Art Escapes in The City Different: Exploring Santa Fe’s Galleries & Museums
It’s a wintry Santa Fe Sunday – time to get out and shake off those cold-weather blues! Here’s your ticket to creative and culinary civilization and an excuse to walk, see what’s new, and breathe in the crisp, clean air. These four different walking tours of Santa Fe encourage you to enjoy a pairing-up of the City Different’s galleries/museums with a restaurant, to help jumpstart your mood and rekindle your spirit.
Here are four Santa Fe walking tours that pair art with food.
Sunday Afternoon 1
Ever eclectic, the Railyard continues to make good on its promise as the Alternative Plaza, and stalwart first adopters to the area, such as TAI Modern, LewAllen Galleries, Evoke Contemporary, and Blue Rain still shine as the district’s core cluster of urbanesque galleries in which to experience vibrant, cutting-edge art.
Start your exploration at TAI Modern, on the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Guadalupe, which features a mix of contemporary American art – along with modern bamboo sculptures, fine art baskets, and beautiful contemporary photography from Japan. The exquisite craftsmanship and intricate weavings will seriously expand your conceptions of what basketry and bamboo are capable of as an art form.
Next, we segue to the more overtly political art at Evoke, curating “provocative and compelling contemporary art of international acclaim.” From the gorgeous, transcendent photography to compelling drawings from a plethora of international artists—Evoke simply, evokes.
Next door, Blue Rain Gallery features artists of diverse backgrounds with works covering many mediums. It focuses on regional, Native American, and Studio Glass art. Next, meander back to Paseo and walk down to LewAllen Galleries—just as cutting-edge, though not as socially strident or political, but full of pieces that are beautiful and challenging.
Head back up Paseo and turn left at the railroad tracks: time for some modern sustenance. Equally eclectic, and usually bustling like a Santa Fe version of Grand Central Station, Violet Crown’s rusted facade welcomes filmgoers, beer aficionados and food lovers alike. Catch the urban vibe and order from a selection of top-notch pizza, polenta, salads, burgers, wraps, desserts, and maybe a beer or some wine—whatever refuels your soul. Sure, you’ve been here for movies, but the food, people energy, and the arty, down-to-earth atmosphere make for the perfect conversation catalyst. “So what did you think of that one intense piece…”
Sunday Afternoon 2
Museum Hill offers a one-stop destination to explore four distinct museums, and they’re all perfect for a weekend visit. Especially on the first Sunday of each month when admission is free for New Mexico residents. All four are within several hundred feet of each other, with the ever relaxing Santa Fe Botanical Garden right across the street.
But while the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art can sometimes feel academic and studious, and the Museum of International Folk Art is a good choice to visit with out of town company, the Museum of Indian Arts + Culture (MIAC) and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian consistently challenge and inspire. And at both MIAC and the Wheelwright, you’ll get a history lesson (minus any didacticism) along with a look into what’s current among (Native) artists.
More than 65,000 people a year visit the MIAC to view its collection of Native material and art that fills the soul with a deep appreciation for the culture.
Over at the Wheelwright, founded in 1937, you’ll discover Native American art that is more unique through the focus on little-known genres. You may also come upon a solo show by living Native American artists.
Once you’ve sated yourself on all the wonderful exhibits, the Museum Hill Café cannot be denied. Aside from the Asian shrimp tacos, the feel here is more bistro-y, with a bit of Southwestern fare. The Asian tacos are wonderful, but might we recommend the pollo bowl, along with the sweet corn custard. This is cold-weather comfort food at its most refined, as calming with a tart Arnold Palmer as with a Torronteés wine from Chile (or any of the many other great wines). It’s a relaxing stop between museums, or simply a civilized way to end an afternoon of cultural adventure, especially if there is a pianist in the corner, with gently wafting notes lingering in the air around you.
Sunday Afternoon 3
Downtown Santa Fe
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s collections are the largest repository of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work and belongings, including items from her historic houses. Collections rotate throughout the year in the Museum Galleries.
Here’s how the New Mexico Museum of Art describes itself:
“The New Mexico Museum of Art is a catalyst and showcase for creativity and the enjoyment of art. Artists, learners and community members are empowered to think critically and see a multiplicity of meanings. We bring the art of the world to New Mexico and the art of New Mexico to the world.”
And while one choice to retire to afterward would be the resurgent Santacafe, the subtler tie-in is Eloisa, the ultra-contemporary, very sophisticated home of “Modern Southwestern Cuisine” located in the Drury Hotel. It just so happens that Eloisa’s chef, the James Beard nominated John Sedlar, grew up in New Mexico. And his restaurant’s namesake and inspiration? It would be his late great aunt, who just happened to cook for…a certain Georgia O’Keeffe.
Sunday Afternoon 4
Still the destination for art of all kinds, as well as home to two of the city’s longtime destination restaurants – the Compound and Geronimo – Canyon Road is never the same destination twice. Interestingly, while restaurants can pass down their culinary secrets, galleries really can’t. And at the moment, many of the galleries that once made Santa Fe famous, have moved on. So Canyon Road is in a bit of transition right now – a shift in identity if you will, while at the same time offering a diverse sampling of intriguing art.
Since you’re walking, park your car at the lower mouth of Canyon, and start with the tried-and-true: McLarry Fine Art (which favors Western art but also features several nice representational artists) and the Meyer Gallery.
Next, try one of the newcomers, Owen Contemporary with a solemn blend of abstract and landscape painters at 225 Canyon. Another few blocks and you’re in the midst of our next stops: GF Contemporary (meaningful art that is fresh and compelling); its sister gallery Giacobbe Fritz Fine Art which is known for its eclectic style; and Modernist Frontier (featuring primarily two New Mexicans: expressionistic painter Jono Tew and the equally trippy photographs of Cody Brothers).
Behind them all, if you just can’t resist, awaits The Compound Restaurant. Go ahead, have a bite, have a drink. (Try the chicken schnitzel and a seared rare tuna Nicoise.) Moving on, veteran gallery Turner Carroll (with the slightly surreal works of Suzanne Sbarge through mid-December) and the upstart-y Globe Fine Art (a jaunty mix of abstract, realist, and playful Pop) round out the afternoon’s mix. If you’re too early for dinner, no worries. Geronimo has a Fujasaki Asian pear salad and Kobe beef sliders that exalt.
It may be winter in Santa Fe, but getting out to drink in the aesthetics, and savor the flavors of living here, is a welcome excuse to remember why we stay. And eclectic Canyon Road epitomizes this walking/viewing/eating experience we love.
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