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.
Contemporary Clay Fair: Nov. 17-18
La Cienega Studio Tour: Nov. 24-25
Winter Indian Market: Nov. 24-25
Winter Spanish Market: Dec. 1-2
Contemporary Hispanic Winter Market: Dec. 7-8