If your heart beats for the arts, then plan an escape to Santa Fe. With a vibrant and growing gallery scene, Santa Fe has become one of the world’s major arts centers without sacrificing its small town warmth. The art-tropolis of Santa Fe is divided into neighborhoods, making it easy for you to jump from gallery to gallery. Lovers of all genres and movements — from contemporary and abstract, to super realism and Western — will find something to love.
I asked Kathrine Erickson, president of the Santa Fe Gallery Association, what sets Santa Fe apart. “Santa Fe is the only city in the world that can boast over 200 galleries in two square miles,” she said. “Art collectors can travel to biennial art fairs in Berlin, Miami, New York, or they can come to Santa Fe 365 days a year to experience our unique year-round art fair, and view an unlimited selection of artwork by international and regional artists alike.”
Santa Fe’s rise as an art market can be traced back to the opening years of the 20th century, when artists began to discover the charm of the landscape and the beauty of the native people’s craftsmanship. By the time the Museum of New Mexico opened its Museum of Fine Arts in 1917, there was no stopping the love affair between artists and Santa Fe — a love that has blossomed into a full fledged city of the arts, with creativity, craftsmanship, and individual expression pretty much everywhere you look.
With so much to see where does one start? Katherine prudently advises you start with “ … comfortable shoes, dressing in layers, and a good handbag.” She also recommends the guides found on the Gallery Association’s website. Karla Winterowd, owner of Winterowd Fine Art Gallery on Canyon Road, says that a Santa Fe art excursion is an awakening experience for a first time art collector. “If you are a first time buyer of art, truly, Santa Fe is the place to come because you can walk around, take a couple of days, and go with yourself, your partner, or your designer.
For those with a little more experience, you can discover new artists as well as new work from artists you might already be following. It’s an inspiring trip whether you are new to buying art, a savvy veteran collector, or just interested in seeing some amazing work.
And, of course, in-between visiting galleries and studios, you can experience some of Santa Fe’s other charms. Shop at unique specialty stores, eat at world-renowned restaurants, and enjoy the historic adobe architecture that defines Santa Fe. And if you need a lift, just take the free Santa Fe Pick-up shuttle. Art appreciation has never just been about acquiring, so enjoy the gorgeous downtime and culture.
The Never Ending Canyon Road Art Galleries
Canyon Road is a great place to start your visual arts voyage. This neighborhood is the bustling heart of the gallery scene with more than a hundred art galleries in a mile-long stretch. The Canyon Road galleries have a wide selection of modern, contemporary, Native American, and Russian art.
A stroll down the historic Canyon Road — the oldest adobe houses on Canyon Road date at least to the 1750s — leads you to unique fashions, sculptures, photography, dazzling Navajo jewelry, and stunning handmade embellishments. In the fall, I love watching artists at work at the gallery’s “paint outs.” Anytime I have winter visitors, one of their favorite experiences is walking the famous Christmas Eve Farolito Walk. For Santa Fe newbies, Farolitos are small, sand-filled, paper bags illuminated with votive candles, which line the historic neighborhood streets and adobe walls. The effect is nothing short of magical. Luckily, the picturesque beauty of Canyon Road can be enjoyed any season of the year.
Railyard Arts Neighborhood
If your artistic tastes lead you to modern work, follow the tracks to the Railyard Arts District to find the best in contemporary art. This neighborhood houses 10 must-see galleries in new warehouse-style buildings. Besides avant-garde painting, you’ll also find jewelry, exquisite furnishings, textiles, and bamboo pieces. Go international with a visit to the Railyard’s standout gallery, SITE Santa Fe. SITE Santa Fe is a dynamic art space, featuring contemporary photography, painting, sculpture, installations, and its signature international exhibition. The last Friday of each month is the perfect time to stop by as the Railyard features Last Friday Art walks. Galleries hold opening exhibitions and stay open late. If you need a little energy during the course of your art appreciation, the Railyard’s Flying Star Cafe serves tasty plates and a menagerie of delicious baked goods.
West Palace Arts Neighborhood
Located between the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum on West Palace Avenue and Johnson Street, the West Palace Arts Neighborhood has the best of both worlds: museums and galleries. Dive into the rich history of New Mexico’s art at the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Then head over to the galleries to work on your collection, or to just pretend like you’re a jet-setting art buyer.
The galleries here are outstanding. The LewAllen, Manitou, Peterson-Cody, and Wadle galleries combine to represent more than 350 nationally recognized artists. Plus, every first Friday of the month, the West Palace galleries offer an assortment of openings and exhibitions featuring the work of exceptional contemporary artists. A perfect opportunity for some high-culture mingling.
Taking a studio tour provides an unforgettable way to see new work from a large section of artists. The Eldorado Arts and Crafts Association opens its studios May 18-19 for the Eldorado Studio Tour. 110 artists in 72 studios will showcase work in a variety of media and genres including painting, ceramic, glass, jewelry, oil, photography, printmaking, sculpture, digital, wearable, and recycled art. If you want to get a sneak peak of what’s going to be on the tour, the tour’s Preview Gallery will open for early viewing May 4-17.
Looking for a fun day trip in the fall? The first weekend in November, the Dixon Studios offers its annual studio tour. A 45-minute drive through the scenic Embudo Valley will bring you to Dixon, home sweet home to more than 50 artists. Walk from studio to studio while you enjoy the beautiful village and discover gorgeous paintings, outstanding photography, fine sculptural jewelry, stoneware, wearable art, herbal bath and beauty products, handmade chocolates, local wines, and traveling musicians. With so many studios and amazing pieces of art to choose from you’ll be glad you made the short trip – just make sure you clear some trunk space before you go. Some of the studios are open year-round, but call ahead before you hit the road.
Your Art Is Waiting for You
Santa Fe has a huge crush on the visual arts, and a massive appreciation for visitors who share that passion. If this preview has you eager to explore, as Karla recommended, The Santa Fe Gallery Association is a handy resource for learning about the galleries before you arrive. The Association’s website lists upcoming events and maps to help you plot your own individualized tour based on your tastes.
Katherine also has a one final tip for a perfect ending to any art-filled day. “Be sure to scope out your restaurant selections in advance and make reservations when possible — especially during the busy summer months. There are many great restaurants to choose from, and after a long day of gallery hopping you want to reward yourself with an equally artful meal.”
With so many artists, galleries, and opportunities to explore this amazing city, your new favorite piece of art is sure to be waiting for you in Santa Fe.