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On 10:56 AM by Rachel Preston Prinz in , ,
It is spring in New Mexico, and as the tender daffodils and crocuses burst forth into the sunlight, Santa Fe’s Canyon Road echoes the change of season as it begins to stir from a long, cold winter. Artists and galleries start to reinvigorate their spaces as the tourist season draws near. Gardens are being cleared of debris, heaping piles of snow are shoveled into the sunlight, and a general sense of gratitude and warmth emanates from nearly every shop window. The bread-and-butter of many Canyon Road art businesses is the long-term relationships that the artists and gallerists build with their collectors, who visit most often in the early fall. Next comes the day-to-day work of outfitting interior designers. And then there are the tourists, who flock in the summertime to this tiny road, one of Santa Fe’s eight historic routes and neighborhoods, to experience a place unlike any other. With world-class dining, an abundance of art, and some of the best people-watching in New Mexico, Canyon Road stands apart.
It is special not only because it is historic. It was the first recognized Residential Arts and Crafts District in the United States, established formally in 1962. The success of intermingling historic preservation, architectural design, and the arts at Canyon Road over the past four decades has modeled a new way of approaching historic and urban design. New Mexico’s Main Street program, among many other planning groups throughout the country, has used such a model for countless Arts and Crafts District overlay zones, in the hopes of preserving beautiful and significant historic structures while allowing them to be used in a vital and sustainable way, and simultaneously providing housing and a space to share the talents of local artists. Such an approach also feeds the local coffers, encouraging tourism—which has been by far the main catalyst for the success of Canyon Road. 
Originally a trail used by Native Americans to cross the mountains from Pecos Pueblo in the Pre-Columbian period, when Santa Fe was a small outpost in a vast inter-tribal trading network, Canyon Road became the first farming area outside the city center after Spanish settlement in the 17th century. It was home to several modest family farms, with bodegas, dance halls, and general stores that sold everything from hardware to hay, and eventually even gas stations.  As families expanded, rooms were added on to the simple farmhouses, creating vast compounds. Fields of wheat, alfalfa, and corn as well as orchards ran northward from the street and downhill toward the Santa Fe River, fed from the tree-shaded and stone-lined Acequia Madre to the south.  
Gerald Cassidy, a painter who arrived in 1914, would be the first artist to settle in the neighborhood permanently, at 1000 Canyon Road.  Many others followed in search of healing at the nearby Sunmount Sanitorium, which specialized in respiratory ailments, or simply to experience the West, drawn by the healthy climate, beautiful scenery, and stunning Santa Fe Style architecture. In 1919, young Fremont Ellis moved to Santa Fe to experience “the interesting and important artists" that were assembling there. He joined four other new arrivals: Josef Bakos, Walter Mruk, Willard Nash, and Will Shuster. In 1920 they formed the “Cinco Pintores”  (Five Painters), the heart of which was in the homes that the men built along Canyon Road, a counterpart to the nearby Taos Society of Artists. 

The “Santa Fe” style is a mergence of Spanish-Colonial and Pueblo style architecture, characterized by massive adobe structures of earth and straw bricks, with rectangular rooms with earthen floors. Roofs were supported by rough hewn wood beams called vigas and laid with branches called latias to create an interior ceiling. The earliest structures of this type had earthen roofs of weeds or grass on tamped earth. Parapets were commonly used as a type of “firewall,” and were broken with wooden spouts, which drained the slightly pitched roof surface. Wall surfaces were unbroken, and windows and doors were made as small as possible, to minimize temperature fluctuations within. After the Civil War, locally produced fired bricks were used to cope the parapets and add decorative detail to the roof edges. It was also at this time that the Territorial-style square posts came into vogue, replacing the round posts used earlier, and these posts—as well as wood details around doors and windows—were often painted. Stone came into vogue in Santa Fe in the mid 19th century, with the import of European masons by Bishop Lamy for the building of St. Francis Cathedral.
