Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Taos is a place to celebrate American and Native culture and art

A visit to Taos is really a visit to two different places. There is the town of Taos, with its history and thriving artist community. There is also Taos Pueblo, with its own history and a very different artist community.

Taos Pueblo

The Taos Pueblo reservation is the home to around 4500 Tiwa speaking people. It is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the United States. The old part of the reservation sits at the foot of the Taos mountains, along the Red Willow Creek, which runs from its source at Blue Lake to the Rio Grande River. Its most famous feature is the multistory complex of houses constructed out of adobe bricks that was built between 1000 and 1400 CE. Today around fifteen families live in the pueblo full time.

I started my visit with a tour of the pueblo. The tour started at the Iglesia de San Geronimo (Church of Saint Jerome). The current version of which was built is 1850. The previous building had been destroyed by American troops after an uprising by Natives and Mexicans against the American occupation. The thirty-minute tour was led by a young woman who was born and raised on the reservation. We walked among the adobe buildings while hearing about the history of pueblo. Our guide answered questions about life on the reservation, and about the construction and maintenance of the structures. One thing that she would not speak about was their traditional religious ceremonies. The people of Taos Pueblo are very private about that part of their lives.

After the tour we were encouraged to walk around and explore the pueblo, with proviso of respecting areas that were marked as private. Many people run businesses out fo their apartments, selling jewelry and art, or food. I enjoyed a traditional fry-bread, and bought some earrings for The Amazing Ms. D.


The town of Taos was established by Spanish settlers in 1615. It became part of the United States territories in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Historically, Taos is remembered as home to Kit Carson, who commanded Union Army troops during the Cvili War, and in campaigns against the Apache and Navajo Indians.

For those interested in art, Taos is best known for the Taos Society of Artists, founded in 1915. The town became a Mecca for artists in the early 20th century. Many famous artists either spent time or moved there, including Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams.

Today Taos still draws artists and photographers. It is filled with galleries, and is home to several excellent museums. One that I visited is the Taos Art Museum, in the Nicolai Fechin House. Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) was born in Russia, where he studied painting at the Imperial Academy of Art. He moved to the U.S., with his wife Alexandra and his daughter Eya, in 1923, and after developing tuberculosis, came to Taos. They purchased a house, which Nicolai preceded to renovate. He was a master wood carver, and his work is visible throughout the building. The Taos Art Museum is home to a collection of works by artists who lived in Taos during the Early 20th century.

Eya by Nicolai Fechin

Wood Cabinet by Nicolai Fechin

Balinese Dancer by Nicolai Fechin
Juan Braiding by Marjorie Eaton

Another wonderful museum to see is the the Harwood Museum of Art, which is part of the University of New Mexico. The Harwood collection goes beyond the Taos Art Colony to include Native, Hispanic and American artists from throughout the towns history up to current times. When I visited the main exhibition was a Judy Chicago collection titled “The Birth Project.”

Baking Bread by Susan Folney

Creation of the World I by Judy Chicago and others

Taos is a wonderful place to visit when you come to New Mexico. You can celebrate art, history and Indian culture. You can also enjoy nature, with hikes in the mountains surrounding the town. So make the drive up from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. You won’t be disappointed.

Nuts and Bolts:

Taos Pueblo - Open M-Sa 8-4:30, Su 8:30-4:30. Admission: Adult $16/ Seniors and Students $14. Taos Pueblo is subject to unannounced closures for religious activities. Call ahead.

Taos Art Museum - Open T-Su 11-4. Admission: Adults $10/ Seniors $9/ Students $8

Harwood Museum of Art - Open T-F 10-5; Sa&Su - 12-5. Admission: Adults $10/ Seniors and Students $8

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