` Our History – Spanish Colonial Arts Society

Some Words About The Founders

The Spanish Colonial Arts Sociey wan founded in 1925 by … and the Museum was established in … thanks to the extraordinary generousity of our Founders.  Since then we have blah blah etc. etc.

 

Museum Campus

The 1930 Pueblo-Spanish Revival Director’s Residence is the only residential building open to the public that was designed by one of Santa Fe’s most prominent architects, John Gaw Meem. The structure was built with single and double-wide Penitentiary hollow-tile blocks, not adobe bricks, as a more permanent material that was hand-sculpted to appear to be made of earth. Meem, along with Isaac Hamilton Rapp and Mary Coulter, were instrumental in the definition and development of our unique Santa Fe Style architecture.
Placement of this residence within the landscape is oriented toward Sun Mountain to the east, which is appreciated immediately upon entering the front door with views through the window wall in the east portal. The building with its furnishings has been accessioned into the Society’s permanent collections with catalog number 1999.011.
The Director’s Residence was constructed by the Museum of New Mexico on the Camino Lejo campus to house the director of the Laboratory of Anthropology. Photographs taken in the 1940s show how the house was used. A breakfast area was located at the north end of the east portal and the living room was large enough to accommodate dancing with music played on the grand piano. Later the historic residence was owned by the School of American Research, now known as the School for Advanced Research, where their director lived until the late 1990s. The 1998 gift of the property to the Society was intended for the establishment of a museum with facilities for display and storage of its collections. Fulfilling one of the goals in the 1929 articles of incorporation, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art opened to the public in 2002 with the inaugural exhibition and catalog Conexiones.
Most of the historic residential building was repurposed for display galleries with staff offices in the former maid’s quarters and public restrooms in the former garage. Very little of the structure was altered, maintaining the intimate character of room sizes and retaining beautifully crafted woodwork.

Spanish Markets History

Traditional Spanish Market

In 1926, Mary Austin and the Spanish Colonial Arts Society organized the first Spanish Market to promote the local Hispanic traditional arts. It was held during the Santa Fe Fiestas in the patio of the Fine Arts Museum on West Palace Avenue.  A prize competition was funded by Mrs. Hooker of New York and Mary Wheelwright of Boston and Alcalde, New Mexico.

From 1930 to 1933, the Society operated The Spanish Arts Shop at Sena Plaza on East Palace Avenue. It was open year-round for art sales, managed by Helen Cramp McCrossen and later by Nellie Dunton.Leonora Curtin conceived of and subsidized Native Market as the next iteration of Spanish Market. It operated from 1934 to 1937 further east on Palace Avenue. The Market had great success as the middleman bringing artwork “From Village to Market to You” and the Fred Harvey Company’s Indian Detours regularly brought tourists to the site.By 1936, Santa Fe’s entrepreneurs recognized that Native Market was, “one of the showplaces of Santa Fe.” From 1937 to the mid-1940s Spanish Market operated at El Parian Analco on College Street, now known as Old Santa Fe Trail, opposite from San Miguel Mission, “the oldest church.” The property was owned by a ten-member Native Market Association that was led by Leonora Curtin and Major R. Hunter Clarkson of the Indian Detour Company and the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce. More than just an art sales shop, El Parian had enough space to provide many booths for artist demonstrations, horseshoeing, knife sharpening, and sales of farm produce and firewood. Additionally, there was a small corner theater to offer ambiance with Hispanic singing and dancing, a concession stand, a tortilla mill, and a full-service restaurant.The Market did not operate during and after World War II until 1965, when Traditional Spanish Market was revived as an annual event on the Santa Fe Plaza along with Indian Market. During the first year it was under the portal of the First National Bank of Santa Fe. As the number of participating artists grew it moved to the portal at the Palace of the Governors.In 1972, Spanish Market separated from Indian Market, having added many new art categories and booths continued to be added on all streets surrounding the Plaza. Traditional Spanish Market is held during the last full weekend in July with associated events during the week leading up to Market, known as Viva la Cultura.Rigorous standards were developed to ensure that Spanish Market artists participated in regional Hispanic heritage and they were juried into art categories that represent the established traditional arts and crafts of New Mexico and southern Colorado. Today, there are nineteen art categories with approximately 200 adult artists working within them.Artists compete for many top awards and cash prizes in their juried categories. On Friday night before the weekend market, the Society sponsors Preview which honors the awards recipients and offers collectors and visitors a sneak peak of the best artwork that will be for sale the next day.In addition to the Spanish Market artist sales booths, there is entertainment on the Bandstand with regional Hispanic bands and dance groups, art demonstration booths, books sales booths, and food booths that complement this heritage event.The holistic sense of the Hispanic traditional arts within the community continues through the model that was established by El Parian Analco. Youth awards are presented on the Bandstand on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi offers the Spanish Market Mass where artists are invited to bring their artwork into Mass for ceremonial blessing. After Mass, a musical procession leads the group from the Cathedral through the Market to the Bandstand where a priest blesses Spanish Market. Tens of thousands converge upon the Plaza each year to participate in Traditional Spanish Market.Spanish Market marks its 100th anniversary in 2026 as the largest and oldest juried Hispanic art show and sale of its kind.

