The Left Bank of the Rio Grande

Imagine your art classroom has walls of sheer, soaring red rock cliffs and a ceiling of blindingly blue Southwestern sky dotted with cottony clouds. 

By dena miller
Nancy Silvia_Cloud Dance Over Taos (pastel_18x24)

Or maybe it is on a sprawling historic ranch, a perch along the majestic Rio Grande, or hidden in the hauntingly beautiful Canyon de Chelly.

As idyllic as they may sound, it’s just a small sampling of the exceptional adventures awaiting you when you enroll in one of the many courses offered by Taos Art School.

Ursula Beck founded TAS in 1996, long before ecotourism and experience-based destination vacations became a predominate trend for vacationers. The school is in session from late spring through autumn, and its campus-free learning is centered around some of the most iconic locations throughout Taos and northern New Mexico. 

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The region’s reputation as a premier art destination, combined with its indescribable natural beauty and unique cross-cultural soul, affords students one-of-a-kind immersive experiences compiled by TAS that will leave them “feeling like a local,” Beck said.

“Whichever class you choose, you’re guaranteed a totally unique experience,” she continued. “You will be learning a craft from respected leaders in their field, and you’ll be spending time outside the ‘classroom’ in meeting locals, visiting places you’d otherwise not have access to, and you’ll also have time to explore on your own.” 

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This year’s calendar includes courses in Native American weaving, pottery and culture; painting, drawing and photography; equine art; explorations of creativity; and eco-tourism workshops.

You may learn weaving with a Navajo instructor who will guide your use of
a traditional loom and ancestral tools,
sending you home with a weaving of your own design. In between, you will be introduced to Navajo ceremonies and stories, look for churro sheep (whose fine wool is prized by the Navajo) and enjoy a traditional feast.

ST MARIE Sing to me, Autumn (16×20, pastel)

Or, you may wish to create a donkey sculpture in the country’s only art class dedicated to capturing the spirit of this intelligent and social animal serving as your model. (You might be lucky enough to meet a new baby.) Paint or photograph horses, birds, mountains, historic churches and moradas, or the classic trucks for which New Mexico is famous. Spend time visiting private art collections, enjoying the many art-inspired activities that abound in Taos, and making new friends at specially-arranged meals, entertainment and pastimes.

Because Taos has so much to offer to the adventurer, the calendar of TAS also includes experiential tours like visits to cultural farms, stays at a local WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), weeklong excursions into Georgia O’Keefe’s life and art, guided tours of Frida Kahlo’s Mexico and a very special camping excursion into Canyon de Chelly. 

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The success of TAS, now in its 27th year, lies in Beck’s own decades-long experience in the arts and the authenticity of the curriculum with its roster of talented artists and instructors who intimately know both their craft and the region.

“Taos is a unique and vibrant place, and the school attracts those who are passionate about what they are setting out to learn and experience,” Beck emphasized. “We, in turn, are passionate about what is being offered and how it integrates both learning and immersion into all Northern New Mexico offers.”

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Note to locals: a class with TAS may just give you a fresh outlook on the place you call home; you’ll also receive a 10 percent scholarship towards the tuition.

The classes — spanning anywhere from several days to one week — are limited to 12 participants and tend to fill up quickly, so Beck encourages you to call TAS with any questions you may have. “We love talking about our classes and what awaits you when you visit the Left Bank of the Rio Grande.”