Sara Chadwick in Sara’s Southwest in Bernalillo
Photo credit: —Oli Robbins
Signpost featured artist
Sara’s Southwest: dedicated to the appreciation and exposure of Southwestern art
Sara’s Southwest has recently reopened where it first began. Nestled on the northeast side of Bernalillo’s Zócalo, Sara’s Southwest represents fine artists and artisans from America’s southwestern states. Owner Sara Chadwick draws upon her more than two-dozen successful years of art promotion to bring to the public enchanting artwork by established and emerging artists.
An early Nineties’ visit to Albuquerque’s famed Balloon Fiesta is responsible for Sara’s ultimate engagement with Southwestern art and the birth of her gallery. During the iconic event, Sara witnessed colorfully animated skies, but found herself most enlivened by the state’s artwork. She recalls her travel companion encouraging her to buy and ship multiple pieces, as she began to seriously consider the prospect of promoting New Mexican work back home in New Hampshire. In the months that followed, Sara's Southwest was founded. Her first New Hampshire gallery was well-loved and frequented by hoards of people clamoring for a beautiful piece of the then-exotic Southwest. Says Sara, “That was the time when the Southwest was really fantastically alive. It was a special window for artists of the Nineties.”
Sarah remembers her events being so highly attended that she needed to call upon police officers to tackle the traffic. She began a routine of traveling to the Southwest (New Mexico mostly, but also Colorado and Texas) to acquire impressive paintings, furniture, and wearables, and ship them back east to the gallery. "It was really quite a store, very successful. But then I wanted to come here."
Her many trips to New Mexico made Sara a fixed member of the Southwestern art community. Says Sara, "I was a native long before I moved here." Her resident status eventually became official in 2005, when she relocated the gallery to New Mexico and found herself a permanent home in Corrales. Since then, Sara’s Southwest has operated in different locations on Bernalillo’s Camino del Pueblo—except for a period during the recession wherein Sara kept the gallery alive by opening up her Corrales living room to artists and collectors.
"Being a shopkeeper is just in my blood," says Sara, who doesn’t see herself ever embracing retirement. "I’m a marketing person, basically. And I married an artist, so that gave me an inside. But I've always owned a business . . . My dad owned a hardware store. I’d absorbed it as I was growing up."
Art museums and galleries aren’t always overtly welcoming to the novice visitor or amateur artist. It’s a sad reality that many people feel intimidated by the sometimes sterile, white walls of America’s fine art establishments—dubbed the art world’s “ivory towers.” But Sara believes in widespread art exposure and recognition. In her 25 years working with the arts, she’s noticed that would-be gallery patrons often regard the gallery world with awe and apprehension. She wants to bridge that divide and foster absorption, adding that “the only way to appreciate art is to go to those places.” Says Sara, “that’s what I really hope to bring is an appreciation of art, and to make it accessible.”
Spending multiple decades surrounded by art has not left Sara apathetic or disenchanted. On the contrary, she continues to approach her endeavors with the same passion and drive that brought her to them. Says Sara, “It blows my mind every time someone comes in and they have a unique style that nobody’s ever seen before. It’s looking into their psyche. I mean, it’s what makes people different and that’s what’s interesting to me.” Sara has been called "an artist who doesn't paint." That is, she possesses the aesthetic sensibilities of a fine artist, but doesn't create tangible, portable pieces. Says Sara, "I get it, I understand, I can put myself in their mindset."
The gallery’s most decorated artist is contemporary pueblo painter Mateo Romero, who has received numerous accolades and exhibited extensively in the U.S. and Canada. Sara was the first to represent him and by purchasing his paintings early on, she enabled him to study murals in Mexico City. Forever open to new talent, Sara is attracted to artwork that speaks a truth. “Right now, I want sincerity. I just want artists at this time in my life—artists who are really dedicated to their art and painting, artists that are developing. I really appreciate young artists with no place to show… I just love to see artists come through the door with their work.”
This sentiment inspired Sara’s most recent venture, a springtime Indian Market that began as an effort to support a new generation of artists. “I’m hoping the Zócalo Plaza will be a place where people will come as emerging artists. Bernalillo could really be an artist town—and it was. I think the feeling in town is that they’d like it to have that again.”
The Indian Market will be held in Zócalo Plaza on May 6 and 7. Learn more about Sara’s Southwest and the eclectic group of artists it represents at gatheringartists.net. Visit the gallery at its new location in El Zócalo Plaza, 264 S. Camino del Pueblo, in Bernalillo. Sara welcomes guests every Wednesday through Saturday (and Sunday and Monday by appointment) from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can reach her by calling the gallery at 867-9667.