In April of 1917, a train from Texas to Colorado made an unexpected detour in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A passenger on this train later remarked in a letter, “There’s so much space between the ground and the sky that it’s overwhelming, I want to stay.” That traveler would inspire people with his paintings inspired by the beauty of the New Mexican Southwest. Georgia O’Keeffe wasn’t the only artist drawn to the land of magic; Others include Agnes Martin, Judy Chicago and Easy Rider herself, Dennis Hopper. These artists, and much more, were introduced to the artistic inspiration that had been represented through Native American art for centuries up to that point. It should come as no surprise, then, that New Mexico is also home to some of the best art galleries in North America, catering to hundreds of local artists from across the state.
Although under-reported, art galleries, like other small businesses during the pandemic, faced difficulties due to declining customer traffic and mandatory closures. “We were closed for a total of three months, including wall art, sculptures, jewelry and pottery, among other things,” said Sheila McVeigh, owner of Weems Gallery and Framing in Albuquerque. “We are a community gallery, and our community Was living in the house. Not only did we lose revenue for three months, but customers have been slow to come back.” With Weems, a 40-year-old Albuquerque business, adjusting its business model and applying for grants and loans -We were forced to include online services. “Before the pandemic, we didn’t sell online, but during the pandemic launched a marketable website and took multiple orders via phone,” McVeigh said.
In addition to building an online presence in response to the lockdown, Gallery ABQ, an artist-owned gallery featuring acrylics, oils, pastels and more, has also been forced to cancel several guest artist shows and expand its audience to accommodate traditional clientele. Services had to be moved. . “We only made money when the store was open,” said Patricia Cream, director of Gallery ABQ. Eventually, after the ban was lifted, the gallery gradually opened three times per week for a few hours a day. “We only offered to meet one or two people to come to the gallery by appointment,” Cream said.
Now galleries are looking for unique ideas to invite customers back and make up for lost time (and dollars). For example, Wems began to focus on partnering with nonprofits for upcoming charity events. Sheila McVeigh said, “These events will help raise funds for great causes while bringing in new customers to see the amazing art of Weems.” Similarly, The Gallery ABQ has also taken creative steps to attract more customers. “We’re starting to see a few more visitors every day,” Cream said. “But even more so for the events of our First Friday.”
The return of art galleries gives artists the opportunity to showcase their creativity. They serve as centers supporting local artists who find inspiration for their art in all corners of the Southwest. As McVeigh put it, “I think New Mexico’s beautiful and diverse landscape makes it a top place to build.”