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Discovering Canyon Road

[BLOG POST 2/25/24] Today Canyon Road is known for being home to over 80 galleries along with many boutiques and restaurants all packed into the space of six short city blocks. Indeed, more than half of Santa Fe's total number of art retailers are located along this narrow winding road.

Several years ago Santa Fe was ranked as the 3rd largest art market in the USA after NYC and LA. And in 2005 Santa Fe was appointed to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. It's won other accolades for being an art lovers destination so to say the art scene in Santa Fe is professional, competitive, and intense is not an understatement.

Hard to believe that it started out as an agricultural and residential area.

Indeed, New Mexico has long been a popular destination for artists not only because of its unique landscape, soft light, and fascinating people but because its dry, clean air was life-saving to those suffering from respiratory disease like tuberculosis. In 1915 the first artist to reside permanently in the Canyon Road neighborhood was Gerald Cassidy who was a founding member of the Santa Fe Artists' Colony.

By the 1940s many artists lived along Canyon Road but oddly there were no art galleries. However other businesses were popping up like restaurants, bars, grocery stores, a barber shop, a dry-cleaner, pet supplies, a photo studio, and even an Arthur Murray dance studio.

In 1962 it was designated a “residential arts and crafts zone” and galleries started appearing. Over the next decade and a half as many as seven new galleries opened each year. There were also curio shops, gift shops and antique stores but by the 1980s, fine art galleries dominated commerce on Canyon Road.

According to the website (where I found all of this historical info):

The diversity of work shown by this multitude of galleries includes nearly every type of American art.  A handful of shops sell historic art such as the work of the early Taos and Santa Fe art colonies, but most represent living artists.  The work ranges from traditional realism and impressionism, to abstraction, expressionism, and contemporary realism.  In addition to painting and sculpture, many galleries represent glass, ceramic, jewelry, and fiber artists, and a few sell historic and contemporary Native arts of the southwest including pottery, rugs, baskets, jewelry and paintings.

Something for everyone!

In the past when I visited Canyon Road I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of galleries and, if I'm honest, I also felt intimidated.

It's a LOT.

A lot of galleries.

A lot of art.

A lot of different styles of art.

But the more time I spend there the more I'm starting to know which galleries specialize in which type of art, which ones have good sales people, which ones support female artists, and which ones I just like.

I've found that because of my classical training I'm usually drawn to galleries with artists who work in a realistic style. I can appreciate their techniques and the amount of time it takes to create such detailed paintings.

Recently I wandered into the Zaplin Lampert Gallery and fell in love.This is a gallery that specializes in "historic" artists – i.e. dead artists. Every wall had paintings from the 1800s or early 1900s by famous (and mostly male) artists. Each painting was in a more elaborate gold gilded frame than the last and they looked like they belonged in a museum not a gallery. The paintings had beautifully balanced colors, intriguing compositions – usually Western themed – and combined gestural qualities with fine details.

This was one of my favorites:

I'm a sucker for night scenes! It's very challenging to paint so many soft edges in a small range of values with delicate muted colors. But when it works – WOW!

Anyway, it is a lot of fun to wander Canyon Road. You never know what you'll find. Like the lovely Ahmyo Wine Garden with the best outdoor seating in town (photo below). Plus, it's a delightfully scenic place rich with history. Quite literally every building has a story to tell.

So dear reader, if you ever have time to wander Canyon Road you won't regret it. Just be sure to allow plenty of time as there is a LOT to see. 😊

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