“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” – John Steinbeck
While many towns lull into hibernation during the winter months, Santa Fe vibrates with life. Picturesque snowdrifts blanket adobe walls. Laughter and conversation surround crackling kiva fireplaces. The spicy aromas of piñon and cedar permeate the air. Deep relaxing pueblo drumming echoes northern New Mexico. And flavorful pots of posole and green chile stew transport you back to grandma’s cozy kitchen. Food & Wine proclaims, “Winter is the perfect time to explore Santa Fe and discover all of its wondrous offerings.” We locals couldn’t agree more!
Winter in The City Different is, well, different. In a city blessed with a gorgeous array of winter scenery, you’ll often find lunchtime temperatures 30 degrees warmer than our crisp mornings, and sunshine during a snowfall is not uncommon. Few things match the sublime sight of light rays dancing between giant snowflakes.
In a city known for boldness, spirit, and creativity, Santa Fe’s art scene thrives! Vibrant galleries, nearby artist studios, and annual art markets give Santa Feans, and loyal visitors, plenty of inspiration to shop for one-of-a-kind art pieces year round, even (and especially) during the winter months.
I admit it: I used to think that “fine art” was out of my collecting stratosphere. Santa Fe changed all that. Now I’ve begun my very own Santa Fe art collection, finding a few special pieces that fit my offbeat personality and non-Rockefeller budget.
How I Became a Gallery Gal
My Santa Fe art shopping tradition started one ordinary Friday when I reluctantly agreed to tag along with friends to a gallery walk in Santa Fe’s renowned and rejuvenated Railyard. As an out and about Santa Fean who has entertained many an out-of-towner, I knew the Railyard as a shopping, dining, and mingling neighborhood. What I didn’t realize was that our local and laid-back hangout was also a hotbed of world-class visual art talent.
Mellow trip-hop sounds seeped out the doorway of the first gallery, as a DJ entertained a young and friendly crowd. I let out a sigh of relief, and joined my friends at the wine station. Then, luscious New Mexico wine in hand, I casually took in an astounding collection of contemporary paintings, the richness of the duotone of mountain-sky blue and rich black connected me to the work.
The next three galleries were equally lively, and equally mind-opening. Sampling local goat cheese paired with Estrella del Norte wine, my typically non arts-opinionated group and I found ourselves in the throes of a deep discussion about the use of modern media – digital printing – in fine art. We were hooked. Luckily, Santa Fe’s Railyard ArtWalk happens the last Friday of every month. My friends and I have made it a ritual, a kind of Art Club, where we meet and appreciate our local artists, and uncover pieces for our own small-but-growing art collections.
Santa Fe gallery events happen year-round. Check the Santa Fe Gallery Association or The Santa Fe Reporter to stay up-to-date. And in addition to gallery events, anyone can experience Santa Fe art “real time” by taking a Santa Fe Studio Art Tour, where you’ll see local artists at work in their element. This is for real, folks – as in adrenaline rushing as you witness fresh paint hit the canvas of a soon-to-be spectacular work.
In typical Santa Fe art style, Studio Tours keep it laid-back and friendly. Artists welcome your questions, and invite you to get up close to the works-in-progress. And it wouldn’t be a Santa Fe art event without great music and delicious local food and wine. Oh, how I heart this town.
If your itinerary does not sync up with a scheduled Studio Tour, make your own studio tour by selecting your favorites from an array of art galleries and studios in our Canyon Road arts district. World-famous restaurants, cozy bars, and quaint coffeehouses are tucked away along Canyon Road. Coincidence? I think not.
For more seasoned art aficionados, or those ready to commit to dive head first into Santa Fe art, studio tours of nearby arts communities offer enthralling opportunities to meet working artists and tour our scenic landscape. Thanksgiving Weekend the La Cienega Studio Tour will take visitors 10 miles northwest of Santa Fe to view 30 artists with traditional work and expressive, modern art in all mediums. For a list of other art events, visit Santafe.org’s “What’s Happening” section.
Pressed for time, but want to find authentic Santa Fe art? Locals like me turn to the shopping section at SantaFe.org. Seriously. It’s a convenient, trusted hub featuring some of Santa Fe’s most popular artists.
Winter Indian Market
Generations of art lovers know that few experiences compare to the rich, authentic feeling of our Summer Indian Market. What many don’t know is that our equal enriching counterpart, the Winter Indian Market, is held during Thanksgiving weekend, November 24-25, and is the perfect way to enjoy the holiday shopping season.
During Winter Market, Santa Fe’s Convention Center transforms into a hub of art shopping, live music, and delicious local food, as more than 150 Native artists showcase traditional and modern art reflective of centuries-old traditions. As important as visual art is to Winter Market, renowned music artists, filmmakers, even poets will share their interpretations of Native culture.