As happens in all settlements, one era ended and another began. As Santa Fe expanded into surrounding rural areas, and taxes rose along with property values, many of Canyon Road’s early family compounds were sold off, disassembled, and reconfigured for a new caste of artists who lived and worked and showed their pieces in their front rooms. Today, few vestiges of the neighborhood’s Hispanic roots remain, while some of those who came seeking relief from tuberculosis and other ailments in the early 20th century boast multi-generational presences. Artists who have remained since the mid to late 1900s make up part of the community, spawning younger artists and gallerists who now run their own establishments with entirely new visions. Finally, there is the odd arrival who was brought by the closing of a chapter of their lives— as in the case of Mary Bonney, who brought The William and Joseph Gallery to Santa Fe after Hurricane Katrina. Thus, Canyon Road is at once very old, established, traditional—and modern, unconventional, and bold. 
The galleries are not anonymous structures that could be dropped into the urban fabric of Seattle, Dallas, or Atlanta. They are, in American terms at least, old places with a rich and varied history, home to artists and gallerists who love their work and want to share it. Some of the galleries are still artists’ homes, as in the early days of the settlement, giving visitors the opportunity to view art in the setting of a living room. Fireplaces offer a stage for sculpture to come alive, suggesting that the fire is emanating from the artwork itself. The tension between old buildings and new art sets the stage for experiencing artwork in its fullness. Add to that the sense of having been invited into an artistic home, and you have the setting for great conversation and meaningful relationships with people who inspire you.

Canyon road, which was known as El Camino del Cañon until 1951, was a dirt road until 1959, and “flowed like a river when it rained,” according to descendants of the former barrio. The neighborhood is interspersed with enticing alleyways and residences peeking out from behind high walls and landscaped gardens, creating a sense of mystery and encouraging exploration.  
As cool mornings give way to warm spring days, tourists grab their copies of The Essential Guide and head out along Canyon Road to try to find their way through the milieu. With nearly 80 galleries, almost every artistic leaning is represented, including international, the Taos Society, Native American, contemporary, Southwestern, classical, fantasy art, and even “junk” art. The mile-long stretch of road begins at Paseo de Peralta and runs east to East Alameda, which curves back south and connects to Upper Canyon Road, home to the National Audubon Society’s Randall Davey Audubon Center, with its acreage of protected habitat and historic 19th-century home. Visiting all the fashionable spots on a mile-long stretch of road lined with galleries and alleys on both sides is an impossible feat to attempt in a few hours, or even several days. The risk of stimulation overload is immense. The following description attempts to hit some of the highlights to help guide a path of inspiration. 
The first introduction to Canyon Road for most visitors is at what is known as ‘low end’ of Canyon Road, at a gallery called The Edge.  This Santa Fe Modern style structure, at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Canyon Road, is an enticing introduction to the vast extent of contemporary art represented in Canyon Road’s galleries.  Angelic sculptures by William Catling dance around the outside of the structure, as if invoking the Genius Loci—what the Romans would have called the Spirit of Place—of Canyon Road itself.
Rounding the small curve that leads east up Canyon Road away from Paseo de Peralta, the extent of the neighborhood begins reveal itself. The first alleys filled with galleries begin to unfold from the road to entice the visitor, and the street noise from Paseo descends into the background, allowing the sound of footsteps echoing off garden walls and houses to connect visitor with place.  Sculptures, interspersed along the road, change as the sun passes through the day, casting shadows to tell a silent story about the passage of time.
I find the best time to visit Canyon Road to be early in the morning, before the galleries open. I can walk slowly, watch the shopkeepers as they prepare for the day, really study the structures and sculptures, and enjoy the birds and butterflies that play in the beautifully landscaped gardens, before the crush of visitors, pursued by delivery vans, cars, and motorcycles drowns out the sounds of the breeze that pushes the kinetic sculptures into their mesmerizing swirling ballet.

