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‘The City Different’

Santa Fe offers an all-encompassing art experience

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘The City Different’
Works on display in the GF Contemporary gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. (Photo: Celina Colby)

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there’s more art than air, and it’s equally life sustaining. Original artwork hangs on the wall of every restaurant, hotel and even convenience store. More intriguing than the rate at which artwork permeates the culture is the caliber it sustains. We’re not talking stick figures; the exhibitions, right down to the grocery store displays, are complex, dynamic and well-structured.

Author: Celina ColbyPaintings on display at GF Contemporary gallery.

Author: Celina ColbyArtwork at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe.

On the web

Learn more about upcoming art exhibits in Santa Fe by visiting:

When visiting this creative paradise, start with the major institutions and work down. The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, housed downtown in the Institute of American Indian Arts, illustrates the wide spectrum of styles and media in the Native American art community. Through Jan. 27, 2019, MoCNA highlights a vibrant new mural by Rolande Souliere. Using syllabics from the Ojibway, Cree and Inuit languages, Souliere draws dynamic parallels between the shape of language and the geometric styles traditional to Southwestern art.

For a historical overview of the area’s artistic roots, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the New Mexico Art Museum both have extensive collections featuring local artists.

After building a foundation of knowledge at local institutions, it’ll be time for lunch. Many local dining spots are known as much for their galleries as their food. Café Pasqual’s, a resident favorite for breakfast, also serves as a bustling art market. Every inch of wall is covered with works, including paintings and lithographs by Oaxaca native Leovigildo Martinez. His colorful figure paintings allude to the fantastical style of Chagall, but with Central American symbolism.

The most famous traditional-format galleries in Santa Fe line Canyon Road, a half-mile of high-end artworks somewhat akin to Boston’s Newbury Street. But unlike the often-polarized Boston art market, these galleries attempt to make the art accessible to all. George Brugnone of GF Contemporary says Santa Fe galleries often work out payment plans with patrons who otherwise couldn’t afford to take an art piece home. There’s less of an investment attitude toward art, and more of a passion for process.

A slower pace

The art tour doesn’t end even when visitors turn in for the night. La Fonda on the Plaza, the oldest hotel in Santa Fe, with roots dating back to 1607, boasts an art collection of over 750 unique pieces. Docents provide detailed art and history tours around the hotel daily. A five-minute drive from the center of town sits Hotel Santa Fe, the only Native American-owned hotel in the city. The art and artifact collection focuses specifically on Native American work and features many items from the Picuris Pueblo who founded and continue to run the property.

Santa Fe offers a refreshing change from the money- and fame-driven art world visitors find in cities like New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Just like life, art is slowed down in the Southwest. The artistic culture is about process, tradition and accessibility. And no matter where you go in ‘The City Different,’ your journey will be better, and more beautiful, for it.