What I’ve discovered about Indian Market is that it’s a fun and memorable way to experience a rich culture. In addition to, I love stalking the silent auction items, keeping my eye peeled for my must-have selection, and attending fascinating lectures about Native Art history, techniques, and collecting. A novice, but improving, collector myself, I enjoy meeting artists in-person, and learning the stories behind the one-of-a-kind pieces created by hand in time-honored native tradition. Find out more about the market at the Winter Indian Market website.
Winter Spanish Market
This December 1-2 Santa Fe’s colorful Convention Center becomes home to Winter Spanish Market, and that means an opportunity to shop for Santa Fe’s beloved straw appliqué, tin, retablos, and santos – iconic art techniques you’ll recognize even if you don’t know their names. The embroidery, weaving, woodwork, religious figures, and even Christmas ornaments, based on 400 years of Spanish tradition, bring to life one of Santa Fe’s greatest cultural influences, the Spanish Colonial period.
Like Indian Market, Spanish Market is a Santa Fe tradition. Take it from a local, though, Winter Spanish Market is a great way to enjoy all the food, music, and fun of the Market, without the crowds and hassle of the busy summer event. Get up close to the artists, enjoy one-on-one discussions with traditional craftsmen and musicians, and, this is important, find that special holiday gift among by more than 100 Hispanic artists.
Shopping for Native American Jewelry
My favorite shopping involves wearable art, especially jewelry, and you can find authentic Native American jewelry and art vendors daily at “The Portal” at The Governor’s Palace. There are always dozens of vendors selling custom pieces year-round, snow or shine, at the Plaza.
Conscious shoppers, like me, take comfort in knowing The Native American Vendors Program is regulated to ensure the livelihood of the vendors and the authenticity of their work. Knowing that makes me love my purchases even more.
Here’s another winter shopping insider tip: prices are already reasonable in the portal since the artists are selling directly to you, but in the winter off-season, customers are able to bargain on price, which I think is an art form in itself.
Tis the Season
There’s no such thing as a bad time to shop for art in Santa Fe. But when it comes to finding art bargains, delving into local culture, and enjoying our relaxing cooler weather, there’s no time like the present.
Visit SantaFe.org/art to find a gallery, find a festival, find a tour, and find a little bit of yourself in Santa Fe’s art scene.
I have a confession. I’m not a “museum person.” Maybe it’s the thought of long lines, stern guards and dry descriptions that turns me off. Or maybe it’s a therapist-worthy flashback from one tragically awkward middle school field trip (don’t ask). So it was with some trepidation that I finally decided to experience what friends have been raving about for years – the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art at Santa Fe’s famous Museum Hill.
Step one: Get museum-ready. In preparation I called upon the most powerful energy vortex in Santa Fe: a double Americano from Ohori’s (oh, sweet nectar of the gods.) Reusable cup in hand, I drove on, pumping a steady dose of Adele powerfully through the stereo. It was a particularly clear Santa Fe day, and I was briefly tempted to detour and stroll the Santa Fe Railyard. But, caffeinated and inspired, I stayed the course.
Winding through the tranquil and scenic foothills, driving to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art didn’t feel like going to a museum at all. My short route took me just minutes from the Plaza through the lavender-dotted hills that evoked a Santa Fe watercolor. A quick glance at my GPS confirmed that the museum was in fact the charming adobe hacienda hidden behind piñon trees in the distance. This might not be so bad after all.
I bravely walked the rustic flagstone path to the museum’s entrance. It felt so much like approaching someone’s front door I nearly paused to knock. Once inside the museum, I immediately felt the unmistakable, warm Santa Fe vibe my friends had been talking about. Crooked halls connected a trove of charming rooms the likes of which you’d linger in with friends over a glass of wine (note to self: Dragon Room, it’s been too long.) No vaulted ceilings, pretentious architecture, grand staircases, marble pillars, or silver-haired “shush-ers” here. This was my kind of museum.
The featured exhibit was: CCC Furniture and Tinwork from the Great Depression. The CCC? My heart swelled. My grandfather had proudly served in the CCC–the Civilian Conservation Corps, and shared with great pride the stories and weathered photographs of the bridge he helped build near Bandelier National Monument.
At the museum I learned that in New Mexico FDR’s New Deal allowed local artists and craftsmen to create some of our state’s most exquisite artworks. Actually, some of the murals done for the program can still be viewed on walking tours through downtown Santa Fe. Yet as breathtaking as the artistry and skill of the CCC artists was, their work had never before been exhibited. I felt proud to be part of this inaugural exhibit. And to my surprise I felt right at home surround by the past.
Completing the exhibit, I envisioned impressing the girls at wine club by unleashing my inner Martha Stewart. “The exquisite antique furniture was constructed using traditional European techniques handed down by early colonists, but CCC workers also incorporated designs and animal motifs from Pueblo Indian pottery,” I would tell them. Then, after an appropriate pause, “It’s impossible to know which CCC workers are responsible for each piece, but the traditions preserved by the CCC projects are some of the most recognizable in New Mexico.”
