Albuquerque and Santa Fe feature alluring museums and galleries
New Mexico’s stunning landscapes, endless skies and magical light have lured visitors for centuries, including the many artists and writers who decided to stay and call it home.
The earliest surviving art by New Mexico residents was created by the Mimbres Indians around 900 years ago. The Land of Enchantment’s art heritage also includes the creative styles and works of Navajo, Pueblo, Apache and other Native American tribes—as well as those of Mexican and Spanish cultures. These traditions helped to provide the foundation for what has become a lively, highly diverse art scene.
“Native American, Hispanic and Western cultures—among many others—have brought remarkable art and architectural styles to our city,” says Tania Armenta, president and CEO of the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Albuquerque is consistently ranked by American Style Magazine as one of the Top 25 Arts Destinations in the United States. The arts also thrive in Santa Fe, about a one-hour drive away, and are even more essential to the city’s identity.
In these two cities, amazing art abounds virtually everywhere, but much of the best work can be found in museums and galleries. Groups don’t have to be merely observers, though: They can create works of their own at several places.
Nativo Lodge, Albuquerque
The state’s largest city features a wide cultural diversity of artwork, in several different mediums.
“Potters, sculptors, painters, weavers and jewelry makers create beautiful expressions of their individual cultures, both for utility and for artistic expression,” Armenta says. “Culturally influenced art has become an economic engine for this region, and for good reason. Most recently, Albuquerque is becoming well-known as a contemporary art mecca bringing together the city’s strength in innovation and creativity.”
Fascinating Museums & Galleries
Groups get a strong dose of local art the moment they arrive at Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), which features an outstanding, diverse art collection. It includes 113 paintings, sculptures, pottery pieces and other items—as well as temporary exhibits—inside and outside of the building and in the onsite rental car facility.
Historic Old Town features traditional, folk and contemporary art in its 24 galleries. Also in Old Town, Albuquerque Museum contains 7,000 works of art, focusing on the American Southwest and its influences. The collection includes art by all of the region’s cultural groups and media from the Territorial Period to the present.
The permanent collection includes Common Ground: Art in New Mexico, an exhibition that illustrates some of the artistic continuities and innovations in the Southwest. Beginning with early Native American traditions, the exhibition focuses on the introduction of European aesthetics by Colonial Spanish and Mexican settlers, as well as the diversity of current contemporary aesthetic paths and intellectual explorations.
Docent-guided tours of select gallery exhibitions are offered Tuesday–Sunday at 2 p.m. No reservations are necessary. One-hour guided docent tours are offered with pre-arranged bookings. Each tour is designed specifically for the interests and age levels of the group. The museum also has more than 4,000 sq. ft., divided among 11 rooms, that can be rented for special events.
South Broadway Cultural Center is regarded as one of Albuquerque’s best-kept secrets. It offers outstanding live entertainment, original art, cultural events, workshops and classes. The art gallery, filled with light and bright space, features eight curated art exhibitions each year, covering a wide variety of genres. Some of the best local art and artists are showcased, and opening night receptions for the artists are free to the public.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, owned and operated by New Mexico’s 19 pueblos, features a permanent exhibit, Our Land, Our Culture, Our Story, which provides a brief historical overview of the Pueblo world, and a contemporary exhibit featuring original artwork and craftsmanship of each of the 19 pueblos of today. Group tours are available at a discounted rate, and must be arranged at least two weeks in advance. Hands-on art activities can be included in the tours at the center, situated near downtown. Planners can arrange to hold events, with catering if desired, in 24,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor space.
The anchor of Albuquerque’s Barelas neighborhood, National Hispanic Cultural Center contains an art collection featuring two permanent attractions: Mundos de Mestizaje, a 4,000-square-foot concave buon fresco depicting thousands of years of Hispanic and pre-Hispanic history; and Aqui Estamos!, an exhibition from the center’s permanent collection that includes works from artists throughout the United States, Latin America, Spain and other regions of the Spanish diaspora. Group tours can be arranged.
More than 700 events take place at the center each year. On the first Thursday of the month, adults are invited to participate in Happy Arte Hour, consisting of hands-on projects inspired by artistic themes and exhibitions in the museum. The program highlights the creativity of local Hispanic artists.
On the Cutting Edge
Groups seeking an exciting, atypical experience often visit 516 Arts, a downtown museum-style gallery operated by an independent, nonprofit contemporary arts organization with the same name. Public programs and educational activities are showcased that feature a mix of established, emerging, local, national and international artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and are intended to inspire curiosity, dialogue, risk-taking and creative experimentation.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
The City Different has long been a tourist magnet, and groups that have met there have discovered why.
