The Santa Fe Children's Museum, opened in 1985, offers fun and engaging hands-on experiences to children up to age 8. Although it was targeted to local families, traveling families with young children have embraced it, too. Their mission: to enhance the joy and sense of discovery children have while "cultivating habits of inquiry in the arts, sciences, and humanities." A 2011 expansion included 1,200 feet of additional exhibit space and a design workshop. Most exhibits are interactive, designed to encourage "cooperative play." The bubble table is the most popular with its assortment of bubble wands. One even yields child-sized bubbles. Check out the giant Whisper Dishes in the garden. Speak softly into one and the message comes in loud and clear to the person standing at the second one 60 feet away. Be sure to check out the organic gardens with working examples of solar and water catchment systems.
Recommended for Museums because: The Santa Fe Children's Museum is a great resource for people traveling with young children. Your kids will love it here.
Billie's expert tip: Children under 1 are admitted for free.
The Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts, opened in 2002, is the only museum in the world dedicated to Spanish Colonial art. What defines Spanish colonial art? It's the art that arose in Spain's New World colonies. Passed down through generations, there are still artists working in these original forms thanks to the support of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society who first conceived the idea for the museum in 1929. It took almost a quarter of a century to bring to fruition. The museum, housed in a former home designed by John Gaw Meem, often called the "father of pueblo revival architecture," has a mission. It "collects, preserves, and exhibits the Spanish colonial art of New Mexico and beyond." They mount about six new exhibitions a year. Ongoing exhibits include the Beltrán-Kropp Art Collection from Peru and A World of Art Filigree and Finery: The Art of Adornment in New Mexico.
Recommended for Museums because: Spanish Colonial art is indelibly woven into the fabric of Santa Fe and New Mexico.
Billie's expert tip: If you want to see Spanish colonial art at its finest, come to the annual Spanish Market held in the Santa Fe Plaza at the end of July. Accomplished artists show their wares. There's a separate section for young artists who will perpetuate these artistic traditions.
The Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts is the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of American Indian women. Located just south of St. Francis Cathedral, its mission is to educate about and promote the art work of Native women artists. Pablita Velarde, its namesake, was from the Santa Clara Pueblo. She was the first female student in the art classes started at the Santa Fe Indian School in 1932. Several Dunn students, including Velarde and Alan Houser, became well-known artists. Velarde, her daughter Helen Hardin (who passed away in 1984) and her granddaughter Margarete Bagshaw comprise the only three-generational full-time "female painting dynasty" on record. Bagshaw spearheaded the efforts to get funding for the museum which opened in September 2012. The only permanent exhibit is a recreation of Velarde's studio. New exhibitions are mounted every three to eight months.
Recommended for Museums because: Its uniqueness. The Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts is the only museum in America dedicated to Native women artists.
Billie's expert tip: When you visit, stop by the comfortable media room where you can view videos of current and past shows. This will give you a sense of what this small, unique museum is about.
The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian was the first museum on Santa Fe's Museum Hill, now home to four. Boston heiress Mary Cabot Wheelwright, who'd relocated to Santa Fe, and esteemed Navajo singer ("medicine man") Hosteen Klah founded the museum in 1937. The Wheelwright just completed a 7,000 square foot expansion and is opening new galleries. The Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, their first permanent exhibition, opens in June 2015. It will showcase the museum's collection jewelry and of archival materials related to Navajo and Pueblo silver work. The small Alcove Gallery will host pieces from the museum's permanent collection. While there visit the Case Trading Post, opened in 1975. Conceived as part museum shop and part "living exhibition," it offers high-quality antique and contemporary Native American art to purchase while teaching about the importance and practices of the trading posts traditionally found on the Navajo reservation.
Recommended for Museums because: The Wheelwright, the first Native American museum in Santa Fe, mounts exhibitions that are thoughtful and culturally significant.
Billie's expert tip: On Saturday evenings in July and August, head to the museum to hear nationally-known storyteller Joe Hayes. Sit outside and enjoy his stories of Hispanic and Native American cultures of the Southwest. He will move you to tears and laughter.
Technically, SITE Santa Fe, opened in 1995, is an "art house" (a museum without a permanent collection). They mount both short and long-term exhibitions. Their mission: to nurture "innovation, discovery, and inspiration through the art of today." It's to be innovative discovery, and inspiration through the art of today. In their almost 20 years they have mounted over 80 shows. SITE, which often showcases provocative cutting-edge art, is known for its even year biennial shows. In 2014, they took on SITElines: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas. This is a "six¬-year commitment to a series of linked exhibitions with a focus on contemporary art and cultural production of the Americas." The first show, Unsettled Landscapes, ends in January 2015. The next shows in the series will be mounted in 2016 and 2018. There will be a series of ongoing exhibits until the next installment of SITElines opens in 2016.
Recommended for Museums because: SITE Santa Fe is a major force in the world of contemporary, cutting-edge art.
Billie's expert tip: Saturday mornings are a great time to go to SITE Santa Fe. You can stop by the Santa Fe Farmers Market for a bit of shopping and people watching before heading to the museum. An added bonus: admission to SITE is free from 10am to noon on Saturdays.
