In 1898, the painters Bert Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein were crossing New Mexico when, on a remote road, they lost a wagon wheel and walked into a tiny mountain village for help. They never left.
Blumenschein would later say he’d never seen a place more beautiful than Taos. In the 1920s, benefactress Mabel Dodge Luhan used her wealth to bring painters, writers, photographers, and musicians to settle here. From then on, the artists just kept coming. Today, names like Nicolai Fechin, E. Irving Couse, Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, D. H. Lawrence, Agnes Martin, and R. C. Gorman, among many others, are indelibly linked to the town, and its streets are home to dozens of galleries and museums, including the Harwood Museum of Art, Millicent Rogers Museum, and Taos Art Museum.
Good to know: Read more about Taos and see listings of galleries, exhibition openings, and museum hours.
2. Zuni Pueblo
Out among the mesas and buttes of western New Mexico lies Zuni, the largest of the state’s 19 Native American pueblos. The tribal government estimates that 80% of the Zuni people make their living in the arts, and aside from their world-famous inlay silverwork, the Zuni are also known for their incredible beadwork belts and clothing, stone fetish carvings, pottery work, and wood statues of traditional kachina dancers.
The Zuni Main Street Festival takes place every May, and the Zuni Arts and Cultural Expo typically falls in mid summer. The Ancient Way Fall Festival and Arts Market is held in October, and then the Holiday Arts Market kicks off on Thanksgiving weekend — lots to choose from!
Good to know: Visitors are requested to respect the religious and cultural privacy of the Zuni people while on the reservation. Check out Zuni Tourism for more info.
3. Canyon Road, Santa Fe
With more than 100 galleries running along its three-quarter-mile stretch, Canyon Road is the hub of the Santa Fe arts scene. The Michael Henington Fine Art Gallery shows established painters like S. J. Shaffer and David DeVary, and the excellent Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art Gallery specializes in abstract art by Native American, Australian Aboriginal, and American Southwestern artists.
The galleries, cafes, and restaurants along Canyon Road are generally open every day, and the price of artwork varies from extremely accessible to out of reach to anyone but the top collectors.
Good to know: Friday evenings from 5-7pm are when most Canyon Road galleries host openings and special exhibits. Pick up the “Pasatiempo” section in Friday’s Santa Fe New Mexican to find out what’s on during your visit, or check Canyon Road Arts.
4. Las Cruces Arts Fair
Las Cruces is one of New Mexico’s fastest growing cities, and along with that boom has come a blossoming local arts scene. In particular, the Doña Ana Arts Council supports the Rio Grande Theatre, which regularly hosts free music performances; the Renaissance ArtsFaire; White Sands International Film Festival; and the Las Cruces Arts Fair, where over 70 North American artists show handwoven clothing and vintage kimonos, hand-painted silk accessories, sculpture, photography, and wildlife art.
5. Museum Hill, Santa Fe
Visitors to Santa Fe may be tempted to spend all their time around the historic plaza and its legitimately awesome art galleries, museums, and colonial architecture. But in so doing they’d be missing out on one of the city’s most significant art attractions. Just two miles south of downtown, set right up against the Sangre de Cristo foothills, Museum Hill is home to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and the Museum of International Folk Art. Together, these institutions make up some of the most important collections of Native American and folk art in the US, and you won’t find a better representation of the artistic heritage of New Mexico anywhere.
Good to know: With the exception of the Wheelwright, these museums are closed on Mondays outside the summer season. The presence of the Museum Hill Cafe means you can easily spend a whole day on the hill.
A great diversity of festivals, over a dozen museums and theaters, and more than 100 art galleries make Albuquerque one of the top arts destinations in the country. On Central Avenue, the 516 ARTS nonprofit anchors eclectic and experimental venues including Symphony 505, the Richard Levy Gallery, and KiMo Theatre. And just a few streets over are the alternative spaces Factory on 5th and SCA Contemporary Art Gallery.
Every October, over 300 artists show their work at a Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival that coincides with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. A month later the Rio Grande Holiday Show kicks off, followed by the Spring Show in March, when around 200 artists from across the country show indoors at the Manuel Lujan Exhibit Complex.
Good to know: Visit Rio Grande Festivals for more info on the three events mentioned above.
7. Santa Fe Spanish Market
Every July, more than 350 of New Mexico’s best artists show their work at the Santa Fe Spanish Market — the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Held in the Santa Fe Plaza, here you’ll find traditional handmade art and enjoy music and food from throughout the state. This is where to meet the likes of furniture maker Andrew Garcia, musicians Trio Los Primos, and metalwork artist Felipe Rivera. Also worth a visit are the excellent New Mexico Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, just off the plaza.
Good to know: The main Spanish Market takes place in July, but there’s also a smaller winter market in late November in Albuquerque.
8. Silver City
Set in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico, Silver City is a historic mining town of 10,000 that’s known for its Arts and Culture District, with performing arts spaces and gallery studios along with restaurants and cafes. Established in 2007, the SCACD is a collaboration between local artists and business owners that covers downtown and extends up to the Western New Mexico University campus.
On West 7th Street, A Space Gallery doubles as a venue for performance artists and shows contemporary works from local artists including Ben Balas and Carol Young, while the Chamomile Connection studio highlights the fiber arts traditions of the region, providing materials for weavers, spinners, felters, and soap makers.
9. Dixon Studio Tour
Every year, more than 30 local artists in this small community between Santa Fe and Taos open their homes and studios to the public for the Dixon Studio Tour. A highlight on the New Mexico arts scene since 1982, the cooperatively run event kicks off with an evening reception at the Toolshed performance space. The next morning, the village conducts organized tours of the studios and runs workshops in stone carving, poetry, winemaking, blacksmithing, and photography.
Over the weekend, the Dixon Elementary School hosts the Mercado, where you can buy locally grown and homemade products. It’s also worth visiting the Collected Works show to see notable pieces by artists including ceramicist and lamp-maker Judy Pearson, photographer Atom Crawford, and plein-air painter Clarence Medina.
Good to know: The Dixon Studio Tour takes place on the first weekend of November. Get the most recent updates at Dixon Arts.
10. SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market
More than 1,200 artists from 220 tribes compete in a rigorous process to show at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, held every August in the Santa Fe Plaza. Art ranges from pottery and jewelry to textile weavings, paintings, beadwork, and basketry by well-known artists like Comanche painter Nocona Burgess.
Graffiti artists Jaque Fragua, El Mac, Yatika Starr Fields, and Hoka Skenandore were launched onto the national stage through their showings at the event in 2013, and the market has increasingly sought to include a variety of creative forms in the weeklong celebration. Where beadwork and ceramic works once dominated the entire show, book signings, fashion, performance art, theater, photography, and music are increasingly finding a home in the market’s diverse mix.
Good to know: The market takes place the first or second week of August each year.