A sign on a Taos shop window recently stated, "Customers wanted. No experience necessary."
Perhaps a sense of humor and a bit of optimism is what helps to keep Taos shops and galleries open. Exceptionally strong sales in December 2017 helped to push most art galleries through the unexpectedly slow start to 2018.
The real jump start that Taos artists and galleries needed were the announcements on Feb. 2 and Feb. 5 from the town marketing division that 66 artists had been selected for the "Taos is Art" banners to be displayed across Taos. The art banners will feature living Taos artists and are going up along roadways beginning April 1, remaining on display until Oct. 31.
The artists selected seem to be dancing in the streets and glowing with pride. This joy has become infectious.
What seems to be generating current sales of art in Taos, first and foremost, is the quality of the art being shown. Fair pricing in the range of $150-350, along with the size of artworks (under 150 square inches).
Artwork with price points of $2,000-5,000 are also being sold this winter to a discerning customer base. That customer is seeking out quality and is looking to purchase artworks that have a provenance and a connection to Taos.
The warm temperatures are enticing locals to be out and about. Even your social media "friends" are stopping by local galleries this winter.
Decision makers for purchasing art tend to be women, who seem to be looking at art much more than a male clientele. Same sex couples are also enjoying the experience of buying art and interacting with the diverse range of artists in Taos.
Female artists are currently overshadowing the Taos art scene, unlike the national trend. The latest Harwood Museum exhibitions, "Work by Women" (Feb. 9-May 13) may help to create a much needed spotlight on women artists. Not to worry, male artists are also selling and are not being left behind.
The 16th annual Miniatures Show and Sale at the Millicent Rogers Museum (Feb. 9-March 4) featured 200 artworks. By the end of opening night one-fifth of the work had sold.
The Hearts & Stars Benefit for the Taos Men's Shelter at Wilder/Nightingale Fine Art (Feb. 10-16) had brisk sales as soon as the exhibit opened to the public. The annual "Art of Wine" benefit at the Harwood Museum (Feb. 2) seemed at first to be lackluster, then right at the sound of the closing bell announcement, bidders seemed to swoop in and snatch up most of the art being offered.
A tried and true strategy is to invite 10 or more artists to participate in a small works exhibition. They then invite 10 of their friends to attend the opening, and suddenly you have an exponential amount of people walking in your door.
At the Taos Artist Collective, owner Lois Fernandez selects artists of a wide variety. The gallery's display of small works with affordable pricing helps generate sales.
Artist Kathryn Hayden, who shows with Amore Gallery, also agreed it's a good idea to offer small artwork for sale at this time of year. Hayden also mentioned that she has expanded what she offers by doing portrait commissions.
Baumann Gallery saw strong sales in 2017, their best year so far, and are looking forward to an even better year for 2018. Las Comadres Gallery features 11 women artists, most of whom make their primary income from selling art.
The artist Jeff Cochran exhibits in Taos with Heinley Fine Art. He spoke about sales being slow at the beginning of 2017 (immediately after the presidential election), but that sales had picked up for him sometime around June, after which he'd sold 65 of 85 paintings.
The owners of Ennui Gallery, Sarah Hart and Montserrat Oyanedel Tolmo, have been moving displays around and freshening up the look of the gallery. They have also added a few new artists and are even seeking other artists to join their gallery.
Visit Georgia Gersh on any given day in her El Prado gallery, Magpie, and you'll witness a steady stream of shoppers. Affordable locally made crafts and a range of art impeccably curated keep her shop fresh and inspiring.
During this winter season, instead of losing 11 shops as Taos did last year, two art galleries have opened and are having some success. Maye Torres' Studio 107-B and Steve McFarland's Revolt Gallery had extremely strong sales during opening receptions in January.
With average mid-day temperatures of 50 degrees and little to no snowfall, Taos is not attracting its annual influx of skiers. A few store and gallery owners look at this optimistically with the attitude that perhaps the visitors who do arrive will take time to explore Taos and shop rather than ski. This type of thinking makes sense, but isn't the reality. Visitors who would normally be booking to come to Taos right about now are cancelling plans and not turning up.
Stuart Brown, owner of The Underground Taos, mentioned how beautiful the weather was on a particularly warm day and says he's meeting an influx of customers who have recently moved to Taos. Locals, new and long-time residents are picking up the slack from a lack of tourism and out shopping in Taos art galleries.,
On a recent afternoon five of eight galleries were closed at mid-afternoon, mostly taking lunch breaks or perhaps a day off. This doesn't reflect the current thinking of most gallery owners.
The experienced ones will tell you that they are open every day and with regular hours because you never know who may walk in to make a purchase. What most customers will tell you is that if you are closed, you've just made it impossible for them to shop. At the very least it is best to put a sign on the door that states you've got the flu or that you've gone stir crazy and mention when you'll be back.
A bit of advice from photographer Gak Stonn of Taos Fine Art Printing and Photography should be considered. He advises adding a line of postcards and notecards of the art you're selling.
This can help create a sale sometime in the future. For now a sale of postcards are better than no sales at all.
Gak also said it helps to diversify and offer a service. His business offers a printing service. As a photographer he is fully equipped to take photographs and format the artwork of Taos artists. He also strongly believes that galleries need to be open.
Many galleries and artists are also using websites and social media to market the work they are showing. Using both can be effective and each have their own strengths. Keeping a website up to date is important. Social media posts can be quick and easy, but they don't show up in search engines. A reminder to send your press releases in to the editor of Tempo, Rick Romancito. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: In addition to being a Tempo contributor, Robert Cafazzo is also an artist and owner of Two Graces Gallery in Ranchos de Taos.