What Makes the Santa Fe Art Scene So Unique?

Published by Upward Magazine, Printed April 2017.

“Santa Fe is an inspirational place. Its geographical beauty, sheer mountains, singular light, Indian pueblos and traditional craft draw people who themselves become an inspiration for other artists.” According to John Feins from Tourism Santa Fe, it is not hard to understand why the area is attractive to so many talented crafters but one might still wonder how this little western town gained its international reputation and became the third marketplace for Art in the country, competing with L.A. and N.Y.

All Trails lead to Santa Fe
Santa Fe, oldest continually inhabited state capital in the US, has been the great trading post of the Southwest for more than 400 years. At the crossroads of three major trails – El Camino Real from Mexico City, the Old Spanish Trail from California and the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri – Santa Fe thus became a cultural hub during the 16th century. The Spanish imported Colonial Art in the Southwest while Indian tribes would teach them traditional crafts like weaving, basketwork, jewelry, etc. Over centuries, Indian and Spanish cultures co-developed in the little town that grew culturally wealthy from this unlikely alliance. This extraordinary heritage has been kept alive since then with the ongoing input of seven Native American pueblos and a landscape shaped by Spanish adobe houses. With the rise of first the railroad and later Route 66, the merchants became gallery owner and traders, offering new options and opportunity for residents and artists who would keep flocking toward the City Different.
Sitting 7,200 feet above sea level, nestled right under the clouds on a high-altitude desert plateau, the town’s peculiar situation was also salutary for respiratory diseases in the early 19th century. Today, the WHO lists Santa Fe among the healthiest places on earth for air quality and while many artists made the trip for health benefit they eventually stayed for the many natural wonders. With intense sunlight, infinite blue skies and incredible sunsets igniting the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the singular beauties of the Land of Enchantment have inspired artists from all places. Among them Georgia O’Keeffe, a New York native, made the colorful, bright and bold New Mexican landscape such a big part of her work that people became acquainted with Santa Fe through her paintings. She contributed to make the landscape iconic and widely helped to promote the local vista worldwide, continuing to attract other artists to the area.

Small Town Feel – Big City Life
As much as the artistic and cultural heritage of Santa Fe has been dense and prolific for ages, the city also knew how to preserve this momentum through the modern times and develop a dynamic and efficient support system for the art scene to keep thriving. The walkable city of 70,000 inhabitants has no fewer than 250 galleries spread across three art districts, a one of a kind world famous open-air opera and enough festivals to cover all existing fields of art throughout the year. Any kind of Southwestern, Indian and Spanish art, whether it be traditional, colonial or contemporary finds its representation among the various museums, galleries and markets operating in the city. Amongst the most reputable events Santa Fe hosts yearly is the International folk Art Market in July. Covering a wide range of products, the market supplies museum and gallery worldwide while helping people to earn a living from their crafts. At a smaller level, the David Richard Contemporary Gallery is focusing on showcasing local emerging artists to give them exposure and income allowing them to live in Santa Fe.
The latest and maybe most surprising art installation in Santa Fe is MEOW WOLF’s “House of Eternal Return.” It is an interactive adventure story told through art in a full size Victorian Home. The complex, set up in an old bowling alley, is also home of a workshop and an educational program about interdisciplinary arts. Led by a collective of 50 artists and partially founded by George RR Martin, it is no mystery how Santa Fe earned its stripes as the thriving Art Scene town.

“Here I feel the reality, honesty and toughness of the wind that builds temperaments, a place where each hour of the day has its own name.” Pascal Pierme, French Sculptor, Santa Fe resident for 20 years.

Not To Miss
– The Native American Vendors Program of the Palace of the Governors where Different Indian Tribes from Pueblo & original land sell their craft directly in the street.
– Museum Hill at the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, home of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.
– Canyon Road, historical art district lined up with original adobe houses and some of the oldest galleries.
– The Santa Fe Opera showcasing world-class productions.
– Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to feel the link between the artist and her adoptive homeland.
– MEOW WOLF’s “House of Eternal Return” to investigate a Victorian Home and solve the mystery of its family disappearance.

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