A first-ever Expansion is on the horizon for the Taos Art Museum
By Haven Lindsey
There’s a whole lot of special happening these days at the Taos Art Museum — so much so that everyone deserves to get in on it. At its core is a feel-good theme of generosity that not only unveiled a painting that had gone unseen by the public for 60 years but will also see the current museum double in size, rivaling the most expansive of region-specific museum collections.
Until recently, Nicolai Fechin’s painting, “Taos Studio Interior,” had gone unseen by the public eye for 60 years. Privately owned and displayed in a home for decades, the painting was recently auctioned. It found its way back to the museum, in part, due to the persistence and fortitude of Christy Coleman, executive director of the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House. The painting depicts Fechin’s beloved studio — the same one visitors can walk through and see today. The museum had the opportunity to purchase the painting before it went to auction, and then again at auction, and despite a valiant effort, ultimately lost out to a higher bidder.
Coleman contacted the auction house and humbly asked if they would be willing to share her contact information with the winning bidder. “I couldn’t believe it when the new owner called and then he told me he had a home in Taos.” After a number of conversations and a connection through the shared love of the painting, the new owner graciously opened the package and unveiled “Taos Studio Interior,” which is on loan to the museum for two years.
Coleman has chosen to exhibit it in the Fechin Studio where admission is free. “This studio was his sanctuary. He painted this in California after he moved from Taos and I think it shows just how special this space was to him.”
As if that weren’t special enough, the Taos Art Museum has been the recipient of more generosity. Married for 63 years, Janis and Roy Coffee, Jr. have been collecting art for all but three of those years. Both Texans by birth, their hearts are connected to Taos and the couple have been active in the community for years, including being involved with the museum since its inception.
The Coffees approached Coleman and the museum board to determine if there was interest in accepting their collection as a gift, which included 150 pieces of artwork. “It’s hard to describe what that felt like,” said Coleman, of the expansive collective. “I think we are all in awe of the generosity of Janis and Roy.”
“We wanted to accept the art and believed, like the Coffees, that it belonged in Taos, but we simply didn’t have adequate space. We didn’t even have proper storage,” explained Coleman, who, along with the museum’s Board, initiated a $2 million campaign to expand their space to accommodate the artwork and an all-new, climate-controlled storage vault with a fire-suppression system. In addition to the artwork, the Coffees donated $1.2 million toward the campaign.
The expansion includes a new 2,000-square-foot gallery that visitors will enter through a covered portal. A new art and archival building will ensure the museum’s collection is protected and secure, and the administrative space will be expanded to include a kitchen suitable for catered events. The expansion will also enable the museum staff and board to expand its national and international awareness, boosting the potential for long-term sustainability through increased revenue opportunities.
Plans are to have the expansion completed in the summer of 2024. For more information about seeing “Taos Studio Interior” and to visit the museum’s donor page, visit taosartmuseum.org/capital-campaign.
Taos Art Museum at Fechin House 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos 575-758-2690 taosartmuseum.org