225 Canyon Road, just up the road, is modern introduction to the Canyon Road history. Lauded as a Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills of Santa Fe, this collection of stores encapsulates much of the artistic fabric that Canyon Road offers, making it the perfect place to take in the essence of Canyon Road for a visitor with extremely limited time. The structures were constructed in the 1980’s, and have a new feel, even though their architectural styles are in keeping with design standards in the historic area. The availability of reasonably priced gallery space on Canyon Road allows for a varied selection of stores that might otherwise have had to find a home elsewhere due to prohibitively high rents. Originally designed with galleries on the lower level with residential space above, the vast majority have expanded their galleries upstairs at the sacrifice of living space.

Established galleries, some of which have been here for 30 or more years, offer their wares right next to newcomers, Visitors to many galleries are treated to a direct interaction with the artists and owners themselves, rather than a well-paid employee who can regurgitate the facts about a work of art. Thus, one gets to experience the wide-eyed enthusiasm of someone who truly admires the work, or who created it themselves. A visit to McLarry Modern was just one such event for this writer. Visitors to the gallery were in the gallery offices, chatting with Terry Victory about a new series her husband Poteet Victory was working on. His concept for the series merged the modern world of text messaging with the portraiture of famous artists. The idea:  simplify the portrait to a symbol, rather than a realistic figurative representation, and see how people responded. Intrigued, I listened as Terry excitedly teased people into guessing who the subject of each portrait was. While some of the pieces were so subtle one might not guess the subject without a hint, others were so obvious that EVERYONE– young, old, rich, poor, foreign, or local - figured out who it was. As the last visitors left, Terry, who had included me in much of the conversation, asked me a simple question: “Do you want to meet my husband?” Upon my positive reply, she ushered me upstairs, past a beautifully appointed bedroom, to his studio, where he was working on a painting. He turned around, introduced himself, and started speaking with me as if I was an old friend. We talked for the better part of half an hour, the entire while he was mixing colors on his paper palette, shifting the painting’s angle, and starting on a new section, stroking the canvas with a scraper overflowing with the new hue he had just fashioned. It was one of those rare moments when something otherworldly becomes entirely real. Contemporary art tells a different type of story than traditional art, and for the first time in my life, I “got” it. This type of interaction is exactly the type of experience that can change someone. Because of the nature of the galleries on Canyon Road—being owned and run by the artists themselves or by the gallerist who is choosing the work—the opportunity to break through the barrier of understanding, and to feel somehow an integral part of a “whole,” is entirely possible.

***In 1996, Ventana Fine Art moved to the First Ward School at 400 Canyon Road, known to locals as “The Little Red Schoolhouse.” The school was opened in 1906, replacing an earlier structure dating before 1876. After its sale in 1928, the building was, at various times, a zoo, a theater for foreign films, an apartment house, an antique store, and then a gallery. The unusual brick façade on a sandstone plinth can be directly attributed to the arrival of the railroad in Santa Fe and the beginning of local brick production that occurred at the turn of the 20th century. The school, as with many galleries on middle and lower Canyon Road, stands apart from the street by being set above the road in a raised garden whose walls provide the fabric of the streetscape. Put another way, Canyon Road is cut into the earth as it heads downhill towards the “low end” at Paseo, creating a sense of being somewhere that is as grounded and real as it is lovely.
The streetscape ebbs and flows, creating inward and expansive views as former bodegas, bars, and dancehalls march along the street edge and residences recede away from the road behind their walled gardens. Whirligigs and sculptures tempt wanderers into spaces that feel somehow removed, offering vistas of nearby mountains as well as revealing new places to visit. Footsteps on dirt drives reconnect the visitor to the old that lives here, and the occasional “Private Residence” sign reminds us that this place is alive with growing families. The Shangri-La at Project Tibet’s gorgeous collection of Kuan Yins and Buddhas interspersed through it’s garden and surrounded by waterfountains and whirligigs of neighboring Wiford gallery adds a spiritual touch to Canyon Road, as well as a quiet place for a moment of respite from walking.

