on March 21, 2002
Canyon Road is said to be the oldest street in Santa Fe. It is certainly the most famous and in summer tourists swarm up and down the narrow road, completely clogging the traffic. Its claim to fame is the cluster of galleries, sprinkled here and there with restaurants. Most shops are housed in old adobes, some over 200 years old. Gardens shaded by cottonwoods are a riot of flowers in spring and summer.
There is a great deal of traditional sculpture and painting here, but there is also a lot of whimsy like the kinetic sculptures outside one gallery or the life-size stone dog just inside the door of another, holding a biscuit on his nose to share with any warm blooded companion brave enough to venture into his domain. My personal favorite was the jackrabbit the size of a Percheron tucked into a tiny courtyard.
Much of the art is displayed outdoors and sculpture gardens fill courtyards and portals all along the Road. Side roads and courtyards lead to more galleries and more sculpture gardens. Don’t miss the little cottage garden tucked behind the Historic Santa Fe Foundation (its on the left as you walk up Canyon Road). It is a recreation of the garden originally planted by Adolph Bandelier (as in Bandelier National Monument) in the 19th century and boasts a peony bush a century old!
I usually have no plans when I come here. Whatever catches my fancy is where I head to marvel at what the creative mind can do. This trip, I stopped in one of the older houses, drawn by the sign on the door that suggested I push hard as the old door sticks. So I did and found myself inside a long, narrow house with wide wooden floorboards that creaked as I walked from room to room among the gloriously distressed antique furniture from Colonial Mexico and Spain. Such a perfect setting for such beautiful pieces.
Most galleries, however, have a more modern look – enlarged rooms, white washed walls, sparse displays. The art here is eclectic and most of it very interesting and creative. The galleries tend to have a lot of sculpture and paintings, though you will find glass, pottery, fiber art, wearable art, tribal rugs, antiques, collectables, posters, cards, furniture. The further up the road you walk the more scattered the galleries tend to be. Though most prices are frightening, there are a few items in the smaller shops that are actually affordable.
Maps of Canyon Road galleries and their specialities are available at most hotels and galleries in town. Pick one up before you head out and plan to spend at least two hours wandering. Do stop for coffee or lunch, especially if the restaurant has a patio or portal where you can sit and keep an eye on what’s going on in the street. In The City Different, people-watching is part of the fun.
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