One of the best ways to experience northern New Mexico is to drive the High Road to Taos. On the High Road you’ll encounter mission churches, little villages, farms and art studios. One of the best times to take this trip is in September during the two weekends of the High Road Art Tour.
On the High Road to Taos Art Tour, you’ll be able to see the village where the adaptation of The Milagro Bean Field War was filmed, visit historic homes, adobe studios and gardens where artists live and work and stroll the dirt streets of little villages where time stands still. The culture of Northern New Mexico harkens back to the time when families settled on land grants and traditional crafts like weaving and woodworking were part of everyday life.
The beauty of the area and the culture attracts artists from all over the world. Many exhibit their art in galleries and shops in large cities. But to see where they work, and purchase pieces directly from them is a meaningful experience.
Inspiring Scenery on the High Road to Taos
The High Road to Taos will lead you along winding roads through little villages, past historic churches and cemeteries with stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Fall brings gold to the cottonwood trees.
These small villages with tin roofs and adobe walled buildings along with the mountains, provide inspiration to the artists that live in the area. If you want a piece of art that depicts this beautiful area, you’ll find it on the High Road Art Tour.
Discovering Traditional Arts on The High Road To Taos
In Chimayo, you’ll find traditional weavers, some nationally known. Be sure and visit Centinela Traditional Arts, nestled in the family’s orchards. There you’ll be able to visit with Irvin and Lisa Trujillo who dye much of their own yarn with plant based dyes. Then, hand weave southwest style art tapestry in the Hispanic wool weaving tradition of northern New Mexico. Their award-winning tapestries are hung in museums and hotels. You can see their fine work at the shop and purchase weaving books and inexpensive small weavings from traditional weavers who live in the area. Ask to see a work in progress on one of the huge old wooden looms.
Several traditional wood carvers from the carving village of Cordova will have open workshops during the art tour. Be sure and drive off the main road into the little village. These artists show at the Santa Fe Spanish Market and will display their award winning art complete with ribbons.
In Truchas, Isabro Ventura Ortega, master woodcarver, has been working for years on his home. The entire home is chip carved in the traditional way. It is a special place and a unique opportunity to see this amazing work in progress.
And, you can purchase some of his work. He frames mirrors with his carved wood. You can usually find them at the High Road Art Gallery a co-op. But to visit with Isabro and see the detailed decoration in his home is worth the trip in itself.
Contemporary Art on the High Road Tour
You’ll find very contemporary art in historic adobe buildings, fine hand made furniture and a field of metal art bells. You need to explore the entire High Road Art Tour. That’s why it takes place in two weekends. You just may need that much time to wander through all that the tour has to offer.
I met plein air artist Sally Delap-John in Santa Fe. She is one of the featured artists at the art-filled hotel La Posada de Santa Fe, just steps from the Plaza. She exhibits at shows such as Arizona’s annual Cowgirl Up show in Wickenburg. Sally is originally from the agricultural central valley of California but settled in Truchas many years ago.
Her art is created as she spends time in the fields and and villages around her. Some of her most beautiful subjects are crumbling adobes and simple churches. Although she paints with watercolor, it is the vibrant colors of her plein air oil paintings that will draw you to her studio/home. Some of her pieces are framed in Isabro Ortega’s hand carved wood. Her love of Truchas comes through strongly in her work. Be sure and look out the windows of her home when you visit and enjoy the vistas of Truchas Peaks and the town, just down the road.
Not far from Truchas, as you travel the art tour, you’ll see a sign for Ojo Sarco Pottery. The property, the studio and, of course, the beautiful pottery is worth a stop. Kathy Riggs and Jake Willson make all the pieces by hand. You’re bound to fall in love with their earthy combinations of colors. When I was there, a collector told me each time he visited he picked up a new piece in the color combination he loved. In the gallery you’ll also find jewelry and paintings by local artists.
You’ll be encouraged to rest a bit at their picnic table overlooking the field and trees. It is an ideal place to have lunch.
Not Just Art: Fresh Produce and Churches
On both weekends during the High Road to Taos Art Tour there will be farmers’ markets set-up at Gaucho Blue in Penasco and at High Road Art Gallery in Truchas. Some farm locations will be open to the public throughout the two weekends. I enjoyed shopping with a family selling calabazas (squash) and garlic on a weathered doorstep on the shady side of a gallery. The father watched as the young sons did the transaction with me.
The church in Truchas is not always open. During my visit one Saturday of the art tour, the Farmers’ market included a fundraiser for the church and it was open. Nuestra Señora del Rosario is the name of this early nineteenth-century church in the center of the village. The church contains two large altar-screens by the renowned santero (religious carver) Pedro Antonio Fresquis. It has wooden pews and is heated by a simple wood stove. You’ll notice the church in most pictures of Truchas. The tin roofed bell tower stands above the rest of the small buildings in the village.
Most villages have picturesque churches and chapels. Truchas also has an adobe Penitente Brotherhood morada and graveyard, not usually open to the public. Isabro Ortega, is the caretaker.
When You Go to The High Road to Taos Art Tour
Download or pick up a High Road Art Tour brochure. The map and list of artists is helpful. It doesn’t take long to get from Santa Fe to the villages of Northern New Mexico. You’ll want to head up NM 76 out of Espanola to Chimayo and then on to Truchas. Take your time and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of early New Mexico.
You can find more area information on the Tourism Santa Fe website.