The Tapestry of Taos Artisans
Wandering the streets of downtown Taos we walk on imperfect roads where many artists have walked before. Roads full of wondrous stories where the famous, infamous, and little known have already treaded. Every crack in the sidewalk is a sign that someone of significance walked this way and it’s what makes Taos’ art colony completely distinctive.
It is apparent as we breathe in the high desert air and take in the fantastic light, with color and brightness around every corner, why artists were drawn to our beautiful mountain town. Taos is an eclectic mix of artisans and craft people and is interwoven with the tales of Taos Pueblo, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Millicent Rogers, Georgia O’Keeffe, Kit Carson, as well as Ansel Adams. Taos has been touched by a vast array of original people for centuries and that is what has put it on the map as a thriving art colony.
As we explore art history with locals, who have an in-depth knowledge of our special town, the conversation invariably will be one of a kind and ever evolving. Visits with artists and gallery owners give distinct insight into what makes Taos an art world like no other.
For example, the Historic Couse House’s Director Davison Koenig, can regale you with the story of the Taos Society of Artists. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to say hello to the granddaughter of Irving Couse, one of the society founders, who is frequently on the property. The society was formed in 1915 when a group of illustrators and artists moved to Taos in order to paint indigenous people and share their story with the world. By 1915, six professional artists from the East had made Taos a focus of their work. That year they formed, the Taos Society of Artists sent circuit exhibitions of their paintings across the country, exposing audiences to new cultures, new visions, and new landscapes.
This put Taos “on the map” for art and tourism, making it one of the most important art colonies in America. The Society lasted until 1927, by which time there were 12 active members which included: Bert Phillips, Ernest Blumenschein, Irving Couse, Henry Sharp, Oscar Berninghaus, Herbert Dunton, Julius Rolshoven, Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins, Martin Hennings, Kenneth Adams, and Catherine Critcher. Prompted by the reputation of the Taos Society of Artists and later enhanced by the presence of the art patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan, the art community expanded rapidly. Today, it remains a vital and ever-growing artists’ milieu. Thus, TSA implemented the beginnings to the fascinating marketable art world of Taos as we know it and the blossoming of true art made accessible and collectable to this day!
Continuing to various homes and studios which once were inhabited by Taos Society artists, many of which are hidden throughout the downtown area, stories abound. Such as artist Rich Nichols, who is not only an amazingly accomplished Taos creative, but has a wealth of knowledge in the history and beauty of what makes Taos tick. Rich, an accomplished painter in his own right, moved to Taos over twenty years ago to put his original mark on the map. Inspired by the light and most definitely by the Taos Society of Artists, Rich can share his story as well as the true essence of the TSA. Gregarious, knowledgeable and talented, Nichols is a true gift to our Taos Artisan walking tour and a favorite of many!
Around the corner from Rich, you can find Carla and Chris at Tres Estrellas Gallery. This gem of an art space is owned by a truly remarkable couple, each with their area of expertise. Chris has vast knowledge in weaving, while Carla is an accomplished weaver in her own right, mastering present day weavings on her loom that she and Chris construct together. The gallery is filled with authentic pieces from around the world that date back centuries.
So many innovative and eclectic individuals dwell in downtown Taos and walking the winding side streets provides a special opportunity to witness art in the making, as well as experience a town historically imbued by creatives.
Taos is an art colony like no other, from its original roots to present day… dynamic and exciting… completely incomparable!