The story of how tin working became a tradition is told across the hall from the CCC exhibit. But that’s a whole other, equally enchanting, story I’ll save for another time.
The good news for longtime and temporary Santa Feans: The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art tells our story beyond just “museum-style” names and dates. In just minutes you can journey to Santa Fe’s artistic heritage. Take it from me, you’ll feel the true spirit of Santa Fe… even if you’re not a museum person.
OmegaMart looks the way everyone expects a grocery store to look. The shelves are fully stocked with a hundred different things. The hand-made ‘OmegaMart’ sign matches the signage of surrounding shops, and the pleasant Muzak-like sounds create a familiar mind-numbing environment for shoppers. An OmegaMart associate wearing an OmegaMart apron standing behind checkout stand even greets shoppers with a smile.
The catch is, OmegaMart is not a grocery store. It’s an original work of art. But this monumental installation isn’t your typical art, either. Simply by stepping inside, curious shoppers help create the experience that makes OmegaMart special. What else would you expect from The City Different and our friends at the avant garde art collective, Meow Wolf?
During the 2011/2012 school year, Meow Wolf’s CHIMERA Educational Outreach Program worked with over 1000 elementary school students to design products for commercial reproduction and display. The hands-on project gave students the chance to be on the producer side of consumerism by creating 150 original designs for OmegaMart’s displays and faux-groceries.
Some products are simply empty boxes or recycled containers with originally designed sticker-labels. Other products are cast-plaster sculptures painted and labeled with repetitive consistency. OmegaMart also stocks with finest oxymorons like ‘Locally-Nationalized Produce’ and ‘Organically Recommended Meats.’ Tongue-in-cheek murals surround shoppers, and fake handmade display cases and freezers line the walls. Many collected items from actual grocery stores – ‘Sale!’ and ‘ Big Savings!’ signs – hang from the ceiling alongside humorous propaganda posters.
Laughter can be heard up and down the aisles as customers explore the store, inspect items, and even buy one or two ‘products’ before they leave. The groceries may be fake, but they can still be purchased with real money!
Come experience OmegaMart‘s funhouse reflection of daily life, open Wednesday through Sunday, 12pm-6pm at 1636 St. Michael’s Dr. from now until September 23rd, so Interested in art events? Find more here!
Canyon Road is the heart of art in Santa Fe. This charming neighborhood has developed into global destinationteeming with diverse and captivating art collections. You’ll find Contemporary, Native and Folk Art, sculptural works, textiles, ceramics, jewelry and fashion, to name but a few. Whatever your tastes, you are likely to be sated here. The vibe is mellow and inviting as people mill about, following the road where it takes them, resulting in an easy unfolding of the perfect kind of day.
Amazingly, there are over 100 world-class galleries available for your viewing pleasure on Canyon Road. This density of art creates a dynamism of experience that is easily accessible.
Begin your expedition at the bottom of the canyon just off Paseo de Peralta. A whimsical sculpture of three dancing lambs will greet you on the left at Gallery 203B. Just across the street, a more recent addition, Arroyo focuses on a Western sensibility in a multitude of forms.
Be sure to take your time as you walk amid the fragrant pines and spreads of colorful blooms, back-dropped against the canvas of the azure summer sky. You can feel the stress dropping away with each step, as you partake of the visual wonderment.
Ventana Fine Art serves up vibrant Contemporary fare, Chalk Farm Gallery takes us to the stratosphere and beyond with it’s Visionary art, and don’t miss the magical outdoor sculpture garden at Wiford Gallery.
You’ll want to have your camera ready for the stunning sights that abound, including our legendary monsoon cloud formations that typically gather in the summer afternoons.
It’s easy to spend a whole day taking in the sights.
Canyon Road first developed as a farming community. A bucolic terrain settled by the Spanish, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States.
The history of Santa Fe pulses in the architecture on Canyon Road, from the warm adobe walls ofTerritorial and Spanish homes, to the few surviving farmhouses that still exist.
Artists began to populate here in the 1880’s, many were drawn to the area for relief from respiratory ailments which were soothed in the dry, high desert air. Eventually, artist colonies formed and flourished. Like Paris in the 30’s and 40’s, one’s creativity blossomed in the fecund ground of Santa Fe’s idyllic ambiance. Canyon Road even had a unique “residential arts and crafts” zoning classification.
After drinking in the beauty of this enchanting road, you will work up an appetite, and Canyon Road does not disappoint. You have an array of choices as well;
Casual settings with tasty food can be found atThe Teahouse, known for their Cowboy Chai, orCanyon Hideout Cafe. If you want to indulge in award-winning cuisine, The Compound or Geronimoare memorable choices.
For scrumptious tapas and drinks, try El Farol, Santa Fe’s oldest restaurant which has live music Thursdays through Sundays.