The carefully stabilized 18th century residence and garden at 414 Canyon Road is now home to one of Canyon Road’s newest artists, Mark White Fine Art, with his impressive collection of mesmerizing kinetic sculpture designs, painted and patinated engravings, as well as bronze sculptural dancers created through a partnership with his son and professional dancer Ethan White, whose paintings are also represented at the gallery. The grand opening of the gallery will be July 2 from 5-8 p.m.
A bit further up the road, on the north side of the street, *** Nedra Matucci’s stunningly appointed home, the Juan Jose Prada home at 519 Canyon Road, exemplifies the Spanish-period architecture of Santa Fe. The home dates approximately to 1768 and is one of three Canyon Road residences included in the Santa Fe Historic District on the National Register. The structure has been expertly preserved, and teases visitors to peek for a glimpse behind its beautifully landscaped garden wall - to take in the flowers and ponds, with their modern sculptural pieces interspersed among fruit trees from the early orchards and newly planted aspens. The garden’s stone walls reveal portals that were once the places of connection between neighbors.  Matucci owns and operates the Fenn-Matucci Gallery on Paseo del Peralta, as well as Nedra Matucci Fine Arts and Morning Star Gallery just next door, known for their impeccable collections of Taos Society and Native American arts. Professorially expert young gallerist Vanessa Elmore at Morning Star has recognized a new niche for her clients, offering a new gallery within the larger collection for young collectors, where each affordable piece is selected with an eye towards quality, craftsmanship, and approachability. This allows young people to get “in the game” of art collecting, as well as offers emerging artists, who might be working outside the traditional forms, an audience with whom they may grow their work.
The Marc Navarro Gallery, at 520 Canyon Road, is the rarest form of architectural delight on Canyon Road. The small, simple building is graced with a façade that appears as if the mason charged with the task of cladding the structure was attempting to capture the essence of alligator skin in the medium of stone. The highly placed, small windows above, with their cast iron crossbars, entice one to wonder if the building might have once been a jail or an armory.

The imposing, closed-feeling façade of the *** El Zaguán, at 545 Canyon Road, is actually the home of the Santa Fe Historic Foundation (SFHF). The home and land was purchased by James L. Johnson in the 1850s, and expanded greatly by 1875. The Territorial detailing of bricks at the parapet and Classical detailing of door and window trim are hallmarks of Canyon Road architecture and the Santa Fe style, leading to the building’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1979, an organization headed by New Mexico’s preeminent Pueblo-Revival architect John Gaw Meem donated the property to the SFHF. The foundation’s mission “to own, preserve and protect historic properties and resources of Santa Fe and its environs and to provide historic preservation education,” has caused the foundation to place plaques on several of Canyon Road’s homes - to honor their architectural and historic importance, deeming them “worthy of preservation.” Those homes are noted here with ***.
On the south side of the street, an opening and gate in a earth-toned plastered wall leads to a dark tunnel passage that ends in an intriguing sideward with a painted mural at it’s far end, *** The already-a-century-old Rodriguez home at 630 Canyon Road was purchased in 1920 by Olive Rush, a skilled illustrator who turned to fresco painting and became famous for her murals at the Santa Fe Post Office, Library, and Indian School. Rush, a Quaker, donated the restored home to the Santa Fe Society of Friends, who meet there even today, surrounded by her art.
In 1993, the Santa Fe Gallery Association founded a nonprofit organization called ARTsmart to address the lack of funding for art programs and supplies in Santa Fe public schools. Now in its 13th season, the annual fundraiser, ARTfeast, has been heralded as reason to get-away, to experience The City Different’s world-class chefs and restaurants, an international array of vintners, original designer fashions and unique homes, along with nationally and regionally prominent artists. Last year, ARTfeast raised $200,000 for public school art programs!
