Fechin Gardens: peace and tranquility in the town of Taos

By Cindy Brown
For The Taos News
Posted 7/16/18

Hidden behind the stately former home of artist Nicholai Fechin a beautiful new garden waits to be discovered. Water bubbles over a small boulder into a …

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Fechin Gardens: peace and tranquility in the town of Taos

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Hidden behind the stately former home of artist Nicholai Fechin a beautiful new garden waits to be discovered.

Water bubbles over a small boulder into a rocky pool and flowers are in full bloom beneath aspen trees, creating a relaxing escape from the summer heat. Birds can be heard among the red roses, blue delphinium, orange daylilies and yellow columbine.

Taos Art Museum at the Fechin House

The Fechin house is now home to the Taos Art Museum, which features portraits painted by Fechin along with his paintings of the New Mexico desert and the work of other Taos artists, notably the members of the Taos Society of Artists. Russian-born Fechin created a home that was a rich combination of influences from his homeland and the art of the Southwest. His elaborate carved posts, stair rails, vigas and doors are still visible in the home as are his paintings.

"I was awed by the Fechin House the first time I entered it - a profound feeling that has never diminished despite the countless hours I have spent in this building," says board member and docent Cindy Atkins. "I am amazed by its beauty and the artistry and genius that Fechin imbued into every facet of this home. It is a true joy when I have the opportunity to share its history and features with our visitors, who are likewise struck by its beauty."

Swimming hole to magical garden

When the home belonged to Fechin in the 1920s and 1930s, the backyard was a swimming hole, according to Atkins. "Fechin swam in the pool every day. When the museum bought the home in 2002, the pool was filled in," she says. "Just this year, we began to work with the yard to create the new garden."

The garden has become a special gathering place for people after they tour the museum or while they wait for a musical event. On a recent warm evening, concertgoers lingered in the garden before the start of a tribute to the music and poetry of Leonard Cohen.

They enjoyed the summer magic created by the sound of water and the fragrance of flowers. Poet Judah Botzer relaxed in the garden, preparing to read Leonard Cohen poetry, accompanied by his dog, a 7-year-old lab mix named Tzilah.

On Sundays, the Coffee Apothecary brings its coffee cart to the garden to serve visitors.

"The Fechin Gardens are well on their way to becoming the preeminent public green space in town," observes Atkins. "We already have birds by the dozens playing in the new fountain and many locals gathering with their newspapers, chessboards, and dogs to visit and relax. For all visitors, the gardens enhance the experience of the museum."

Garden inspiration and future

The garden project was led by board member Dr. Steve Spady, who has a passion for gardening, and built by Jerry Schwartz of Sticks and Stones Earthworks. Atkins says the project would never have happened without the leadership and support of Spady and credits Swartz and his crew for bringing the beautiful vision to life.

Spady says the fountain is the center of the garden and was created in memory of his father who had recently passed away. "We need quiet, beautiful places in town for people to relax, and there is not a better place than the Fechin House to create such a space," adds Spady.

Schwartz and his crew did their best to create a beautiful, peaceful garden that draws people in. Schwartz explains, "We enhanced the habitat for people and animals, adding plants that attract pollinators like butterflies and bees. We used native plants and others that are appropriate for our climate. Gardens can create the feeling of being surrounded by nature, even if they are in downtown Taos."

The garden project has already been recognized for its contributions with an Architecture plus Community award from the New Mexico Architectural Foundation given to important historic buildings or sites that have had a long-lasting effect on bringing together the community.

The gardens represent the first phase of overall plans for the future. "As we raise additional funds, our goal is to create and execute a master plan that will incorporate the entire property, which is about an acre," says Atkins.

Invitation to enjoy

The garden is an oasis of peace and the public is invited to enjoy it. It is available for weddings and other special events. You can come on Sunday morning to purchase coffee from Coffee Apothecary from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We welcome visitors to the gardens to meet with friends, enjoy the weather in a tranquil green space, or have a picnic lunch. Visitors are invited to paint, draw or practice music," Atkins says. "It is truly a community garden space here for everyone to enjoy."

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