Taos has no shortage of colorful and influential characters who have made their mark. If you’re an art and history hound, then be sure to explore the following places that helped solidify Taos as an art colony and a major player in frontier trading.
THE E.L. BLUMENSCHEIN HOME AND MUSEUM
222 Ledoux Street
Hours: Mon-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
Admission: $8 adults; $7 seniors; $4 per child (5-15); free children under 5; free for Taos County residents on Sunday; tour rates and discount cards for multiple visits are available.
Maintained as when artist Ernest L. Blumenschein, an original member of the Taos Society of Artists, and his family lived there. Along with Bert Phillips, Joseph Henry Sharp, and fellow Taos artists, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse and W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton, Blumenschein created the Taos Society of Artists in July 1915.
The rooms remain much as his wife and fellow artist, Mary, had decorated them, including their personal belongings and artwork. Some of the paintings by other members of the Taos Society of Artists and later artists were donated to the museum by members of the community as a tribute to the early years of the Taos art colony.
The 1797 home is filled with a superb collection of the Blumenschein family’s art (including daughter, Helen), a representative sampling of works by other famous Taos artists, fine European and Spanish Colonial style antiques and the family’s lifetime of personal possessions. The home beautifully illustrates the lifestyle of Taos artists in the first half of the 20th century.
THE COUSE-SHARP HISTORIC SITE
146 Kit Carson Road
Hours: Tours are made by appointment May through October.
The home of 20th-century artist Eanger Irving Couse and his family and studios of Couse and J.H. Sharp — members of the Taos Society of Artists (TSA) who were instrumental in creating the cultural fabric of Taos as we know it today. Wander through the Couse home and see how these pioneer painters lived. Stand at Couse’s easel, see the model’s stage and props. Nothing is under glass. All remains as it was 100 years ago. Witness this unbroken chain of history as it is preserved into the future, from the 1835 Luna Chapel that served as Sharp’s first studio, to the restored 1915 Sharp studio, and a planned archive and research center. Docent tours are available from May through Nov. 3. Tours are by appointment only; available appointment hours are Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Call to schedule.
This summer the Couse Foundation presents the exhibit “J.H. Sharp: The Life and Work of an American Legend.” This permanent, rotating exhibition in his studio on the property spans Sharp’s artistic career and includes numerous paintings, ephemera and Native American art he collected and which appeared in his work. The exhibition can be toured during the monthly First Saturday Open House 3-5 p.m,. June-October, and by appointment; available appointment hours are Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Call to schedule a tour.
From July 7-Nov. 3, the exhibit “Full Circle: Taos Pueblo Contemporary” honors the relationships with the TSA artists of the past and the many artists from Taos Pueblo who continue to redefine Native art and identity. The exhibition in diverse media in the site’s 1835 Luna Chapel can be toured during the monthly First Saturday Open House 3-5 p.m., June-October, and by appointment; available appointment hours are Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Call to schedule a tour.
D.H. LAWRENCE RANCH
San Cristobal Road off State Highway 522 North (make a right turn after mile marker 10; signs mark the rest of the way), San Cristobal
Hours: Please call
Also known as Kiowa Ranch, this site is situated on 160 pristine acres on Lobo Mountain, about 20 miles north of Taos. Frieda, the wife of the famed author, entrusted the ranch in her will to the University of New Mexico for the purpose of creating a public memorial to her husband. The ranch features buildings once used as respites for other writers and artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe. Still standing is the ponderosa pine tree O’Keeffe painted during her first visit to New Mexico in 1929 (“The Lawrence Tree”). The towering tree is in front of the main house. The ranch is also home to the D.H. Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The couple owned and lived at the ranch during their visits to Taos in the early 1920s.
