Reluctant nominee Gus Foster honored by arts council

Photographer has evolved into a major supporter for artists and organizations in Taos

By Virginia L. Clark
Posted 6/12/19

A sold-out capacity greeted the Taos Arts Council's second annual gala Friday (June 7) at the newly repurposed Stakeout restaurant on Outlaw Hill south of Ranchos de Taos. The …

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Reluctant nominee Gus Foster honored by arts council

Photographer has evolved into a major supporter for artists and organizations in Taos

Posted

A sold-out capacity greeted the Taos Arts Council's second annual gala Friday (June 7) at the newly repurposed Stakeout restaurant on Outlaw Hill south of Ranchos de Taos. The gala featured dinner and performances in honor of Taos photographer and notable arts supporter Gus Foster. He is the Taos Arts Council's 2019 nominee for the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

The annual Governor's Award celebrates the role that artists, craftspersons and art supporters play in the cultural and economic life of New Mexico. Last year, the arts council nominated modernist Taos sculptor Peter Chinni (1929-2019). Taos painters Cliff Harmon and Barbara Sayre (Harmon) were nominated in 2017.

"The Harwood and the [University of New Mexico] Foundation are deeply grateful to Gus for his truly remarkable contributions over the past several decades," said Harwood Museum's Director of Development Sonya Davis. "He has been a pillar of support for not just the Harwood and the university, but for art and artists in Northern New Mexico. Gus is, without question, so deserving of this nomination."

The gala included performances by Ballet Taos, "Special Delivery" guitar and percussion of Taos Youth Music School, and poetry by co-founding TAC board member Judith Rane, followed by a three-course meal and award presentation.

"I've never met a more reluctant honoree than Gus Foster," TAC President Paul Figueroa joked to the packed crowd.

"I'm not showy," Foster said earlier in the evening, smiling about the flurry of attention surrounding his nomination. "I'm not really here as an artist. I'm here because I support the arts and education of Taos. And I do that as a part of community service, and that's why I'm being awarded."

Renowned for his 360-degree panoramic photography of American landscapes - from mountain summits to open wilderness, Foster came to Taos in the mid-1970s, at the behest of his good friend and now Taos business partner of 45 years, Larry Bell, another internationally known artist of Taos.

"Gus and I met when he first moved to Los Angeles from being a curator of prints and drawings at the Minneapolis Art Institute," Bell said in an email. "He rented the building that I owned in Venice Beach. When we met after he had been there for about six months we became very good friends. When I found a studio here in Taos, it was a ruin of an old laundry in the center of town. I invited Gus out to look at the property and we bought it together - been partners since 1975. He is without question my closest friend here. His contribution to the Taos community is enormous both artistically and socially."

Bell could not be at the event because of a show opening in Switzerland opening at the same time.

When not hiking and camping New Mexico peaks with a donkey and a goat carrying supplies and his 60-pound Globus-Holway camera, Foster became active in the Harwood Museum of Art, eventually donating land he owned adjacent to the museum. He and his family donated funds to the museum to create the George Foster Jr. Gallery, in honor of his father.

The new museum wing on the property he donated was developed in large part through Foster's unstinting fundraising efforts. He was also elected to the governing board of the Harwood.

"Because of his association with the Harwood Museum of Art, Gus became involved with the University of New Mexico Foundation as a trustee," Figueroa said in press about the gala. "He also became a member of the museum's collections committee and has helped guide that collection into the contemporary age."

After 35 years of amassing his collection, Foster donated his Gus Foster Collection to the Harwood in 2013. Included are works by Taos greats Ken Price, Ron Cooper, Kevin Cannon, Jim Wagner, Lee Mullican, Ron Davis, Robert Ellis, Bea Mandelman and many more, for a total of 391 works of art by more than 80 artists. Foster continues collecting, Figueroa notes, "as well as generously supporting New Mexico artists and nonprofit organizations."

The venue for this illustrious event was the former Stakeout restaurant, back on Outlaw Hill on the mesa south of town, newly reopened as a dedicated event space.

"In paying homage to The Stakeout's rich history, we found it fitting to host the Taos Arts Council Gala for our inaugural event," said Cecilia Cuff, Stakeout managing partner, gala coordinator and former TAC board member. "We are thrilled to reopen our doors after so many years and fill our space with such iconic guests who continue to pioneer, support and bring visibility to the Taos art community.

"Chef Antoine Barlourdet's amazing four-course dinner perfectly paired the ballet, poetry and live music," Cuff concluded. "We look forward to The Stakeout's emergence as Taos' premier event venue in an unparalleled location." For more information or to arrange a venue visit, see stakeouttaos.com.

According to Figueroa, the Taos Arts Council is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 2012 "to ensure Taos County has a vibrant, vital and active arts environment. Its mission is to promote an awareness, understanding and appreciation of the creative arts to enhance the quality of life in Northern New Mexico."

For more on TAC, visit taosartscouncil.org, call president Paul Figueroa at (575) 779-8579 or email info@taosartscouncil.org.

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