First, Don Kennell and Lisa Adler fell in love. Then they made an art car. Then they had a couple of babies. They both did their graduate work at Rutgers University, he in art, she in the social sciences. This was in the nineties. They have been collaborators ever since. Love is a founding principle of their partnership and of the company that they run today. Don and Lisa’s first art collaboration was an art car commissioned by “Art Matters” of New York City. This interactive, mobile art event travelled the country in the summer of 1995.
We love what we do. We love the animals and the natural environments that inspire our artworks. We love connecting with the communities where our sculptures are located. And we love bringing something of beauty into the world that resonates with the viewer. As a company, our mission is to activate public space while bringing nature into human consciousness.
The art car was an experiment in making a community out of strangers. As we passed through town after city after town, we met people, took their picture with the art car, developed the film (the old days!) and mailed out the pictures as post cards to our audience.
Don and Lisa moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2000. We wanted to raise our family close to wide-open spaces and to be in a city with a thriving arts community. Don maintained a career as an artist and Lisa taught at the College of Santa Fe while they both raised their daughters. In the early 2000’s Lisa led a number of community initiatives that connected students with local businesses, nonprofits and community development projects. During this time, Don and Lisa co-taught classes on the intersection of art and society.
We believe that space matters to human feelings and human endeavors. We believe that life is better when people feel connected to each other and to the places where we live. That connection makes people care about their community. When people care, life is better.
DKLA Design was incorporated in 2015. Don makes design drawings and leads the fabrication crew. Lisa focuses on community engagement. Our designs draw people in, to develop a relationship that connects the viewer to the place and the art becomes a part of a person’s experience. This synergy between the location, the artwork and viewer is significant. It is the goal of public art: to bring art into peoples’ lives.
Zach Greer hails from the Windy City. He came to Santa Fe in the early 2000’s, earning a degree at the College of Santa Fe in Documentary Studies. His favorite part of being a documentarian is connecting with people from different cultures. To complete his degree, he travelled to Sebastian Salgado’s Instituto Terra in Brazil. Zach spent two summers on a firefighting crew for the US Forest Service in Big Fork, MT. He likes when things are wild. Lucky for us, he decided to become a metal worker. Zach has been with us from the beginning and has earned the title of DKLA Design’s Badassery Specialist. Zach is the motivational guru on crew and a hiker extraordinaire. “I like to see the Earth from the top,” says Zach. He drives a car called, “Champ.” When you see it, you’ll know why.
Caleb Smith likes things hot. From being a baker to a glassblower to a blacksmith, he is DKLA Design’s Thermal Officer and Ignition Technician. Born in Florida, he first moved to Santa Fe as a teenager. He learned to bake at The Range Café in Bernalillo. Eating cookies is his favorite thing about baking. Caleb studied sculpture and woodworking at the Santa Fe Community College and apprenticed with master blacksmith, Helmut Hillenkamp. Caleb’s attraction to heat comes from how it transforms materials. He loves to use heat to make unyielding steel soft like butter. Process is his guiding light. His conversation with materials is reflected in his artwork, “Root Balls,” an archeological experience using the bottom of downed trees and a lathe to reveal what had never before seen the light of day. On the crew, Caleb’s dulcet tones contrast with the pounding metal endemic to the shop.
Miguel Lucio grew up in Texas with a family of designers and architects. In 2016, Miguel graduated from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design with a BFA in Studio Art. At school, Miguel stood out as a student interested in functionality. His emphasis on ceramics and woodworking resulted in tables, vessels and plates that embrace traditional questions of form and minimalist design. Miguel’s artwork can be found at Reside Home, in Santa Fe. Since Miguel lays down some wicked beads (of molten metal), he is DKLA Design’s Boss of Beads. Miguel is also our Head Spelunker of animal interiors following an anatomical journey into the recesses and tight spaces of our most extraordinary creations. Miguel is always drawing. Always. Drawing.