Santa Fe New Mexico: Colorful, Historical & Culturally-Rich

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As the second oldest city in the United States, Santa Fe celebrates its past through art, music and numerous museums. Georgia O’Keeffe stands out as this region’s most prominent landscape painter, and an art museum dedicated to her work is located a couple blocks from the Plaza. Unfortunately, I was there between shows and the museum was closed. I did find the New Mexico Art Museum right off the northwestern side of the Plaza and found it to be quite engaging and informative.

The featured exhibit, “How the West Is Won,” showed the contribution early 20th-century artists made to depict and preserve the Indian culture and way of life that was fast being destroyed as the white Anglo culture of the late 1800s and early 20th century was moving in. Other paintings included four or five by Georgia O’Keeffe including “Red Rocks” and one of a window of her house, the latter which didn’t move me as much as it did her. Nevertheless, it was very exciting to see these paintings.

The photography exhibit was more compelling. It showcased Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter works that portrayed the natural beauty of the West. So popular were their portraits of the region that they inadvertently enticed the rest of America to see it for themselves. This all led to the tourism industry, which accommodated travelers and their need for food, lodging, transportation and cameras. Unfortunately, it helped to change the wild landscape into a more commercial, tourist-oriented one.

Still, the photographs inspired a deeper awareness about land preservation and kick-started the conservation movement and the US national parks system, as filmmaker Ken Burns illustrated in his documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Subsequent photographers then used the landscape to make political statements. For example, they’d show a trash heap in the foreground contrasting beautiful mountains in the background. Or they highlighted the “mushroom cloud” of Los Alamos, where the atom bomb was tested during World War II. Apparently the cloud could be seen from many, many miles away.

Any city sees itself change with the times, and in the 1980s Santa Fe began to attract the super-rich who settled on the eastern side of town in full view of the Sierra Gordo (fat hill in Spanish) where goats used to graze. This area is the southernmost end of the Rocky Mountains, and the houses and condominiums built by these people are second and third homes that caretakers watch over full-time.

Santa Fe is also home to 4,000 artisans and 250 art galleries. A good deal of the galleries are located on Canyon Road, an old Indian trail that connected the Rio Grande to the Pecos River, 15 miles east of Santa Fe. The trail provided a transportation system for agriculture and trade and later was the site of an art colony. Today, it’s home to the second largest art market in the United States next to New York City and it specializes in contemporary, traditional and Native American fine art. The shops, boutiques and galleries offer paintings, indoor and outdoor sculptures, glass, jewelry, clothing, accessories, home furnishing, gifts, antiques, rugs, folk art and crafts.

The rest of this post can be found at its original source on HuffPost by OlgaBonnfiglio (also her photo/photo credit to Olga in above left). Other useful links from her original piece include:

  • Matteucci’s Gallery just off Canyon Road.
  • San Miguel Mission: built in 1610 mixing Native American and Spanish Colonial architecture styles. It is apparently the oldest church in the US.
  • Santa Fe-area guitarists.
  • The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian magazine, named Santa Fe the second “gayest” city in America behind Minneapolis and ahead of San Francisco, which ranked eleventh.)
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