Atcitty’s on Taos Plaza
A new venue for Native art in the middle of Taos Historic District
By Dena Miller
Cherylin Atcitty is surrounded by an impressive array of Native American crafts in her namesake storefront sitting in the heart of the historic Taos downtown district, and you’ll be even more impressed by this sweeping collection when she informs you that nearly all of the jewelry and artisan items are created by her family.
Atcitty’s on Taos Plaza is a welcome new addition to the many galleries and boutiques that make Taos a shopper’s and collector’s dream. In addition to the fastidiously crafted works of her family, you will find Navajo cradleboards and wedding baskets, flutes, dreamcatchers, kachinas and other Native American selections. You might choose to pick up a bag of Native fry bread flour or blue cornmeal and ask Atcitty for some tips on how to make an authentic recipe at home.
“I’ve been around jewelry-making since I was 5 or 6,” Atcitty said of the times she and her cousins spent with their maternal grandmother, gathering cedar beads (dry juniper berries), washing them and carefully poking the holes that would allow for the stringing and fashioning of bracelets, necklaces and earrings.
Now, her grandmother’s creations are on display alongside the stone carvings of her husband Delane Atcitty; the beadwork jewelry of her sister Velma Wilson; the turquoise and semiprecious stone creations of her nephew, Kendrick Holmes; and the inlaid sterling silver and copper cuffs of her nephew Willie Nezzie. Atcitty herself offers up her own full line of jewelry for ladies of all ages.
The quality of workmanship and the materials used are beyond reproach, and Atcitty is rightfully proud of both the details that she believes sets apart her family’s work from others and the attractive price point she is able to offer.
When it comes to purchasing jewelry, she said, “We want to make sure you’re getting something that will work with your lifestyle. Is it for a special occasion or will you be wearing it every day? That makes a difference in how we’ll guide you.”
Atcitty is hard at work negotiating expansion of the gallery’s representation with emphasis on Taos Pueblo artisans. “Right now it’s been difficult maneuvering around quarantines and state regulations, but our goal is to be as inclusive as possible in representing our tribal community.”
Already included in their collection are the paintings of Albuquerque’s up-and-coming contemporary Navajo artist Jeremy Salazar, whose works were featured in this year’s virtual Santa Fe Indian Market. Master Navajo painter Jerry Salazar, Jeremy’s father, also has several pieces featured at Atcitty’s.
“I love their work. I see it as a remembrance of where we came from culturally and a look ahead to the future of Native people,” Atcitty said.
Atcitty grew up on the Navajo Nation in the vicinity of Marble Canyon, Arizona. Her family was one of thousands impacted by the Bennett Freeze, a many-decades long federal government action preventing Navajos living in the area from making improvements to their homes or the land.
“No economic development was allowed, but neither was home or infrastructure improvements,” Atcitty said, resulting in homes that became inhabitable, and families being denied access to running water, electricity and essential services such as public education.
“My parents moved,” she explained, “so my brothers, sisters and me could have a good education, which was very important to them.”
When she met her husband, who is Navajo/Taos Pueblo, they discovered a shared passion for environmental causes. Delane Atcitty is now the national executive director for the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance, and Cherylin Atcitty left her position as environmental program manager for Taos Pueblo to open and run the gallery.
“Obviously this is a venue for artisans but we see a much bigger future for the space,” she noted. In addition to expanding the number of local pueblo artists, she said, “We will offer demonstrations of such crafts as moccasin-making, weaving, carving and stonecutting. And there will be a regional information center for open-to-the-public Native fairs and feast days.”
Atcitty’s on Taos Plaza is proof positive that Taos is not only surviving the pandemic, but thriving and attracting new business partners full of energy, optimism and enthusiasm. This winter, stop in and enjoy the warmth of this very special gallery.
Atcitty’s on Taos Plaza is located at 103 Kit Carson Road, on the north-east corner of the plaza intersection with Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Stay tuned for its website, which was under development at press time. For more information, call (575) 779-7172.