Youth Market

The Society added Youth Market to Traditional Spanish Market in 1981 to promote how these living traditions are passed down through generations. Youth Market is held in the center of the Santa Fe Plaza with approximately thirty youth artists, surrounded by the rest of the Traditional Spanish Market adult artist booths and other activities.Youth artists are not held to the same rigorous standards as adult artists since they are still learning about the artistic traditions and they are not required to be juried into the Market. Instead, youth artists between the ages of seven and eighteen must be mentored by current Spanish Market adult artists in their chosen art categories. The adult artists bring their working knowledge of subjects, forms, materials, tools, and techniques into these training opportunities. This prepares the youth artists for continuing as adult artists and jurying into Spanish Market when they reach the age of eighteen.Many collectors prefer to purchase artwork from the youth artists, especially from those youths who show promise of a long career in the arts. Youth artists also participate in the Friday night Preview event with competition for awards and prizes. Often, the youth artwork is characterized by its innocent sweetness, compelling adoration by the viewer.

Winter Spanish Market

The first Winter Spanish Market was held in early December of 1989 in Santa Fe. This Market draws participation from approximately sixty adult artists and six youth artists.

 

 

Spanish Markets History

Traditional Spanish Market

In 1926, Mary Austin and the Spanish Colonial Arts Society organized the first Spanish Market to promote the local Hispanic traditional arts. It was held during the Santa Fe Fiestas in the patio of the Fine Arts Museum on West Palace Avenue.  A prize competition was funded by Mrs. Hooker of New York and Mary Wheelwright of Boston and Alcalde, New Mexico.

From 1930 to 1933, the Society operated The Spanish Arts Shop at Sena Plaza on East Palace Avenue. It was open year-round for art sales, managed by Helen Cramp McCrossen and later by Nellie Dunton.

Leonora Curtin conceived of and subsidized Native Market as the next iteration of Spanish Market. It operated from 1934 to 1937 further east on Palace Avenue. The Market had great success as the middleman bringing artwork “From Village to Market to You” and the Fred Harvey Company’s Indian Detours regularly brought tourists to the site.

By 1936, Santa Fe’s entrepreneurs recognized that Native Market was, “one of the showplaces of Santa Fe.” From 1937 to the mid-1940s Spanish Market operated at El Parian Analco on College Street, now known as Old Santa Fe Trail, opposite from San Miguel Mission, “the oldest church.” The property was owned by a ten-member Native Market Association that was led by Leonora Curtin and Major R. Hunter Clarkson of the Indian Detour Company and the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce. More than just an art sales shop, El Parian had enough space to provide many booths for artist demonstrations, horseshoeing, knife sharpening, and sales of farm produce and firewood. Additionally, there was a small corner theater to offer ambiance with Hispanic singing and dancing, a concession stand, a tortilla mill, and a full-service restaurant.

The Market did not operate during and after World War II until 1965, when Traditional Spanish Market was revived as an annual event on the Santa Fe Plaza along with Indian Market. During the first year it was under the portal of the First National Bank of Santa Fe. As the number of participating artists grew it moved to the portal at the Palace of the Governors.

In 1972, Spanish Market separated from Indian Market, having added many new art categories and booths continued to be added on all streets surrounding the Plaza. Traditional Spanish Market is held during the last full weekend in July with associated events during the week leading up to Market, known as Viva la Cultura.

Rigorous standards were developed to ensure that Spanish Market artists participated in regional Hispanic heritage and they were juried into art categories that represent the established traditional arts and crafts of New Mexico and southern Colorado. Today, there are nineteen art categories with approximately 200 adult artists working within them.

Artists compete for many top awards and cash prizes in their juried categories. On Friday night before the weekend market, the Society sponsors Preview which honors the awards recipients and offers collectors and visitors a sneak peak of the best artwork that will be for sale the next day.

In addition to the Spanish Market artist sales booths, there is entertainment on the Bandstand with regional Hispanic bands and dance groups, art demonstration booths, books sales booths, and food booths that complement this heritage event.

