An amazing amount of art-marketing activity has formalized since I attended a meeting Tuesday (Sept. 12) called by Taos Arts Council and ARTAOS, one of two meetings held for the nonprofit and for-profit arts sectors of Taos on Aug. 18 and Sept. 12, respectively, seeking to promote the arts of Taos.
Practically before the ink dried on the newsprint pad listing the need for more marketing dollars and more merchant-organized “art experiences,” two new block parties materialized: the Kit Carson Road party and “Taos First Fridays” inaugural block party.
The “Kit Carson Road Celebration of Art” street party is happening Saturday (Sept. 23) from 3-8 p.m. According to organizer David Mapes, it took only a month to get town of Taos and Department of Transportation approval to block off eastbound traffic from the Taos Plaza intersection to allow a street party to blossom. Visitors coming in from Angel Fire will be able to drive through to the Plaza stoplight.
The street-wide gala includes five big art receptions, food trucks and live music, with artists present to demonstrate and chat with visitors on their way to The PASEO, starting at 7 p.m. on Taos Plaza. Free parking is available in the town parking lot at Quesnel and Kit Carson Road, one block from the Plaza.
Town of Taos Manager Rick Bellis “said he would help set up the [public address] system so we’d have a good sound system outside,” Mapes said Friday (Sept. 15), noting how quickly the permitting process happened, considering approvals needed for a street party on an interstate highway.
Bellis said this is exactly what the town needs from merchants. “The biggest difficulty we have is explaining to people that, by law, we can’t advertise an individual business,” he explained Friday (Sept. 15). “Our job is to get the visitors to town and it’s [the merchants’] job to give them something to see.”
Sara Basehart, owner of Seconds Eco Store on Bent Street at the John Dunn Shops, proposed the “First Fridays” event and is organizing it. Basehart’s proposal is that the “first Friday of each month be celebrated with pop-up galleries, street performers, food carts, music, a pub crawl and stores staying open until 8 p.m.” Starting Oct. 6, it will include the merchants between The Taos Inn, John Dunn Shops and The Alley Cantina – closing off Bent Street from 6-8 p.m.
Businesswoman Janet Webb suggested at the meeting that “First Friday” and ongoing “First Saturday Art Walks” be marketed as a “First Weekend in Taos” draw every month, competing with Santa Fe’s opening receptions, which are typically held Friday evenings. Bellis said streets are closed for Lighting of Ledoux and Bonfires on Bent Street, both good events that give the town something to market as a tourist destination.
“I was really pleased to hear [Basehart] say that the merchants need to stay open until 8 p.m.,” Director of Marketing and Tourism Karina Armijo said. “I can’t tell merchants to do that; they have to commit to it themselves and then I can market that.”
While the consensus from the art sector meetings was that the town needs to spend more marketing dollars highlighting the Taos art colony as a draw to the area, it was not clear what the town is already marketing because Armijo was asked to just hear people out. She and Bellis both said they will do a better job communicating what the town is currently marketing. “We’ll have a public forum in October,” Armijo said, “and we’ll detail where lodgers tax money is being spent.”
Bellis said the public forum will tell people what is already being done to market the arts and how people can be part of that. Work is also being done to get Taos’ Art and Cultural District designation activated. That will allow for state tax money to help support the arts in Taos. “The town and county are taxed out,” he said, as far as a new tax to support Taos arts.
To get involved, Mapes invited the community to Taos Marketing Committee meetings, which are held the second Wednesdays of each month, at 9:30 a.m. in Taos Town Hall, Room 109. Armijo can be reached at (575) 737-5849 or AArmijo@taosgov.com.
Kit Carson Road Party
On Saturday (Sept. 23) from 3-8 p.m. the party includes:
• Wilder Nightingale Fine Art. “Solace in Sanctuary,” 5-7 p.m., an all-gallery show for Fall Arts 2017, inspired by an image by Doel Reed. Gallery artists created new work on the theme of Northern New Mexico churches, cemeteries and moradas.
• David Anthony Fine Art. “Havana Hallelujah,” 4 to 7 p.m. featuring Cuban street photography of acclaimed photojournalist David Smith-Soto, renowned for his intimate familiarity with the Cuban city.
• ¡Orale! “Fall Equinox Artist Reception and Ladies Night,” 7 to 10 p.m., an evening of contemporary art, live music, great food and drink, plus a “Pin-Up Girl Contest” where visitors wear their best vintage/retro Pin-Up Girl outfit and the winner gets a $200 gift certificate to Taos Tattoo.
• Total Arts Gallery. All-Gallery Opening, 5-7 p.m., an opportunity to meet a few of the artists Total Arts represents and view new work.
• The Body Shop. Pre-Paseo Open House and Art Show, 4-9 p.m. Featuring new oil paintings by Shera Maher; with live music and entertainment.