Fine art

State of the arts in Taos

Taos Arts Council hosts inaugural forums and award banquet honoring Peter Chinni

By Virginia L. Clark
Posted 3/29/18

Solidifying Taos' reputation as an art mecca was the focus of last weekend's art forums and inaugural award banquet hosted by the Taos Art Council.Overall, about 30 to 40 people …

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Fine art

State of the arts in Taos

Taos Arts Council hosts inaugural forums and award banquet honoring Peter Chinni


Solidifying Taos' reputation as an art mecca was the focus of last weekend's art forums and inaugural award banquet hosted by the Taos Art Council.

Overall, about 30 to 40 people joined in the various sessions of the TAC's events dedicated to Taos artists and the business of art Friday and Saturday (March 23-24) in the mural room of the Historic Taos County Courthouse on the northside of Taos Plaza. The weekend wrapped up with a soldout gala award banquet honoring Taos sculptor Peter Chinni Sunday (March 25) at the new dining spot, Salt+Wine (formerly El Mez), in El Prado.

"This weekend is highlighting what Taos Arts Council has been doing in the community," said Cecilia Cuff, TAC Board member and gala coordinator. "They all work so hard and believe so much in what they do; and 2018 is Taos Arts Council's first year to give out the Preeminent Artist Award." Included with the award is TAC's nomination of the artist for the annual Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Probably the most exciting news of the weekend came from Town Manager Rick Bellis regarding an integrated "art space" for Taos artists.

"It doesn't do any good to be an art town if you can't live here to be the starving artist of Taos you want to be," Bellis quipped. The present plan, he said, is to create 60 to 80 units of housing for any-media artist, with retail and performance space, all as an "incubator" that has to be downtown to create "vibrancy" and be easy to reach.

Total estimated cost of the project is $14 million, including property acquisition. "Three locations are presently underway," Bellis said, with some preliminary architectural renderings for at least one location, but no names or places could be mentioned at this time. A follow-up site location and negotiation-team visit is scheduled for mid-April.

Bellis also talked about the limitations on government agencies when granting funding for the arts. Because the state's anti-donation clause prevents government entities from giving money to an individual or individual business, the town and county agencies fund events that benefit the whole community.

"Plus, we have to show that we get something back from the event as well," Bellis said, giving as examples marketing and management funding from the lodgers tax that has gone to The Paseo Art Expo, Taos Farmers Market and the Environmental Film Festival.

Bellis and all panelists Friday and Saturday said to talk to them. They need the input to know what the community's bright ideas are, so they can help steer folks to the appropriate funding agency.

"Artist to Artist: When Art is Your Business" on Friday was an interactive roundtable presented by artist Maggie Hanley of New Mexico Arts in collaboration with Marko Schmitt of the University of New Mexico-Taos Small Business Development Center.

Hanley engaged attendees on their marketing strategies, what worked well and what did not, suggesting sure-win alternatives she and Schmidt have found effective.

"I love the business of art," Schmidt insisted to the fairly dubious audience.

"Art sales is fun!" he said, advocating artists contact him to kick-start their own sales, a freebie requiring only the artists' time.

In addition to individual artists from Taos and Santa Fe, artists from the Questa Arts Council, Taos Gallery Association and Northern New Mexico College-El Rito, among others, were in attendance.

"State of the Arts in Taos" Saturday included Bellis' report on Town Resolution 17-41 in support of the arts. The resolution includes local art in public spaces; expanding display space for local artists and specifically Taos Pueblo artists, in the remodel of the visitor center at Paseo del Pueblo Sur and Paseo del Cañon East; integration of local art work in major town park events; revision of its art and craft show policy to emphasize local artists, cultural, historical or nonprofit community organizations, starting with the spring 2018 season; and working with the county to identify funding for the Historic Taos County Courthouse renovation, also beginning this spring.

Town public relations associate Marissa Le reviewed arts promotion from 2016, and this quarter's Taos County Lamppost Banner Initiative, "Work By Women" Harwood Museum exhibit promotion, Western Art Collector magazine press trip and story for the May 2018 issue, and Taos Spring Arts: Celebrating Art, Culture and Music push to the Dallas and Santa Fe market.

The arts education in Taos Schools panelists included Christine Autumn of Taos Middle School, Michael Hensley of the Taos High School art program and Grant Coordinator Tanya Vigil of the Arts in Education Program. Funding for programs and materials is suffering in most places, but the teachers are stretching funds and holding on. Grant director Jenice Gharib mentioned the National Endowment for the Arts grants would be good for such school and regional projects.

Grant assistance and advice was given by Helen Forte of Taos Community Foundation, Executive Director Thomas Romero of Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area and Bill Whaley of the UNM Extended University.

Art "creation" versus art "promotion" was the point of the residencies featured Saturday. Local Taos residencies represented were Nic Knight's Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of Taos, Peggy Chung's Harekeke in Lama, and Joel Meinholz of Parse Seco, with a late addition of The Paseo's Matt Thomas' new endeavor, the MMoAA (Mobile Museum of American Artifacts) traveling collection that is coming to Taos in April.

For more information or contacts on any of the forum panelists, visit


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