“It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood.” Mr. Rogers’ daily motto in song may sound saccharine, but on consideration, is rather profound. When you experience the good fortune to find yourself living or doing business in what truly is a neighborhood, the only thoughtful response is full-hearted gratitude. A perceptive stroll through the historic Canyon Road vicinity easily justifies an attitude of thanks for the creative environment that flows through this stretch of road.
A neighborhood is only as vibrant as its local businesses, and the galleries that wind up both sides of the canyon offer proof of vitality in a wide variety of artistic expression. And it definitely helps to see diversity. The concept of “grandfathering in” a business adds depth to a local scene, and having a cord or two of wood that came from the Rios family yard attests to a commitment to buy local. Unearthing treasures at a La Union Protectiva yard sale, or taking a Haitian dance class at the Studio, satisfy that same desire to experience a sense of community.
A walk around the area reveals snippets of Santa Fe’s past and those who shared their enthusiasm for the unique qualities of life in New Mexico. Like attracts like, which may explain why so much talent was concentrated in one place.
The movers and shakers who shaped Santa Fe included men of all stripes who turned their backs on the known for an adventure in the west. At this time of year, of course, Will Shuster naturally comes to mind. His paintings still change hands for a good price, as befits a member of the Cinco Pintores, the foundational group of five who represented the 20th Century art movement in Santa Fe. Although all lived in the Canyon Road area, out of those five, Shuster, who lived at 550 Camino del Monte Sol, remains the best-known to the average local, thanks to his populist creation, Zozobra, who arrives shortly on his autumn mission to free the city of its annual accumulation of gloom.
And Santa Fe is gender-friendly, as life here has always needed all willing hands on deck. As Santa Fe’s appeal expanded, accomplished women set up shop here on the east side. Claude’s Bar at 656 Canyon lives on in many a Santa Fean’s nightlife history, since Claude herself was – as a saloon-keeper needs to be - a memorable character. Painter Olive Rush moved here in the 20’s and taught mural painting at the Indian School; her 630 Canyon Road studio became a Quaker Meeting House. Janet Lippincott, who lived well into her 80’s, absorbed the modernist impulse and brought it home to her studio on 1270 Upper Canyon Road, despite the fact that representational landscape painting would have more easily put bread on her table. And the ladies who lived here had visions that extended beyond the visual arts.
Home to three generations of foresighted women, the house at 614 Acequia Madre was a hive of history and research which ultimately culminated in the establishment of the Women’s International Study Center. Dedicated to the memory of the home’s residents, mother Eva Scott Fenyes, daughter Leonora Scott Curtin and grand-daughter Leonora Curtin Paloheimo, WISC has as its mission a focus on women in the arts, cultural preservation, science and business, and male scholars also receive a warm welcome.
So much history, so much culture, so much past and so much future. Whether it’s early morning, as we ready for a 9am opening, or after our 9pm close when the last diner has left, we are always aware that The Teahouse is surrounded by a living reservoir of talent and activity. We are humbled and honored in equal measures to be part of a wonderful day in Santa Fe.