Taos has always attracted free-spirited, creative, independent thinkers, eclectic personalities and lovers of art and nature. Lois Fernández, owner and director of the Taos Artist Collective, fits each of these descriptions. Originally from the East Coast, she spent time working in Manhattan's Garment District with the likes of Bill Blass, Diane von Furstenberg, and Oscar de la Renta.
Fernández shares a talent for embroidery and lace with Georgia O'Keeffe, who had similar interests and experiences. Fernández first visited Taos as she traveled throughout the Southwest to showcase her weaving techniques and, as she described to a colleague on that fateful first visit to Taos County, "One day I will live in Taos."
A couple of decades and three children later, she heeded the call to venture West and immediately put her business acumen to work. The Taos Artist Collective started out with antiques and some art and eventually transitioned to all art. Today, the 1,500-square-foot gallery prominently located near the entrance of the Historic Taos Plaza holds space for 25 local artists - the majority of who are members of the collective.
In a town with more than 80 galleries, Fernández's business model is a rare jewel. The uniqueness of the Taos Artist Collective is superseded only by its success. The gallery not only offers a wide range of art from some of the finest artists in the Southwest, but it has also provided a grooming ground for art collectors, which has helped them develop into collectors who return to the gallery year after year.
The Collective offers artists the opportunity to become members, requiring them to work the gallery two days a month. Open seven days a week, working in the gallery gives the artists the benefit of talking with patrons. They learn what the public is interested in and gain a level of comfort in a gallery setting which can be a world away from the security of their studio.
As such, the gallery allows the artists to display and potentially sell their art, while honing their education and communication skills by working closely with the buying public. Fernández encourages the artists to shadow her in the gallery, which has helped them gain confidence, and the public gets the added benefit of meeting the artists.
The gallery has another unique quality. Situated in the heart of what was once a small, historic art colony, the gallery is surrounded by adobe-style buildings with walls that are seldom plumb. Yet, visitors to the Taos Artist Collective are met by a wall of windows facing Paseo del Pueblo Norte, with tall ceilings and bright lighting. The positive, palpable energy in the gallery, formerly a JC Penney's, is purposeful.
Fernández has created an environment of congeniality, and that starts with personalities and stories.
"It's all about relationships. You don't sell art, you build relationships and you sell the story, not the art," she explained. "I help teach the young artists how to build relationships and bring out their stories and in this way we give our customers an experience. We share our love of art with them."
Clearly, her business model is working well for everyone. Fernández has a wait list of 12 artists interested in being part of the collective and the gallery has become an annual destination for collectors. The distinguished collection includes a variety of styles of art with price points appropriate for the emerging collector, the high-end nuanced collector and everyone in-between. The collective's current inventory includes an eclectic mix of a variety of mediums, fine art and paintings, photographs, textiles, jewelry, pottery, metal works, sculpture and up-cycled lamps.
Saturday (April 17), the Taos Artist Collective will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to introduce and celebrate the arrival of four new artists. The extended hours for the event are intended to welcome the community and visitors throughout the day while maintaining safe, social-distancing practices. The long-standing artists of the collective, some who have been members for 16 years, are excited to welcome the new members and rekindle friendships with their fellow artists and the community. The new members, Lake Albrecht, Betsy Kuhn, Joseph Riggs and Curtis Salazar, bring a shared artistic vision to the collective and are excited to meet the public and share the inspirations and stories behind their creative passions.
According to Fernández, art holds emotion and it always tells a story. When asked how she brings her story to the canvas, Fernández reflected on her personal passion for painting 'en plein air' and replied, "By holding the wind in one hand and a paintbrush in the other."
The Taos Artist Collective helps to educate and cultivate future art collectors one story at a time.
Meet the artists
Saturday (April 17), 10 a.m. -7 p.m., at Taos Artist Collective, to introduce and celebrate the arrival four new artists.
106A Paseo del Pueblo Norte