Monday, June 5, 2023

A Tour de Force

Thousands descended on Placitas for studio tour


The network of roads that tie the quiet community of Placitas together were especially busy last weekend as thousands of visitors from near and far took the Placitas Studio Tour, an annual showcase of artists.

Seventy-five artists working in a spectrum of media sold their creations at 63 locations – mostly the artists’ home studios – during the event traditionally held over the Mother’s Day weekend.

“I see more visitors from Albuquerque and Santa Fe,” said Colleen Zacharias Gregoire, speaking from her home, which was listed as No. 5 on the studio tour map.

Zacharias Gregoire was selling paintings, prints and cards of her oil and watercolor paintings, “celebrating the New Mexico landscape and architecture,” according to the tour’s brochure.

She said the glossy brochure containing the map and brief description of the participating artists’ work was “a little more user friendly” this year. Placitas neighborhoods are color coded on the map, making it easier for visitors to plot out stops they may want to make.

The brochures also make for a year-round guide, she said, as visitors can keep it and use it as a reference for Placitas artists.

“Placitas is a big place. It’s hard to cover in just one or two days,” she said.

Studio Tour organizer Nancy Holley said 7,500 brochures were printed. “And I only have 50 left,” she said. “That tells you the dedication of the volunteers. I’m so impressed.”

Visitors could also pick up brochures at the Homestead shopping plaza and the Placitas Community Library.

As a member of the library’s art committee, Zacharias Gregoire kept the same concept going at the library. Each year, the library exhibits the work of some of the tour’s artists at the library during the month of May. This year, the walls of the exhibit are similarly grouped by neighborhood.

One of her own pieces is on display in the Village of Placitas section, along with the fused glass work of Lisa Chernoff and photography of Dana Patterson Roth, among others.

The Las Huertas section contains the mixed media of Dave and Donna Newman and a turquoise and coral necklace by Geri Verble. 

A turquoise and bead pendant made by Annie Gross is under the La Mesa section, along with an oil painting by Tatiana Klimov and a fiber art piece by Bev Nagy.

“I’m really proud of it,” Zacharias Gregoire said of the exhibit, which runs through May 21.

Back on the tour route in the Ranchos de Placitas neighborhood, Joe Cajero Jr. and his wife Althea Cajero were seeing quite a bit of traffic running through their home studio Sunday morning.

Visitors were treated by pastitcios and biscochitos made by Joe’s sister on the way in, then treated to his impressive sculptures and paintings and Althea’s jewelry.

“If you don’t carry it away, you can wear it away,” Joe quipped. 

Joe (Jemez Pueblo) and Althea (Acoma/Santo Domingo) has participated in the tour for about 20 of the event’s 26 years years and always look forward for the weekend to come around.

Joe graduated from the Institute for Native American Arts in Santa Fe in 1993 as a painter.

“I was already working in clay and I put down my paint brushes for almost 30 years,” he said, focusing on sculptures.

But when COVID came along, he picked those paint brushes back up again.

“I do portraits and wildlife, but paintings take longer,” he said.

Althea said Joe was the one who recognized the artist in her. “He said, ‘What do you want to be?’” she said, settling on designing and making sterling silver and 18-carat jewelry.

While the winds kicked up at times in the afternoons, there was good weather for the event.

Holley, the event organizer, said people would have shown up no matter what.

“This tour  is one of the most highly anticipated tours in New Mexico because of the quality of art. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, they will be here,” she said, adding she estimated about 3,000 people, including a small group from as far away as Germany, came for this year’s tour.

Asked if she knew how much in total sales were transacted over the weekend, Holley said that’s not something they track.

“It’s none of our business,” she said. “We just know we have 63 studios this year that were all very, very, very successful and that’s all that matters.”

Holley reiterated that’s all due to the network of Placitas artists who put in the work each year.

“Everyone gives 100%, and that’s why we’re so successful.


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