Note: As the contemporary art scene in Santa Fe continues to bloom, we wanted to share article "Incredible Art Experiences You Can Only Have in Santa Fe, New Mexico" from Alexandra Marx via Matador Network. 

Santa Fe has a long history of being an art destination known for its turquoise jewelry, Western paintings, and bronze sculptures, but The City Different has a surprise for you.

We’re talking art parties lasting into the early hours of the morning and secret, invite-only gallery openings. Seriously — these brazenly nontraditional arts experiences deserve to be as synonymous with Santa Fe as the movie biz is with Hollywood. The city sits quietly ranked as one of the largest arts markets in the US, with small, independent artists thriving here. When compared to the sheer size and pace of New York and LA, Santa Fe stands as an unparalleled beacon for collaboration and innovation in contemporary art.

Check out these seven art experiences if you want to see the future of mixed media and performance.

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    1. The House of Eternal Return, by Meow Wolf

Photo: Kate Russell for Meow Wolf 

After establishing a local presence in both music and other harder-to-define ventures, the Meow Wolf arts production collective opened what they call an “immersive art installation” at the House of Eternal Return. It thoroughly departs from the traditional museum model in its bold use of interactive space. If you’re a little hazy on what all this means, don’t worry — keep reading.

Maggie Thornton, a local artist at Meow Wolf, is one of the names to look out for. She splits her time between visual arts and sound for the installations, working in mostly “vinyl, plastics, and shiny stuff.” While her chosen art forms are certainly a departure from the traditional art that has drawn visitors and collectors to the city for decades, she and many area artists don’t really see it that way. “Meow Wolf is a counterpoint to much of the galleries, but there’s compatibility between the two scenes,” she explains.

The fully interactive experience they’ve created at The House of Eternal Return pushes the envelope of what is possible for an exhibition space — an idea that quickly garnered national attention before opening its doors in 2016, thanks to city initiatives and backing by business partners like George R. R. Martin. (The Game of Thrones author also supported the reopening of the historic Jean Cocteau Theater in 2013).

The House of Eternal Return is now open Sunday – Thursday (skipping Tuesdays) from 10am to 8pm, and Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm (and afterwards operates as a music venue). Tickets for general admission can be purchased online or at the door.

     2. The Center for Contemporary Arts

Another more tenured “up-and-comer” is the Center for Contemporary Arts, often known as CCA Theater among locals. With an exhibition space that has a constant rotation of visual artists (the CCA is known for their awesome collaborations) as well as regular show times of independent and documentary films, the CCA blends creative conversation with the idea of the Hollywood blockbuster — there’s no reason spaces like this shouldn’t see the same attendance movie theaters do.

Filmmakers from all over the world often show and discuss their films at this tiny, easy-to-miss venue tucked away at 1050 Old Pecos Trail. Keep an eye on their calendar — show times run every day, annual passes are available for film enthusiasts in the model of traditional museum memberships, and the exhibitions are constantly updating with never-before-seen works from emerging artists.

      3. Shidoni Sculpture Garden

Photo courtesy: The Shidoni Gallery

Slightly outside of the city proper, technically in the pueblo of Tesuque, Shidoni towers as a testament to the huge staying power of creativity in the Santa Fe region. The sculpture garden seems to be intentionally out of the way, requiring visitors to follow the winding Bishop’s Lodge Road along the edge of Santa Fe National Forest. But the chance to stroll the grounds that house these abstract and whimsical structures is well worth the journey.

Opened in 1975, the gallery’s sculptures are a mixture of so many styles and modes of expression that the only obvious commonality seems to be that they’re free-standing structures. Even if you come outside the normal hours for its in-house exhibit (Tuesday – Saturday from 10am to 5pm), you can still walk among the pieces outside, some of which tower like mountains, some with the fragility of pinwheels (metalworking at its finest).

      4. Form & Concept

Form & Concept seeks to create a space to “explore the boundaries of perceived distinctions between art, craft, and design”…with a heavy implication that no such boundaries exist. Functioning as a gallery space and running workshops and artist residencies, the facility also advocates for artistic expression within the city at large — for example, by putting out a call for design ideas when a downtown plot becomes available for beautification. When they’re not contributing to the literal molding of the cityscape, they’re hosting InterPlanetary costume parties and serving as a venue for artistic movers and shakers in the area.

      5. SITE Santa Fe

Photo: Jeff Goldberg for SITE Santa Fe

SITE Santa Fe is housed within an architectural structure that’s a piece of art in and of itself. SHoP, a firm best known for its innovative and sustainable buildings, designed the space, taking into account how SITE’s exhibits might be experienced. When the exterior lights illuminate the textured aluminum siding, the effect is profound — the outside seems just as much an artistic piece as what lies inside.

Recently revamped (in philosophy as well as aesthetic), SITE aims to push the boundaries of standard curatorial practices. And in a show of belief in emerging artists, SITE accepts unsolicited materials from creators twice per year. The exhibits in SITElab are open from 10am to 5pm, Monday through Wednesday, and all exhibits are open Friday and Saturday. There’s free admission all day on Friday and between the hours of 10am and noon on Saturday.

    6.  Santa Fe Botanical Garden

When you picture Santa Fe, you’re probably thinking shades of red, golds, and some adobe thrown in for good measure. But while Santa Fe is certainly set in high mountain territory, that doesn’t mean there is a lack of green. The  comprises acres and acres of striking local landscape at its most verdant and plants as colorful as many of the city’s art museums.

But what makes the garden an “experience” are the events it hosts and how they tie into the community. Check out Glow — the last two weeks of December — to see the garden lit up with thousands of lights and lasers, the “Garden of Earthly Delights” celebration during the summer solstice (and the accompanying themed cocktails), or get tickets in advance to Shakespeare in the Garden. Then there’s Community Day, where students and New Mexico residents get in free. The accessibility of the garden — and the focus on the community — couldn’t be more suitable for a come-as-you-are city founded around the arts.

With such an abundant number of choices, you’ll want to craft your own art experience getaway.  We’re sure it’ll be one of your most artistic adventures to date. To help you get started, order the [blog_link url="" text="Santa Fe Travel Guide" date="2018-03-13”]. Be sure to check out our [blog_link url="" text="Deals and Specials" date="2018-03-13"] Santa Fe has to offer.

Blog courtesy of Matador Network