rick would later marry and raise a daughter, Ella; they are now grandparents.

Over the years, Romancito has covered the arts, Native American issues, veterans (his father served in the United States Navy), and, at times, breaking news for The Taos News. He has earned numerous awards from the New Mexico Press Association.

The earliest mention of Romancito in The Taos News’ digital archives is not one of his many bylines. It is a story about a young man of 25 who moved from Albuquerque to Taos Pueblo to join his mother and his brothers and follow his dream of being an artist. The article was written by Janice Daigh and published in the January 11, 1979 issue of the newspaper. The story documents Romancito’s studies in fine arts at the University of New Mexico and his intrigue with visual art and film.

“Romancito describes his current state as ‘open,’ Daigh wrote in 1979. “He is experimenting with different ways of resolving visual problems: breaking up planes, rearranging compositions, playing with textures and colors.”

That openness and interest in visual fields clearly informed Romancito’s work for Tempo during his tenure as editor. Romancito’s keen sense of composition has always come through in his selection of stories and photographs. A sense of nuanced and balanced perspective has been a hallmark of his coverage of this colorful community of artists, dancers, potters, jewelers, musicians, weavers, designers, actors, writers and other creatives.

It is worth noting that the Taos arts community first gained international notoriety with the Taos Society of Artists, founded in 1915. These Americans of European ancestry and artistic training looked at Taos – its landscapes, people, cultures and arts – through a lens of discovery and curiosity. Their view was from the outside in, and they shared this view of Taos with the larger world.

Rick Romancito, who is of Taos Pueblo and Zuni heritage, has shown us what Taos looks like through the eyes of someone who is deeply at home here. He has followed the cycles of our community’s creative life, while recording and commenting on them with forthright clarity. During a time when Taos has seen major shifts in demographics, land development, and cultural influences, Romancito has steadily crafted a staggering body of photographs, videos and stories that document the creativity that has accompanied those changes. His movie reviews are a running commentary on national and international culture.

Thankfully, Romancito’s so-called retirement looks to be just one more creative adventure. In addition to pursuing his painting and other artistic endeavors, Romancito plans to continue to contribute to The Taos News after retiring as Tempo Editor. His two dogs, Gabby and Shirley, are looking forward to more walks with their best friend.

As his last task as Tempo Editor, Romancito is training his successor. He leaves Tempo in the capable hands of Lynne Robinson.

For thirty years, Romancito has painted his impressions of this community across the pages of Tempo. His phenomenal legacy of thoughtful and thought-provoking visual and written local art history is documented and archived in The Taos News’ archives. For all of us who love this place called Taos, it stands as an enduring gift.

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