Tucked into a deep niche next door to The Compound Restaurant, the Bellas Artes Gallery at 653 Canyon Road is vastly appreciated by its fans, rarely marketed, and truly a gem to visit. Timeless pieces of painting and sculpture pairs like chocolate and cinnamon with Olga De Amaral's stunning metallic textile works. Owners Bob and Charlotte Kornstein note that tourists sometimes miss their tucked-away gallery, and those that do come either do not get the art at all and thus immediately turn around and leave, or stay for hours to take in each piece, as if enjoying a fine meal or great wine. This seems somehow the perfect appetizer for a visit to The Compound Restaurant next door. The original family compound of the McComb family was purchased by the Hooten family in the 1960’s. Designer Alexander Girard - the legendary designer of New York’s La Fonda del Sol restaurant – was then hired to create a distinctive look for the space that would become their restaurant. Its unique two-person booths, curving ceilings that invoke thoughts of the sea, sparse decoration, and crisp white linens allow the food to become the central focus.  Chef/Owner Mark Kiffin, named the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef of the Southwest" in 2005, purchased, revitalized, and re-opened the Compound in 2000, with a focus on American Contemporary cuisine based on the marriage of Spanish and regional ingredients. The elegant and inviting restaurant has won various awards, including being featured in Gourmet Magazine’s “Guide to America’s Best Restaurants.”

Interspersed within the mostly Santa Fe style architecture are modern structures built before the enacting of the Residential Arts and Crafts District guidelines, as well as Territorial type structures that have been whitewashed, with blue-painted porches, doors and windows. The use of blue paint at these locations is a form of Apotropaic symbol brought by the Spanish and originating in the ancient world, meant to keep the interior spaces of the building free of malignant spirits.
The earliest commercial spaces of Canyon Road are just as important today as the lavish residences and family compounds that share space on this tiny stretch of road. Cheryl Ingram’s Silver Sun, at 656 Canyon Road, is located in what was the famous Claude’s Bar, opened in the late 1950s by the rough and rowdy author Claude François James, daughter of the editor of the New York Times and a Frenchwoman from Nice, who was known to work the bar while barefoot and singing raunchy French sailing songs. The French restaurant and bar replaced the old Roybal’s Grocery Store, and was the last vestige of “old Santa Fe,” where circumstance was irrelevant and anyone could sit down together to share a beer or two. In 1972, Claude’s was sold and converted into a gallery, and sadly, is considered a symbol of what was lost as Santa Fe, and Canyon Road in particular, blossomed. Owners Juan and Kim Kelly have utilized the space of the former Gormley Market at 670 Canyon Road, which was in the Gormley family for over 100 years, as a perfect backdrop to allow their artists’ work to take center stage at The Nuart Gallery. Vintage tin ceilings, simply detailed mouldings on plastered walls, and restored wood floors evoke another time and place and make this gallery a delight to visit for its architecture as well as its art. Kathleen Bonowitz, a 95-year-old descendant of the Gormleys, still lives in a home just behind the old store, which she constructed in the 1980s.

One of a few former residential areas set back from the street, the deep landscape dotted with gates and sculptures at the complex at the northern start of the 700 block of Canyon Road provides the unique experience of descending down and inwards towards the structures below, which seem to create a type of architectural vessel to accept visitors. The extraordinary GF Contemporary at 707 Canyon Road hosts one of the most beautifully presented art collections in all of Santa Fe. A modern residential-style structure, with a front porch lined with stained patio doors that open the front of the structure to the street, has plentiful natural light and over-sized spaces, which perfectly highlight the contemporary collection within.
Progressing more deeply into the “top” end of Canyon Road, *** Geronimo Restaurant, at 724 Canyon Road, is yet another example of the whitewashed variety of the Territorial style. The now-famous restaurant is named for its buildings’ founder, Geronimo Lopez, one of the first settlers to Canyon Road. Lopez purchased the property in 1753 and had built two houses by 1769. By the late 19th century, the homes were connected by a row of rooms facing the street. The Borrego House, as it is formally known, named for a later owner, included in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1928, the home was meticulously restored, winning the prestigious Cyrus McCormick Prize for historic preservation. Since 1990, the historic home has provided the perfect backdrop for Geronimo’s exceptional, edible storytelling, with its award-winning fusion American and Southwest menu.
