Summer is New Mexico's busiest season, but cooler weather and arts events stretch the prime visiting time well into fall. The destinations listed below are easy to reach from either Santa Fe or Taos. For more information on lodging and restaurants, contact the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau (800/777-2489 or www.santafe.org) or Taos County Chamber of Commerce (505/758-3873 or www.taoschamber.com).
High Road to Taos Art Tour. Self-guided tour and open houses in villages between Santa Fe and Taos. Sep 21-22 and 28-29. For a map and brochure, call (866) 804-5702 or visit www.highroadnewmexico.com.
Spanish Market. Among the biggest events in Santa Fe, a summer and a winter market hosted by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society feature 250 artists, including santeros, tinsmiths, potters, and weavers. Summer market takes place July 27-28 on the main plaza; winter market is December 7-8 at the Sweeney Convention Center. (505) 982-2226 or www.spanishmarket.org.
Driving the High Road. Many artists on the High Road to Taos (State 76) have showrooms or galleries open to the public on a limited basis. "The High Road to Taos Arts Guide" (available at shops or from the Art Tour number above) provides a good list.
Look for signs placed by the highway, especially around Cordova, for unfinished wood carvings (two of the finest carvers are sisters Gloria López Córdova and Sabinita López Ortiz) and around Chimayo for weavings.
Castillo Gallery. Wood carvings by santero Terry Enseñat Mulert, with contemporary paintings by Paula Castillo. Off High Road to Taos, 1 mile into village of Cordova, at 181 Main Rd.; (505) 351-4067.
Cordovas Handweaving Workshop. Longtime weaving shop is a good stop for rugs. Closed Sun. On County Road 75 in Truchas; (505) 689-2437.
Good Hands Gallery. Contemporary and traditional works. Closed Sun. 700 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe; (888) 982-0510.
Owings-Dewey Fine Art. Represents Luis Eligio Tapia and his son, Sergio. Closed Sun. 76 E. San Francisco St., Santa Fe; (505) 982-6244.
Church of San Jose de Garcia. Fine example of Spanish colonial architecture from 1760 is notable for its reredos. Sporadic hours; ask at the store across the road to see if the church can be opened. Off State 76 in Las Trampas.
Cristo Rey Catholic Church. The 1940 church is distinguished for its impressive Spanish colonial art, including an 18th-century reredos. At the corner of Canyon Rd. and Cristo Rey St. in Santa Fe; (505) 983-8528.
El Santuario de Chimayo. In addition to its holy dirt (said to have curative powers), this early-19th-century church has a fine reredos. Off State 76 in Chimayo; (505) 351-4889.
San Francisco de Asis Church. An icon of 20th-century art, thanks to Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams, the early-1800s church is filled with Spanish colonial art, some restored by Luis Eligio Tapia. 4 miles south of Taos on State 68 in Rancho de Taos; (505) 758-2754.
Santa Fe's new museum
The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art―a longtime dream of the venerable 75-year-old Spanish Colonial Arts Society―examines the cultural influence of Spain throughout its one-time empire. While the art of New Mexico shares many traits with works from other Spanish colonies, Stuart Ashman, the museum's executive director, says that it has its own distinctive character.
"In Mexico and Guatemala, there was more hybridization," he says. "But New Mexico was so isolated that there was a direct transmission of the art and culture and memory of Spain. New Mexico was an outpost, so an artist here would be taught by a grandparent who had learned in Spain. The tradition was passed directly from one generation to another."
The museum's 3,400 square feet of exhibit space is housed in a restored 1930 pueblo revival-style building. Drawing from a 3,000-piece collection, exhibits include works from the Philippines, Mexico, Central America, and South America. And to provide a better understanding of the art's origins, Ashman says some works will illuminate the Islamic influence on Spanish art.
INFO: 10-5 daily; $6, free ages 16 and under. 750 Camino Lejo; (505) 982-2226 or www.spanishcolonial.org.