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Exhibits extraordinaire

Fascinating items from permanent collections and recent acquisitions are on display at museums throughout Santa Fe this winter. With many museums offering free admission to New Mexico residents on Sundays, it’s easy for the entire family to enjoy the many cultural and historical treasures housed in these venerable institutions.

Cowboys and the old West are highlighted at the New Mexico History Museum. “Cowboys Real and Imagined,” which is on exhibit through the middle of March, features artifacts and photographs from its collections along with items loaned from more than 100 people and museums. The exhibit shows the real history of the Southwestern cowboy as well as the mystique that has developed through the years. Screenings of classic Western movies that were filmed in New Mexico are also part of the programming.

"Musicians," a 1965 ceramic sculpture by Jos Antonio da Silva, will be part of the "Brasil and Arte Popular" exhibit opening Nov. 17 at the Museum of International Folk Art. (Courtesy of Museum Of International Folk Art)

“Musicians,” a 1965 ceramic sculpture by Jos Antonio da Silva, will be part of the “Brasil and Arte Popular” exhibit opening Nov. 17 at the Museum of International Folk Art. (Courtesy of Museum Of International Folk Art)

In the New Mexico History Museum’s exhibit “Tall Tales of the Wild West,” the life, legacy and impact of the novels of German author Karl May are explored. May, who never visited the West, created a mystique about cowboys and Indians that has influenced how Europeans look at the western United States. The exhibit closes Feb. 9.

“Heartbeat: Music of the Native Southwest,” which is a celebration of the sights and sounds associated with Native music, is featured at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. More than 100 objects relating to Southwestern Native dance and music, including drums, rasps, rattles, clothing and a flute made by Grammy award-winning musician Robert Mirabal of Taos Pueblo, are on display through the end of March.


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The oldest piece in the exhibit is not a musical instrument but a Hohokam bowl made between A.D. 800 and 900 that depicts a figure holding up a flute player. Only a few of these bowls have ever been found.

“We’ll have iPads throughout the exhibit that give examples of what the instruments on display sound like,” says curator of ethnology Tony Chavarria. “There will also be videos of dances by various tribes.”

The museum displays baskets woven by artists representing 60 cultural groups in the exhibit “Woven Identities.” Most of the baskets in this exhibit were made many years ago when the weavers’ names were not recorded. Historians have to examine the individual characteristics of each basket to try to determine when and where it was made and who made it.

Folk art

The Museum of International Folk Art showcases approximately half of its collection of Brazilian folk art in the exhibit “Brasil and Arte Popular,” which runs from Nov. 17 through Aug. 10.

“A substantial number of the items in the exhibit come from the Girard collection from the late 1970s,” explains Barbara Mauldin, curator of Latin American Folk Art. “Since then, we’ve received donations from several different collectors. Part of the plan is to show off our collection.”

The exhibit features folk art made between the early 1950s and today and includes woodblock prints, colorful ceramic and wood folk sculptures, toys, puppets and religious art objects.

During the exhibit’s opening reception from 1-4 p.m. Nov. 17, there are performances by the musical group Capoeira Cordao de Ouro Canganco, hands-on activities and refreshments. Because the opening takes place on a Sunday, there is free admission for New Mexico residents.


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Spanish Colonial art

Peruvian art is the focus of an exhibit at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art that runs through May 27. “Window on Lima: the Beltran-Kropp Collection” from Peru features dozens of objects from Peru and a number of other objects collected by Pedro Gerardo Beltran Espantoso, a former ambassador to the U.S. and prime minister of Peru, and his wife, Miriam Kropp Beltran.

The donated art includes a rare reverse-painted glass frame from Cajamarca, Peru; a silver panel of Abraham, Isaac and Angel; a table with marquetry of incised ivory and tortoise shell; and a set of custom-made and engraved cobalt blue and gold dinner service for 46 people.

Museum of Art

Fifty contemporary artworks donated to the New Mexico Museum of Art from the collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel are on display at the museum through April 13 in an exhibit called “50 Works for 50 States.” Works included in the donation are by artists such as Robert Barry, Linda Benglis, Jene Highstein, Edda Renouf, Judy Rifka and Richard Tuttle. Pieces on display vary from loose-leaf paper with watercolor marks on it by Richard Tuttle to an assemblage by Ron M. Fisher.

Contemporary Native Arts

There is a focus on printmaking at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Opening on Jan. 25, “ARTiculations in Print” features prints by artists including Sally-Ann Paschall, Alex Pena and David Sloan. A selection of prints by the late Inuk artist Kenojuak Ashevak are also on display.

Holiday events

Several museum are hosting special holiday events this year. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum presents “Holidays Around the World” from 1-4 p.m. Dec. 27 at the Education Annex at 123 Grant Ave. During this free drop-in workshop, families can make paper lanterns, holiday dream catchers and paper poinsettias. Reserve a place in the workshop by calling 505-946-1039.

“Christmas at Kuaua” is a special holiday program at the Coronado Historic Site (I-25, Exit 242 in Bernalillo) that takes place at 5 p.m. Dec. 8. This free program includes an ornament-making workshop, music, traditional Pueblo dancing and Native American storytelling. For information, call 505-867-5351.