Lawrence was a British novelist, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter. Among his most famous works were “Women in Love” and the once-banned “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” Regarding the latter, local author Joseph O’Kane Foster spoke about Lawrence (with whom he was good friends) to The Taos News in July 1980: “Lawrence believed there was a life greater than the ordinary life that ordinary men manage. He felt there was a life, a great life back of all the trivial comings and goings of mankind that he felt had brought mankind almost to the point of ruin. Here they were, destroying Europe, 20 million men had been killed and his purpose for writing that book (“Lady Chatterly’s Lover”), was to show that if we could stay away from these faults, materialistic things and stick to life we would come out alright, and that is why he wrote that love story — to get back to the basics of life. That is what Lady Chatterly is all about.”
The ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties.
GOVERNOR BENT HOUSE AND MUSEUM
117 Bent Street
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: $3 adults, $.50 children
The home of the state’s first American governor — a trapper, trader and mountain man. Charles Bent was appointed governor of New Mexico in 1834 when the state became an American territory. Outside the home on Jan. 19, 1847 during the Mexican War (1846-1848), he was scalped alive and killed by an angry mob protesting the American rule who dragged his maimed body around town. Many of the Mexican families naturally resented the American conquest of their home, and the Taos Indians had long disliked Bent because of his trade relations with their northern enemies. During the chaos, Bent’s wife, Ignacia and her first-born daughter Rumalda, and Ignacia’s sister (Kit Carson’s wife Josefa) dug a hole inside the home as an escape route into the adjoining house. Although partially filled in, the hole remains. This tucked-away house was converted into a quirky museum in 1969, offering tours around the property. Exhibits include artifacts, paintings, photographs and publications that talk about Bent’s exploits during the Mexican War. And be sure to check out the surprise oddity.
HACIENDA DE LOS MARTINEZ
708 Hacienda Way off Ranchitos Road
Hours: Mon-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday noon-5 p.m.
Admission: $8 for adults; $7 seniors; $4 per child (5-15), free admission for children under 5; free admission for Taos County residents on Sundays; tour rates and discount cards for multiple visits are available.
This thick-walled adobe, fortress-like trading post with 21 rooms surrounding two interior courtyards is on the National Register of Historic Places and gives a glimpse of rugged frontier life. It was constructed in 1804 by Severino Martinez. Severino and his wife, Maria del Carmel Santistevan Martinez, who raised six children here. Their eldest son was the famous Padre Antonio Martinez, who battled the French Bishop Lamy to preserve the Hispanic character of the Catholic Church in the territory. The Hacienda is one of the few examples of Northern New Mexico style, late Spanish Colonial period “Great Houses” remaining in the American Southwest. Serving as an important trade center and gathering place, the Hacienda was the final terminus for the Camino Real, which connected Northern New Mexico to Mexico City. It was also the headquarters for an extensive ranching and farming operation.
The New Mexico Architectural Foundation awarded the Hacienda de Los Martinez a first-place award for “A Historic New Mexico Structure that brings our community together in a lasting way.”
On May 18-20, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., the museum takes part in the “New Mexico Fiber Crawl.” Fiber fans can visit the farms where New Mexico’s history of fiber arts began, meet people who hand spin the yarn and the artists who work with it, and visit the galleries and museums highlighting the most traditional as well as most cutting-edge work in the state.
Beginning in Albuquerque and winding north to Taos, the Fiber Crawl features conversations with artists, exclusive access to gallery and museum collections and hands-on demonstrations (NMFiberCrawl.org).
THE HARWOOD MUSEUM OF ART
238 Ledoux Street
Hours: Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-5 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Admission: $10 per adult; $8 for seniors; $8 per student; free admission to youth (18 and under), free admission to UNM students and faculty; free admission to members of the Harwood Museum of Art Alliance; free admission to Taos County residents on Sunday.
The Harwood Museum of Art showcases a permanent collection of more than 4,700 works and an archive of 17,000 photographs from the 19th century onward. In the early part of the 20th century, many artists — such as Agnes Martin — were drawn to the Taos area to pursue a new, truly American art devoid of industrial influence, inspired instead by New Mexico’s landscape and light, and the traditional Native American and Hispanic cultures of the region. One of the museum’s most-prized assets is its Agnes Martin Gallery. The Harwood Museum collection brings to the public a unique record of this artistic convergence from its beginnings to the present day. The embracing spirit of the Harwood was established by artists Burt and Elizabeth Harwood.