“We have the best of two worlds here; the beauty of a relatively small town in a natural setting that is spectacular and the culture sophistication of a large city,” says Kathryn M. Davis, art historian and host of the radio show “Art Beat” on station KVSF in Santa Fe. “Position that with our incredible cultural history and the wide array of outdoor activities, and we’ve got it made here.”
The cultural draw centers mainly on the arts scene, which pervades the entire city.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
Fascinating Museums & Galleries
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum boasts more than 3,000 works by O’Keeffe, regarded as one of the most prominent artists of the 20th century. Throughout the year, visitors can see a changing selection of these works, which include 140 oil paintings, nearly 700 drawings and hundreds of additional works.
The museum also presents exhibitions that are devoted entirely to O’Keeffe’s work and combine examples of her art with works by her American modernist contemporaries. Several group tour options are offered. The museum and patio can be rented for receptions, but not for seated dinners.
Located on Museum Hill, Museum of International Folk Art contains the world’s largest folk art collection, consisting of 150,000 artifacts in exhibitions in four wings. Public programs include art-making for all ages, and performances, artist demonstrations and lectures are included with museum admission. Group tours can be arranged. The museum has 450 sq. ft. available for conferences, seminars, receptions, dinners and private parties.
Museum of Spanish Colonial Art is the only museum in the country dedicated to exhibiting and interpreting the art of the Spanish Colonial period, with a focus on Hispanic New Mexico. The museum, located on Museum Hill, houses an incredible collection of more than 3,700 pieces, including historically significant and contemporary works. Customized group tours can be arranged. Planners can arrange for private gatherings in the auditorium, which accommodates 60 people. During summer, the patio can be used for cocktail parties for 120 or dinners for 80.
Situated in the city’s Railyard Arts District, El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe is dedicated to preserving, protecting and promoting the Hispanic art, culture and traditions of northern New Mexico. It features a large collection of art from local and international artists that is rotated several times a year. The collection includes pieces from well-known to up-and-coming artists from many fields.
Located in downtown Santa Fe, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts features exhibitions and educational programs that challenge preconceived notions of contemporary native art. The museum is home to the largest collection of contemporary native art in the world and includes an intriguing store featuring contemporary native arts and gifts. The museum has 7,555 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor space that can be rented.
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture contains classic and contemporary Southwestern Indian paintings, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, basketry and weaving. Here Now and Always, a permanent exhibition tracing the life of American Indians, was curated in part by Native American elders, scholars and tribal members. Free walk-in docent-led tours of the museum, situated on Museum Hill, are offered daily. More than 58,000 sq. ft. of space can be rented for events and other gatherings.
Founded in 1937, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian is New Mexico’s oldest nonprofit, independent museum. Located in the Museum Hill area, Wheelwright offers unique exhibitions of contemporary and historic Native American art, and specializes in little-known genres and solo shows by living Native American artists. Private docent-led tours are available.
On the Cutting Edge
Groups should keep their eyes out for an eccentric art mansion, House of Eternal Return, being built by the art collective Meow Wolf, which was formed by a group of young residents seeking to supply Santa Fe with an alternative arts and music venue.
Visitors will enter the house through a seemingly normal-looking Victorian house, but inside, they’ll find passageways and portals that will lead them to multiple parallel universes. If all goes according to plan, the multimillion-dollar project, which is set to open in the spring, will draw 100,000 visitors per year.
“It’s based on a concept unlike any other for a museum or gallery I’m aware of,” Davis says. “It’s being created as a place for families to have fun, first, but it is the offspring of a young and vibrant art collective. There is nothing like it in most other cities in the world.”
House of Eternal Return, Santa Fe
These are only a few of the many inspiring art venues in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Armenta’s description of The Duke City’s exciting art scene applies to Santa Fe, as well:
“Art is abundant and evident throughout every aspect of Albuquerque. Each meeting attendee has the opportunity to experience and explore the richness and expression of the community through art during their visit to the city.”
Soul of the Southwest
Groups visiting Santa Fe shouldn’t miss taking a 90-minute drive north to Taos, a high-desert town bounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that has been dubbed Soul of the Southwest for good reason.
The main attraction, Taos Pueblo, is a multistory adobe complex that has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans for more than 1,000 years. Taos is also a longtime artist colony with many galleries and museums that showcase regional artwork, including Taos Art Museum at the Fechin House (pictured), which is housed in the original home and studio of Russian-born artist Nicolai Fechin.