The Turner Carroll Gallery and Desert Son at 725 Canyon Road are housed in one of Canyon Road’s nontraditional structures—a synthesis of Santa Fe, New England, and Palladian elements that somehow coalesce into a unified whole. Turner-Carroll’s museum-worthy pieces come from internationally acclaimed artists and are expertly presented by husband/wife owners Michael Carroll and Tonya Turner Carroll, and Gallery Director Megan Fitzpatrick. Like a great many of the Canyon Road Galleries, when offered the opportunity to move to the Railyard District in recent years, Tonya Turner Carroll “simply could not imagine leaving Canyon Road, (who) has been so good to us.” Turner Carroll also expressed that she was thankful that the Residential Arts and Crafts District zoning had prevented Banana Republic and Smith and Hawken from bringing stores to Canyon Road, which would have caused the neighborhood to lose its integrity, noting that the neighborhood “allows people to see how timeless architecture translates different types of art.”

Another property of interesting historic, if not necessarily architectural or artistic, note is the Irene Von Horvath house, just up the way at 728 Canyon Road. The home is named for legendary figure Irene von Horvath, an accomplished watercolor artist born in 1918 in Siberia, who moved to New Mexico in 1953. She was trained as an architect and was a vocal advocate of protecting Santa Fe’s unique historic architecture long before historic preservation was the fashion. She died in 2007, a month before the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking Historic Styles Ordinance she helped to craft.
Part of an extensive compound belonging to the Vigil family, the El Farol Restaurant building at 808 Canyon Road has housed a bar since 1835.A bullet lodged in the wall under the bar attests to an earlier time, when the west was still truly wild. The building was purchased and named El Farol in 1968. In 1985, current owner David Salazar purchased the restaurant, and when Waxlander Gallery owner Phyllis Kapp introduced him to Denise Dreszman, a chef specializing in authentic Spanish cuisine at The Ballroom in New York, a vision for a truly Spanish restaurant in Santa Fe was born. The bar has long been known for its live music, and the restaurant for its excellent entrees and extensive tapas offerings. However it is the passion for and advocation of Flamenco dance that sets El Farol firmly apart. Celebrated with art on the walls and with a legendary cast of performers on Saturday nights, Flamenco shines. El Farol has partnered with the national Institute of Flamenco and UNM’s drama department to provide a theatrical stage for the dancers, and offer a flamenco-inspired dinner that is par excellance. El Farol regular Nick Timrell, an artist and architect, notes that El Farol, like Canyon Road itself, is “one of the great cultural crossroads, where people can come together, become friends, and take something away that will always be with them.” Interestingly, The El Farol Problem, a unique mathematical quagmire, is named for the restaurant, where it was conceived in 1994.  Alexandra Stevens’ gallery at 820 Canyon Road, and Gallery 822 at 822 Canyon Road, were also once part of the Vigil family compound.
Vigil family grandson Frederico Vigil was raised in the artistic colony on Canyon Road and is now a master frescoist, trained by disciples of Diego Rivera. He is known for painting the monumental fresco inside El Torreon, the 45-foot tall tower at Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center. His father, a barber and trade builder, had the bar and barbershop in what is now the bar at El Farol. Another famous granddaughter, Doña Bernadette Vigil, is also an accomplished muralist, as well as spiritual author and teacher, and co-wrote (with Arlene Boska) the book Mastery of Awareness: Living the Agreements, based on her 11 years as an apprentice to shaman don Miguel Ruiz, author of the best-selling book The Four Agreements. Both Vigil children are passionate about working with at-risk youth in Santa Fe and ABQ, and do so using their art, which was heavily influenced by their growing up on Canyon Road, as a medium.
Suhana Gibson’s Chalk Farm Gallery at 729 Canyon Road proves that fantasy art and architecture can come out of the children’s’ books to enthrall both young and old. The beautiful structure, with its structurally and mathematically interesting greenhouse dome is filled with plants and light and waterfalls. This setting allows the art, and viewer, to become transported to another time and place, and is a perfect place to rediscover your sense of wonder.