The holistic sense of the Hispanic traditional arts within the community continues through the model that was established by El Parian Analco. Youth awards are presented on the Bandstand on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi offers the Spanish Market Mass where artists are invited to bring their artwork into Mass for ceremonial blessing. After Mass, a musical procession leads the group from the Cathedral through the Market to the Bandstand where a priest blesses Spanish Market. Tens of thousands converge upon the Plaza each year to participate in Traditional Spanish Market.

Spanish Market marks its 100th anniversary in 2026 as the largest and oldest juried Hispanic art show and sale of its kind.

Collections History

Permanent Collection

The Society began its mission to preserve the regional Hispanic traditional arts in 1928 with the purchase of a reredos (altar screen) from the Nuestra Señora del Carmen church in Llano Quemado which had been replaced by a new altar screen. The six and a half foot tall carved and painted artwork was made by the workshop of the 19th century santero, José Rafael Aragόn. This beautiful altar screen was installed in the Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza in 1929 and it has been on display as a long-term loan ever since.

The second accession came in 1929, when Mary Austin and friends raised $6,000 to buy a privately-owned chapel that was in a state of disrepair.  The Society deeded the Santuario de Chimayό to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe that same year (see image 1). The site is world-famous today as the destination of devotional pilgrims each year on Easter Sunday.

The third accession in 1938 was fifty watercolors of colcha embroidery designs by Nellie Dunton. Most of the images in this significant portfolio were reproduced in the 1935 publication, Spanish Colonial Ornament, which has inspired artists for many decades.

Accessioning ceased during the war and the Society went dormant until 1951 when the first curator, E. Boyd, revived the Society and stepped up collecting with renewed interest in regional Hispanic arts and comparative pieces from all around the Spanish colonies. In 1954, the Society’s collections, numbering approximately eighty items, were stored in the newly completed Museum of International Folk Art on Museum Hill in Santa Fe.

Collections History

By the end of the 20th century, the Society was rich in collections but did not have its own facility to store and display these pieces. In 1996, Spanish New Mexico was published as a “museum on paper.” This two-volume set highlights the comprehensive qualities of the permanent collections. Their greatest strength is in New Mexico of the colonial period and the 19th century, with comparative objects from Spain, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and

Goa; Catholic religious imagery from non-Hispanic countries; and objects that may have been imported to New Mexico from eastern states and other countries, especially China. In addition, New Mexican Hispanic art from the Revival Period of the 1920s and 1930s and more contemporary art from the post-1965 florescence are well represented. The Society’s collections are of such broad scope that they are unsurpassed for studies of historical, comparative, and contemporary themes.

The collections continued to grow larger by purchases and donations through the years and they were placed at the Folk Art Museum for safekeeping until 2001. Then, the collections were moved just down the road into their permanent home in the Stockman Collections Center at the newly completed Museum of Spanish Colonial Art.

The two-story, 6,400 square foot Stockman Collections Center was designed by architect Eric Enfield with assistance from the Society’s first Conservator and Collections Manager, David Rasch. It houses the almost 4,000 catalogued devotional, utilitarian, and decorative items, including many pieces by Spanish Market artists, in four storage vaults with state-of-the-art furnishings.

Library History

Reference Library

The Hale Matthews Reference Library began with a small collection of books about New Mexican traditional arts that were stored in staff offices in downtown Santa Fe. With the opening of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art on Museum Hill and the 2001 construction of the Stockman Collections Center to house the Society’s art and artifacts collections, a small room was developed for the library that also served as a meeting and conference room. After this formal space became available for the library, the Society’s holdings began to develop through consistent but small donations.

 

The library soon outgrew the assigned space with the significant donation of several thousand titles from Jan V. and Kathy Nelson who were closing their local book shop to move out of state. The library was relocated nearby to the former collections processing area where it currently resides with over 3,000 books, periodicals, archives, and ephemera.

The library includes books on Spain and Spanish Colonial art and history with a significant emphasis on art, architecture, and history of Mexico and New Mexico. Comparative topics are included with books about Asia, the Philippines, Europe, Portugal, Brazil, and other South and Latin American countries. Other subjects include folklore, song and dance, foodways, fiction, and children’s stories. Of particular interest are publications about saints and their symbols with focused books on artists and art forms, including metalwork, woodwork, textiles, and ceramics. Periodicals include New Mexico Historical Review and El Palacio. Archives of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society include materials about Spanish Market and Museum exhibitions with Society publications of books and newsletters.

The reference library offers the student and scholar a comprehensive resource on many topics of study in the Spanish Colonial world. Combining the library materials with the artifact collections establishes the Society as an unparalleled organization in northern New Mexico.