Taos has a rich art history.
It happened in the early 1900s for the members of the Taos Society of Artists.
With an influx of artists after the war during the 1940s, the Taos Moderns was born.
Today, the town has a feel all its own and is full of plenty of surprises, as it continues its evolution within art.
J. Matt Thomas, executive director of The Paseo Project, says the local gallery scene keeps things interesting with sculptures and window displays. Yet it’s the array of public artworks fronting public buildings and museums that get noticed.
Thomas wants to take visitors to the lesser-known and off-the-beaten track that many visitors – and locals – might miss.
“We may not be a bustling city, but creative and provocative murals and street art can be found hidden around our historic buildings and beautiful vistas,” Thomas says. “Come on up to Taos for a weekend and get a taste of an art scene that continues to be transformed.”
1. “Capsule” is a temporary, large-scale installation in the village of Arroyo Seco, located just minutes north of Taos.
Made by local artists Christian Ristow and Christina Sporrong, the interactive sculpture was unveiled in August.
“Conceived as a response to the unrest of 2020, viewers are invited to contribute their written thoughts and prayers that will later be set ablaze as part of the sculpture’s mechanical and philosophical transformation,” Thomas says.
The project is organized and funded by two local arts organizations – Seco Live and The Paseo Project.
“This sculpture is the first local commission and collaboration for the artists,” Thomas says.
2. On your way into town from the south, look for signs to UNM-Taos.
Thomas says the local branch of the University of New Mexico is constantly evolving with new facilities and an impressive collection of artwork for people to visit.
One of the newest additions is a collaborative mural created in 2019 by local artist Amy Córdova and international muralist Jenny Roesel Ustick, all in collaboration with students from UNM-Taos and the Art Department’s Director, Sarah Stolar.
“The imagery was conceptualized by students in collaboration with the professional artists and represents the diversity of UNM-Taos campus culture,” Thomas says. “It’s a colorful addition to the architecture and landscape of the campus. Be sure to take a stroll and discover the other great works collected by the university.”
3. A little bit off the main drag through Taos – but worth the detour – is the “Pollinator Concentrator” installation located within The Taos Land Trust’s downtown property, Rio Fernando Park.
Park the car and take a walk along the restored grounds.
In the corner of the property sits the “Pollinator Concentrator,” an oversized parabolic dish sunk in the earth with blue tiles representing nine pollinators including the butterfly, moth, wasp, bee, hummingbird and bat.
A collaboration between a number of parties, from educators to artists, the project evolved through the BIOSTEAM youth program.
The artist, Ana MacArthur, was invited to the park to imagine a work that would be both beautiful and educational.
“The Taos Land Trust’s youth conservation crew helped to prepare the site and install the piece,” Thomas says. “This installation also has its own curriculum, with consultation from local Taos Pueblo elders.”
4. For a small town, Taos has its share of surprise street art that catches the eye on any given day. Local artist Scripture, of Vagrant Heart, is behind a lot of them.
Thomas says to check out their old gallery space off Paseo Del Cañon.
“While the gallery has closed, the artwork remains,” he says. “You can also find a number of sites for street art throughout downtowns alleyways and backsides of buildings. The backside of Taos Plaza facing Camino de la Placita has been a popular site for pieces.”
5. While the galleries and museums had to remain closed for most of the summer, a collaboration with The Paseo Project in Taos, Vital Spaces in Santa Fe, and 516 ARTS in Albuquerque brought art to northern New Mexico with upwards of 60 window installations by local artists.
For Taos, this included two months of displays at local businesses and vacant buildings.
Although the exhibition has ended, the spirit continues.
“Make your way over to Civic Plaza Drive, where the Paseo Project has worked up an agreement with the Town of Taos to continue to occupy their old police department’s large front windows as a display space for local artists,” Thomas says. “In the summer, an installation by Nadine Lollino included pop-up performances. Installations planned for the fall include local artists Jana Greiner and Price Valentine.”