Tourists and locals dot the garden tables, laughing and chatting the time away, while writers and artists sit inside tapping keys on laptops and sketching at a fevered pitch at The Teahouse at 821 Canyon Road. With the amusing motto of “Where the East Meets the Wild West,” this restaurant and a specialty tea store specializes in exotic teas from around the globe, offering visitors more than 300 tea choices. Owner Dionne Christian and her staff have created the perfect marriage of space for relaxation, good tea and delicious food, providing an excellent place to recoup from a long day of walking, refresh the palette, and a most interesting location for people watching.

Ronnie Layden’s photography and painting studio at the what is considered the very top end of Canyon Road is a testament to the talent of a young local—whose skill was recognized early—and the influence of an education by skilled art technicians. The first visible piece as one passes through the door is a painting of a showering nude—by Layden’s high school art teacher. The linear, undulating nature of the work perfectly introduces Layden’s rich, textural black and white photography. Layden’s passion for the use of film over digital photography, combined with a skilled eye, makes for an art that is both figurative and architectural at once. In a small corner of his front gallery, his modern landscape paintings capture time as well—a clearly New Mexican moment—portrayed on canvas by a local who undoubtedly loves his ‘place.’ Stories just like his - of the New Mexican artists and gallerists finding a way to reach a huge international audience by working and presenting their wares on Canyon Road, ensures that the ‘place’ of Canyon Road remains unique.
Well beyond the place where the galleries end and Canyon Road returns to it’s residential roots, on the southeast corner of Camino Cerrito, lies the Historic Cristo Rey Church, which is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The building of the church was a labor of love by the families that lived in the area during the 1930s. Appealing for over two years to the Archdiocese for a church that would serve the simple needs of the pooper population of this area, the parishioners enlisted the support from politicians all over Northern New Mexico, resulting in the Archdiocese authorizing the construction of this lovely little church designed by John Gaw Meem and built by the parishioners themselves. The altar screen and retablo, dated 1760, were not ‘significant enough’ to be used in the great Santa Fe Cathedral, and therefore were put in storage in 1888. At the appeal of the parishioners, the retablo was shipped over to the small church, uncrated, and ultimately used to determine the size of the church. The first mass was held on June 27, 1940, 14 months after the first adobe was fashioned—a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Spanish arrival in New Mexico.
Attesting to the importance of this Spanish heritage to a neighborhood that has developed a mythic reputation, many of the deeds of the homes on Canyon Road were in Spanish until the early 20th century, when they were translated into English to serve the needs of a new generation of owners. Much of what was essential about the early barrio has been transformed. No longer the place where a young artist in the 1970s could rent a room in the Vigil stables (now Argos Etchings and Paintings at 821 Canyon Road) for $5 per week, Canyon Road is a luxury community with well preserved architecture, beautiful gardens, and extraordinary art. However, Canyon Road’s mystique is not based on its property values. It has been, and continues to be, an important oasis where art, architecture, and people come together to create—and take away—something beautiful, whether the treasure is on canvas, in a bag, crated and shipped, captured on film, or something more subtle … perhaps just a feeling within the heart.
The Historic Canyon Road Paint-Out Festival offers visitors a chance to experience how Santa Fe's infamous art scene was in its early days, when artists would paint right on the streets of Santa Fe and art lovers could mingle amongst them, strike up a conversation and discuss the art they were creating. One Saturday this coming October, the artists of Canyon Road will be painting, sculpting and exhibiting their work for visitors. Look online for more details!
The crowning moment of the Canyon Road art scene each year is the annual lighting of the farolitos festival on Christmas Eve. The small paper bags with sand-held candles have their roots in the 1800s, when small bonfires were used to guide the way to Christmas Mass. On Canyon Road, the lighting of farolitos and small bonfires is a means of lighting the way to each gallery and home, providing a safe path for neighbors and friends to traverse and celebrate the season together. The lighting occurs at dusk; cider will flow and cookies will be served at many locations until about 9 p.m.