For 14 years, I have been an outdoor landscape painter in Taos. Those of us who live in Taos, and love to visit Taos, do so because it is not like anywhere else.
What a relief to escape the gentrified cities, with corporate “brand” big box stores that are identical in every city across the U.S. Do we want Taos to become yet another “Anywhere USA?”
When people visit Taos, (or live here), it is a wonderful feeling to be part of a town that has history and character that reflects our wonderful Spanish and Native American cultures; a sort of “Museum Village.”
That brings some new “developments” to mind, like the proposed four-story Holiday Inn, right across the street from the historic Sagebrush Inn, that is not even close to full much of the year.
This was once a community that supported the people who live and work here, and affordable living places could be found. That flower has faded with Air B&B’s soaking up all of the once affordable, long-term rentals. There are more and more buildings getting higher and higher, looking more corporate, eating away at the historic look and feel of Taos.
Everything has a “Brand,” an image that defines it, and Taos is losing its “Brand.”
As an outdoor landscape painter, I see the wonderful places to paint that I have long loved, becoming occupied with hostile people and “Keep Out” signs with wire fences. What has happened to the gentle spirited folks who once welcomed and valued painters to capture and share the beauty of Taos?
So many empty, commercial buildings, dot our main street, Paseo del Pueblo, as empty carcasses, like the old Applebee’s Restaurant, and even on our main corner of Paseo and Kit Carson Road. It does not present a positive impression to our visitors, and makes Taos appear economically depressed. Countless residential homes – so many lying empty – that could be turned into lovely, renovated, real “Taos” homes, yet so many, especially newcomers, prefer to build new homes, void of the character of our historic village, and soaking up more and more lovely open meadows that make Taos a delightful place to live and visit. I propose an incentive from our town planners, to make it more affordable and appealing for people, both residential and commercial, to bring back to life the many foreclosures and empty carcasses of buildings that clutter our beautiful village, and only gentrify our historic town, rather than helping to keep it the beautiful flower that Taos is.
I am also starting to see big plots of land being set up for “yet unknown” developments.
I am hoping that sensitive and esthetic planning will be implemented here with the “big picture” in mind, not quick-money for town planners and developers, but a long-term vision to keep Taos a place that people want to escape to, for residents and our many visitors.
Taos is too beautiful and rare to allow it to be “a flower quickly fading – here today and gone tomorrow.”
Chrisman is an artist in Taos.