Arbiters of the Arts: Christy Coleman

Taos Art Museum at Fechin House


Christy Coleman still carries in her wallet a creased business card giv­en to her by Napoleon “Paul” Gar­cia, the man who sold her maps of Abiquiu and Taos back in the early ’90s on her first visit to New Mexico. On the Taos map, Garcia had circled the Fechin House telling her, “You have to go there,” as if he knew already the importance it would have in her life. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Coleman was always drawing, but art truly became a part of her life when at 16 she got a week­end job answering the telephone at the Cultural Arts Center.

“The minute I walked in I just fell in love with it. They had a jewelry studio, painting stu­dios … a ceramics studio where you could go and actually create.” She adored the smell of the place and the historic building that housed it. “And I was so lucky because the director, Jennifer Johnson, who – as I became more interested and invested in the center- really took time to mentor me. At a young age being mentored by a wom­an like that was an amazing opportunity.” Coleman worked at the center through high school and college at Ohio State Universi­ty.

Christy Coleman (Photo by Zoë Zimmerman)

The ink was barely dry on her degree in arts administration when she was named executive director of Dublin (a Columbus suburb) Arts Council. She credits her years of on-the-job experience and Johnson’s mentoring with landing a senior position at such a young age. After10 years at the council, she moved on to the College of the Arts at OSU, doing fundraising. By 2019 her children had flown the coop so Christy and her husband John didn’t have to stay in Ohio. Maybe they should move out West, an area she’d always loved. Most of her family had already moved out there. Then a friend sent her the job description for the opening atTaosArt Museum.

At the museum, Coleman wears many hats. “Most organiza­tions in Taos are small so that’s a necessity. That makes it interesting because you’re do­ing something different every day, everything from fundrais­ing to programming, to exhibitions.” The museum has no curator so she fulfills that role, too. She is the only full-time staff member.

Who’s her favorite Taos artist? Of course, she’s done a deep dive into the life and work of Nicolai Fechin and her admiration is palpable. But with every artist she researches, her appreciation of thei r work increases. She’s excited the museum will soon have a new space to show more work by Fechin and other Taos Society of Artists as well as that by lesser knowns. “I think there are a lot of women artists who haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.” An aunt asked Coleman: If the museum were in Santa Fe, would she have taken the job? Her answer: probably not. She loves Taos. She loves the atmosphere here. She loves rural small-town life. And she loves the cooperative spirit of the local museums. “In other cities you get a lot of competition but here we really do work together. We all lift each other up.”