The museum features many of his hand-carved furnishings and art, as well as works by more than 50 Taos artists, including paintings by all of the Taos Founders, the six original members of Taos Society of Artists (founded in 1915). Discounted private group tours are available. The entire grounds of the property—including the museum and the historic Fechin studio—can be rented for gathering before and after the museum opens.
Another popular museum, Harwood Museum of Art has an intriguing history that dates back to 1916, when artists Burt and Elizabeth Harwood purchased a complex of buildings on Ledoux Street and remodeled them into a showcase of Pueblo Revival-style structures. Today, the buildings are home to the works of some of Taos’ best-known artists as well as a collection of 18th-to-20th-century traditional Hispanic art. One of its most famous galleries contains seven minimalist paintings by acclaimed artist Agnes Martin.
Diamond in the Rough
Groups looking for something a bit different might want to head to Carrizozo, a small town about 150 miles south of Albuquerque. Located in stunning high-desert surroundings, Carrizozo is world-famous for its cherry cider and now is home to a somewhat quirky art community. The town’s many innovative, skilled artists work in diverse mediums and send their art to buyers and museums all over the country.
The town has many interesting galleries, including Heart of the Raven, featuring raku pottery and paintings; Momazozo (pictured), a community arts organization that engages guests in spontaneous creative activities; Malkerson Gallery 408, a contemporary space featuring the works of more than 25 local artists and an outdoor sculpture garden; Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography, exhibiting the works of more than 35 New Mexico photographers; and Highway 54 Emporium, boasting an eclectic mix of vintage ware, art by Lincoln County artists and charming upcycled art by owner Sheila Lynch.
Carrizozo is only about an hour’s drive from The Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe. The inn offers 273 guest rooms, panoramic views, hiking trails, 18-hole championship golf course, an indoor pool and 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 15 rooms.
Major Meeting Venues
Near downtown, in the heart of the city’s shopping and dining district; 411 guest rooms; Cielo Sandia restaurant offers American fare in casual setting; indoor and outdoor pools; 23,754 sq. ft. of meeting space divided among 21 rooms.
Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North
Near historic Old Town; pyramid-shaped property; 310 guest rooms; High Desert Lounge offers pub cuisine and creative cocktails; connected indoor/outdoor pool; 45,653 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town
Features historic grandeur and contemporary comfort; 188 guest rooms; two lounges; two nightclubs; outdoor pool; more than 62,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space.
Hyatt Regency Albuquerque
Downtown property; 395 guest rooms with views of the city or mountains; Forque Kitchen & Bar serves Southwest specialties; HQue bar; 24-hour fitness center; pool; spa; more than 186,000 sq. ft. of attractive meeting space, including 11,388-square-foot Grand Pavilion.
Near airport; blends modern amenities with Native American culture; 145 guest rooms are works of art themselves, containing large-scale pieces by Native American artists; Spirit Winds Cafe; bar; 6,704 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Sandia Resort & Casino
Set in a Pueblo-style building, with stunning views of the Sandia Mountains; 228 guest rooms, with soaking tubs; year-round whirlpool and fire pits; casino; spa; 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 27,000-square-foot ballroom.
Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino
Located 20 miles north of downtown Santa Fe on the Pojoaque Pueblo; 393 guest rooms; 61,000 sq. ft. of gaming; four restaurants; three nine-hole golf courses; spa; tennis; fitness center; 66,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, featuring Native American design.
Drury Plaza Santa Fe
Situated in the heart of historic Santa Fe; 182 guest rooms; rooftop pool and bar area offers stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; 17,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Eldorado Hotel & Spa
Near historic Santa Fe Plaza; 219 guest rooms with views of downtown area and mountains; Nidah Spa offers treatments that blend techniques from ancient and modern traditions; rooftop pool; 23,185 sq. ft. meeting space, including 7,000-square-foot ballroom.
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe
Set on 57 unspoiled acres; overlooks Rio Grande River Valley; 15-minute drive north from downtown; 65 casita guest rooms and suites; two restaurants; bar; 13,658 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 2,450-square-foot ballroom.
La Fonda on the Plaza
Santa Fe’s oldest hotel, opened in 1922; boutique property situated on Santa Fe Plaza; 180 guest rooms; art collection contains works by prominent Pueblo artists; restaurant; shops; spa; more than 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa
AAA Four Diamond property; set on six acres, steps from the plaza; beautifully landscaped grounds; 157 guest rooms; three restaurants; fitness center; spa; steam room; 4,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.