Like everywhere, Taos felt the impacts of the pandemic, but this spunky mountain town took the lemons handed to it and made a pitcher of the proverbial lemonade.
By dena miller
Just visit the historic downtown district and you’ll find its reputation as the premier American art colony is more robust than ever. How, you might ask, did artists and galleries manage to have their best years? The answer is twofold.
The Great Resignation and work-from-home movement ignited a red-hot real estate market, as Americans who are enjoying unprecedented mobility moved away from highly-populated urban regions to rural areas such as Northern New Mexico. Likewise, vacationers opted out of cruises or staying at large hotels and resorts to instead pack up the family car and hit the road in pursuit of more intimate, local experiences.
It’s easy to understand, then, why Taos became a COVID destination: it checks all the boxes. The landscape is magnificent, there is a bounty of year-round outdoor activities, and its tri-cultural energy is second to none.
The arts, in particular, gained traction from the influx of new residents and visitors but galleries and artists also took to the internet. Adaptability became the key stratagem, with many expanding their social media presences and offering an abundance of online events. Doing so created some unexpected outcomes; in fact, one could say Taos became a “gallery boomtown.”
Galleries welcomed new collectors in record numbers. “The desire to acquire pretty things is psychological medicine,” artist and gallerist Gregory Farah noted. “With more people working from home, or moving and needing to feather their new nests, it’s not surprising that art became an important commodity. It’s a sharing of creative energy, which was sorely needed after extended isolation.”
Rob Nightingale, owner of Wilder Nightingale Fine Art, categorized recent activity in the art scene as “mind-blowing, in a positive way. Once the doors opened the people came in full force.” He also noted his gallery had, “a lot of first-time buyers sprucing up their homes with art and showing support for their new community,” an observation happily noted by others.
Because the history of art in Taos stretches across generations it would be worth your while to visit the Lunder Research Center and Couse-Sharp Historic Site before you begin your gallery tour. Learn about the early Taos Society of Artists and how they introduced the world to the Southwest: its native people, their crafts, and the countryside.
Then visit Robert L. Parsons Fine Art to see their works, along with those of the Taos Founders and early Santa Fe and Taos art colonies work, complemented by examples of Navajo weavings and pottery, all housed in a historic home.
Tres Estrellas Design has an internationally recognized collection of Navajo and Pueblo textiles, and early New Mexican furniture and devotional art.
Chimayo Trading del Norte houses a comprehensive selection of historical classics and contemporary works including paintings, pottery and jewelry.
Now with some history under your belt, explore the dozens of galleries that offer a feast of works by local contemporary artists. Prepare to be swept away by the abundance of multidisciplinary talents you will see, with diversity across materials, methods and concepts.
With Taos Pueblo remaining closed until further notice, Lyle’s Creations is your go-to for an exciting array of contemporary jewelry, arts and crafts by Pueblo artists.
Wilder Nightingale Fine Arts is celebrating 30 years in Taos and represents over 50 renowned local artists: something for everyone. Jones Walker of Taos is another favorite, with a welcoming vibe and exemplary collection of local art.
So take advantage of this golden time of year, stroll through town and enjoy the creative magic that put Taos on the map. If you’re a local, you can reacquaint yourself with some of your favorites; and if you’re a visitor — first time or returning — celebrate your stay here with an acquisition that will sustain your priceless memories.
Visit galleries that will not only offer you a chance to decorate your home or yourself with contemporary art but can give you a look back into the centuries-long history of traditional Native American arts and crafts.