From June 9 through Oct. 7, the museum presents “Larry Bell: Hocus, Focus and 12,”featuring the works of Bell, who has been a working artist since the late 1950s creating artwork in glass, on canvas and on paper in his Taos, and Venice, California studios.
KIT CARSON HOME AND MUSEUM
113 Kit Carson Road
Hours: Daily May through October, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Admission: $7 per adult; $6 for seniors; $5 for teens and students; free to children under 12; $5 tour groups of 10 or more; free to Kit Carson Home and Museum members; free to Taos County residents every Sunday; free to active military personnel and Masonic members.
Taos’ oldest museum is the home of Christopher “Kit” Carson, frontiersman, trapper, soldier and scout. The Kit Carson Home and Museum, still standing in its original footprint on Kit Carson Road in Taos, was built circa 1825 and purchased by Carson as a wedding gift for his third wife, Maria Josefa Jaramillo, a member of a prominent Taos family. The territorial-style adobe building was to be their home for the next 25 years. Seven of their eight children were born and raised in the home, along with several Native American children who had been freed by the Carsons from captivity. The Carsons moved to Fort Garland, Colorado, in 1866, leaving many of their possessions behind. After the death of Josefa on April 27, 1868, and Kit shortly thereafter on May 23, 1868, the home changed ownership six times before it was purchased in 1911 by the Grand Masonic Lodge of New Mexico to be maintained as a memorial to Freemason Kit Carson in perpetuity.
THE MILLICENT ROGERS MUSEUM
1504 Millicent Rogers Road
Hours: Daily April through October, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The museum is closed Easter Sunday (April 16), July 4 and during the Feast of San Geronimo (Sept. 30).
Admission is $10 per adult; $8 for seniors (60+); $6 for military (active or veteran); $6 for students (16-21 with ID); $2 per child (6-16); free admission for children under 6; free admission for Taos County residents; tour rates and discount cards for multiple visits are available. Docent tours are also available.
The museum was established as a memorial to Millicent Rogers whose inspiration, patronage and collections form the cores of its holdings. Rogers (1902-1953) was the granddaughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers, one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company. At her homes in New York, Virginia, Italy and elsewhere, she entertained the great and splendid from American industrialists to European nobility. She was the fashionista of her day. In her later years, she visited and eventually settled in Taos. Here, she became close friends with many of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists and passionately supported Native American artists. Her namesake museum houses 15 galleries featuring the heritage of the Southwest, including jewelry, paintings, and pottery, such as the family collection of heralded potter Maria Martinez.
The majority of the museum’s galleries, housing more than 6,000 objects, are representative of the diverse indigenous and Hispanic cultures of the Southwest with particular strengths in the traditional arts of Northern New Mexico.
Pullout: A look inside: This summer Millicent Rogers Museum features the temporary exhibit,ß “Earthen Temples, The Life of Adobe Churches,” from March 23 through June 24.
TAOS ART MUSEUM AT FECHIN HOUSE
227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Hours: Tue.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Museum will be closed July 4.
Admission: $10 per adult; $9 for seniors; $6 per student; $8 per person in groups of 10 or more; free admission to children under 12; free admission on Sundays for Taos County resident; private tours by appointment. Docent tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. are included with the cost of admission. It is always free to visit the museum grounds and store.
The former home and studio of artist Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin, showcasing a blend of early 20th century Russian and Southwestern artworks. Fechin built the home for his family between 1927 and 1933. Fechin, born in Kazan, Russia, in 1881, carved and molded the adobe buildings into a fascinating, harmonic marriage of Russian, Native American and Spanish motifs. Also home to the Taos Society of Artists.
A look inside: The Children’s Treasure Hunt is a fun and free way to explore the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, including the studio and gardens. Just pick up a treasure map in the Fechin House lobby, follow the clues and claim your reward in the Gift Shop.
— Compiled by Scott Gerdes