On the trail of Spanish colonial art and artists

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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.

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