Art is the tie that binds – Taos, New Mexico, travel highlights

Art is the tie that binds – Taos, New Mexico, travel highlights – Brief Article

Vivian Holley

Creative flair energizes Taos, New Mexico

Among vacationers lured to northern New Mexico by its high-voltage, desert-mountain scenic splendor, there are those downhillers who swear by the ski slopes and seek their thrills only in the snowy winter months. Then there are those who favor fair summer weather when it’s prime time for sailing the vast blue skies in a hot-air balloon, tracing the multi-layered landscape on horseback, or rafting a sun-sparkled river.

Luckiest of all, though, are the art lovers, who can travel to the stunning sunstruck plateau of the Taos area at any time of the year with the certain knowledge that a visual feast awaits both indoors and out.

“The cultural scene is strong in summer, but it’s active in winter as well,” says Susan Mihalic, curriculum director at Taos Institute of Arts. “That’s because this is not just a place where art is sold, but where it is created.”

Indeed, art in all its aspects seems to be the lifestyle of choice in Taos and the potent theme of the rich-textured Native American and Hispanic tapestry of the region–including the celebrated center of Santa Fe. From galleries and museums to accommodations and attractions, art is the tie that binds.

Galleries? Think nearly 100 of them in a vivid mix of styles and sizes. You can join other visitors in embarking on year-round “art walks” to sip wine with gallery owners and chat with artists.

Museums, too, are abundant and eclectic. Start with the Millicent Rogers Museum, a collection that began with the art patron’s assemblage of Native American jewelry and Navajo and Rio Grande weavings and grew to include wide-ranging arts and crafts, including a notable pottery exhibit, from the varied cultures of northern New Mexico.

A striking contrast to the elegant Rogers rooms, the Kit Carson Home & Museum is another must. Set in a portion of the famed frontiersman’s home, the collection includes artifacts and exhibits that tell the tale of Carson and his family. You’ll also want to take in the E. L. Blumenschein Home & Museum that depicts the lifestyle of Taos artists in the first half of the 20th century. (To visit seven museums, pick up the discounted combination ticket for $20, good for one year.) Throughout these rambles, souvenir seekers should keep in mind that some of the area’s most distinctive treasures are to be found in museum shops.

At bustling Taos Plaza, be sure to pop into Hotel La Fonda for a look at a display of memorabilia relating to New Mexico-connected author D. H. Lawrence. Then saunter across the venerable plaza and treat your tired feet to a rest and yourself to a cherry Coke at the Taos Trading Company’s vintage soda fountain.

One of the town’s most fascinating lures is a complex whose focus is the one-of-a-kind house–actually an inventive blending of several buildings–created by Russian painter, sculptor, and woodcarver Nicolai Fechin in the late 1920s. Restored by his daughter, Eya Fechin, and opened for tours in 1981 as the Fechin Institute, the adobe structure is a showcase of intricately carved furnishings, doors, windows, and stairways.

Steps away is the Southwestern-themed Fechin Inn, a reflection of the artist’s style with its handsome hand-carved doors, staircase, and reception desk. Hallways and rooms are hung with lithographs and prints of Fechin’s works, and most of the 85 guest rooms boast kiva fireplaces and balconies or patios with grand vistas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. On weekends, Richard Nichols, Rick Aragon, and other luminaries of the Nichols Studio and Gallery set up easels in the airy, light-washed lobby to work and mingle with guests.

The local artistry encompasses the distinctive Native American crafts sold at Taos Pueblo, three miles north of town. The old pueblo was designated a National Historic Site and a World Heritage Site in 1992.

In the spread of Taos restaurants–Doc Martin’s, Trading Post Cafe, and El Taoseno are a trio of likely stops–you can pull up to heaping platters of burritos, enchiladas, tamales, tacos, and fajitas. You can dive into red or green chile sauce, mounds of guacamole, and puffy pillows of sopapillas (fried bread) swimming in honey.

Thus fortified, you’ll be ready to hit the road, ambling south toward Santa Fe for a day trip or a stay. Time permitting, include stops at such landmarks as the lovely San Francisco de Asis Mission at Ranchos de Taos and Chimayo’s Santuario de Chimayo. Both churches, not surprisingly, are favorite subjects of photographers and artists, and Chimayo is also known for its fine weavings.

If you plan to linger in Santa Fe, head straight for the Inn on the Alameda, ideally situated near the foot of long and winding Canyon Road, where you’re sure to spend happy hours wandering from gallery to gallery. A 68-room charmer, the adobe inn is a classic Southwestern mosaic of shaded courtyards, patios, balconies, and fireplaces, with an inviting lounge where guests gather for poet-in-residence Gary Mex Glazner’s fireside readings. Glazner is the composer of a delightful series of small, scrolled poems that appear on guests’ pillows at bedtime.

As in Taos, a visiting art addict’s roster will zero in on the wealth of galleries and wondrous museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Palace of the Governors, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the newer Georgia O’Keeffe Museum opened in 1997.

Santa Fe is also an ideal place to increase your culinary artistry. , Start with memorable meals at the likes of Geronimo’s on Canyon Road, or The Pink Adobe. Then capture the complex flavors yourself via fun classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, which demonstrates and serves up both traditional and contemporary New Mexico cuisine.

Head back to Taos and, with luck, you’ll arrive in time to join an evening gallery hop. At what time of year should you schedule a trip to ensure an artful adventure? Whenever you wish. In this high desert swatch of New Mexico, art is always in season.

For more information, contact Taos County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, P.O. Drawer 1, Taos, NM 87571, (800) 732-8267; Fechin Inn, 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571, (800) 746-2689; Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 909, Santa Fe, NM 87504-0909, (800) 777-2489; Inn on the Alameda, 303 East Alameda, Santa Fe, NM 87501, (800) 289-2122.

COPYRIGHT 2001 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group