There’s excitement in the air in the village of Questa. The building that’s been undergoing renovations since last November is about to make its debut.
The name of the building is OCHO, respectfully paying homage to the Hispanics who founded the community.
The number “eight” is also part of the address, 8 State Road 38, and is a good luck symbol in the Korean culture.
Korean? Yes, one of the two artist principals in this new venture is Min Jae Hong, an affable Korean with a winning personality and a smile that would melt a Grinch’s heart. The other principal is Kelly Morris whose primary residence is near Dallas, Texas.
Hong’s experience in New York as one of the top graphic designers/illustrators in the world include works in his signature style published in all the major magazines and newspapers in the U.S., such as Forbes, award-winning corporate graphics, and owner-publisher of two weekly newspapers.
Hong was raised in Korea and has worn many other hats since arriving in the U.S. In keeping with his openness to new experience, he was director of a Buddhist meditation center in Pine Bush, N.Y., prior to his arrival in Questa.
OCHO has many facets in Hong’s vision. One dimension is as a painting and design studio for him, and a summer studio for Morris. Morris teaches high school art in Wylie, Texas, and is an inventive and productive painter, printmaker and furniture maker. Also, Claire Coté’s nonprofit organization, LEAP (Land Experience and Art of Place) has a permanent home at OCHO.
But Hong’s ideas extend beyond the use of OCHO as a studio and office. The front exhibit space can seat 60 people so he envisions OCHO benefiting the Questa community with space for events. He would like Questa people to have a place to meet, have fun and share ideas in this charming shoes-free building surrounded with beautiful art.
Hong even visualizes OCHO providing short-term living quarters for an artist-in-residence program. And in his mind’s eye he already sees a sculpture garden outside in the back.
Sounds quite elegant for a building that once housed a union hall and then a boxing gym, but this is Questa — an eclectic community where small houses are nestled next to a garage or church, where you can buy beer at as many places as you can worship, and where artists, miners, alternative health care practitioners and volunteer firemen/women exchange leftovers and conversation with their neighbors next door. And nobody cares whether you have lots of money or none.
Every time I stopped in to see how the renovations were coming along, there was always a man with a gray beard working along with Hong. “I got very lucky when I met James García,” he told me. “He’s a master carpenter right here in Questa. Without James, this project would not be possible. I have complete trust in him that these renovations will be done and done right. He’s also a great friend.”
I wanted to know why Hong decided to settle in Northern New Mexico. “I visited New Mexico in 2002 during spring break with my two children, Julian and Natalie, and fell in love with it. Seven years later, after my divorce, I moved to El Rito and decided to make it my permanent home. With OCHO, I want to contribute to Questa by adding to its vibrancy without changing its uniqueness. I want Questa people and those in the surrounding communities to know there’s a place here for them to play and share,” he explained.
Sounds like an invitation. Stop in OCHO towards the end of June, say hello and shake Hong’s hand, look around and add your joy to the good energy in the space. I know you’ll be more than welcome.
More good news
Congratulations to Cyndi Howell and volunteers: our own Love Thy Neighbor Food Pantry was honored as Nonprofit of the Year by the Taos County Chamber of Commerce.
Paul Kunkel, El Rito’s finest cabinetmaker, who also makes custom-carved signs, has donated a carved sign to Love Thy Neighbor for the bottom of the hill.
Just in case you haven’t heard: Questa Lumber is now in its new building next to Family Dollar.
Willow Bakery and Market in Questa on the road to Red River, welcomes beloved chef Kathy Brown. Kathy will be whipping up fabulous lunches and there’s outdoor seating alongside the babbling brook. Call (575) 224-0299 for more info.
Where else to dine? Rosita’s Café is opening in June — and you can order “to go” or sit down and eat at Questa Center Supermarket (Wifi too), Chevron gas station, B & R Fuel and Grill and Wildcat Den.
Ellen Wood of Questa is a speaker, award-winning author and columnist for “Tips to Grow Younger” in the Health & Fitness section of this paper. Email good news in Questa or the local area to QuestaNews@gmail.com or call (575) 758-2241.