The New Mexico Museum of Art sits in a 1917 pueblo revival building adjacent to the Santa Fe Plaza. Its permanent collection is a who's who of New Mexican artists including Taos Art Society names such as Burt Philips and Ernst Blumenschein, and later Taos artists such as Agnes Martin. Santa Fe painters include Will Shuster, Gerald Cassidy, Dorothy and Alfred Morang, William Penhallow Henderson, Native American painters Fritz Scholder and Pablita Velarde and renowned printmaker, painter and woodcut maker Gustave Baumann. Other well-known artists in their collection view include Georgia O'Keeffe, photographer Eliot Porter and feminist artist Judy Chicago. Work from famous San Ildefonso potter Maria Martinez is also in the collection. Artists who spent time in New Mexico such as painter John Sloan and photographer Ansel Adams are also represented in the collection. They also host short-term exhibits, including some from around the USA and the world.
Recommended for Museums because: The New Mexico Art Museum offers an extensive collection of New Mexican and southwest art as well as short-term exhibitions from around the world.
Billie's expert tip: When coming to Santa Fe, see if any concerts are scheduled in the museum's St. Francis Auditorium. This intimate space hosts concert events throughout the year. Every summer, it's the main venue for the renowned Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
New Mexico has a rich history. The state-run New Mexico History Museum tells the story of the 47th state from pre-historic times to the present. Their permanent exhibition, Telling New Mexico, Stories from Then and Now, traces the state's history and cultures from the original people who have been here for millennia through all the waves of those who have arrived since. The long-awaited museum, opened in May of 2009, mounts short-term shows as well. It also hosts special events throughout the year. The adjacent Palace of the Governors, built in 1610, is also part of the museum. The Fray Angelico Chavez History Library, with rich archives including historic photos, is part of the history museum complex as well. There is an admission charge except on Friday evenings from 5 to 7pm when it's free.
Recommended for Museums because: New Mexico is a state rich in history. The New Mexico History Museum shares the state's important story.
Billie's expert tip: Shop under the portal (the front overhang). It's famous for the Native Americans who gather there each day to sell their handcrafted wares. The strict program, administered by the state, assures authenticity. You get the added bonus of meeting the artisans who made your treasure.
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, opened in 1997, is the only museum in the world dedicated to a single woman artist. Their mission is to "perpetuate the artistic legacy of Georgia O'Keeffe and to the study and interpretation of American Modernism (late nineteenth century - present)." In 2006 the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, custodians of her estate since her 1986 death, disbanded. Many of its assets including art work and her two Abiquiu homes, were transferred to the museum, which now boasts the largest collection of the artist's work in the world. Exhibitions, which change several times a year, include those focusing on O'Keeffe's work, shared exhibitions featuring her work alongside that of other relevant artists and shows dedicated to American Modernists. Take time to watch the two short videos, one on her life and one on her houses, shown continuously. Also take a moment to visit the gift shop.
Recommended for Museums because: Georgia O'Keeffe was one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. The museum honors her life and her work.
Billie's expert tip: If you're an O'Keeffe fan, include a visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiu in your Santa Fe itinerary. Reserve in advance; tours at the site, open seasonally, can book up way in advance.
The Museum of International Folk Art, opened in 1953, shares Museum Hill's Milner Plaza with the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. Its collection, encompassing over 150,000 pieces of folk art, is the largest in the world. The colorful Girard Wing has artifacts from over 100 countries on six continents. Only a fraction of the huge collection, which includes toys and dolls, costumes, masks, textiles of all kinds, religious folk art, paintings and beadwork, is on display at one time. The bright displays delight children of all ages. The Hispanic Heritage Wing features changing exhibits related to both Hispanic and Latino cultures. In addition, the museum mounts short-term exhibitions of folk art from the USA and around the world. Visit their gift shop, packed with handmade items from around the globe, as well as their bookstore.
Recommended for Museums because: The International Folk Art Museum has the largest collection of folk art in the world.
Billie's expert tip: The International Museum of Folk Art, opened in 1953, shares Museum Hill's Milner Plaza with the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. Its collection, encompassing over 150,000 pieces of folk art, is the largest in the world. The colorful Girard Wing has artifacts from over 100 countries on six continents. Only a fraction of the huge collection, which includes toys and dolls, costumes, masks, textiles of all kinds, religious folk art, paintings and beadwork, is on display at one time. The bright displays delight children of all ages. The Hispanic Heritage Wing features changing exhibits related to both Hispanic and Latino cultures. In addition, the museum mounts short-term exhibitions of folk art from the USA and around the world. Visit their gift shop, packed with handmade items from around the globe, as well as their bookstore.
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) shares Museum Hill's Milner Plaza with the Museum of International Folk Art. Their mission is "to inspire appreciation for and knowledge of the diverse native arts, histories, languages, and cultures of the Greater Southwest." They do this through permanent and changing exhibitions. Discover historic art and artifacts from southwest indigenous people as well as contemporary pieces. The exhibitions also incorporate art from the first peoples throughout North America. There are two long-term exhibits. Here, Now, and Always is a timeline of Native American history from pre-Columbian times to the present. The other, the Buchsbaum Gallery of Southwestern Pottery, tells the story of the pottery traditions of the Pueblo People of New Mexico and Arizona from the earliest pieces discovered to contemporary ones. The museum also mounts short-term shows focusing on specific aspects of Native American art and culture.
Recommended for Museums because: MIAC is a rich resource on the art and history of the state's original peoples and that of Native people throughout North America.
Billie's expert tip: While at the museum, visit the Colleen Cloney Duncan Museum Shop. The carefully curated merchandise on display includes books on Native Americans and their culture, handcrafted jewelry, pottery, kachinas, rugs and even a few inexpensive souvenirs.