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Our Mission

The Mission of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society is to preserve the cultural heritage of Hispanic New Mexico and its living traditions.

We deliver our mission by:

  • Collecting, preserving, exhibiting, researching, and promoting the Hispanic art of New Mexico, from settlement to the present, and comparative pieces from around the Spanish world.
  • Operating with a focus on educational programs for the public, including offering programs on the arts (contemporary and historical), culture, food, history, and music.
  • Supporting the annual Traditional Spanish Market to share with the public the artistic heritage of traditional and innovative art forms by living Market artists.
  • Making our library and archives available as resources for scholars, artists, and all those interested in research in this field.
  •  Utilizing our building and grounds in service to our mission.

Permanent Collection

The Stockman Collections Center was constructed in 2000 adjacent to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. It permanently houses almost 4,000 devotional, decorative, and utilitarian items in four storage vaults. The core collections focus on Hispanic traditional arts from the New Mexico and southern Colorado region with secondary comparative items from around the Spanish Colonial world.

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1928 with the purchase of a reredos (altar screen) from the Nuestra Señora del Carmen church in Llano Quemado which had been replaced by a new altar screen. 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.

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Educational Programs

The Society offers a broad array of educational programs including exhibitions that highlight the permanent collections with docent tours and lectures in the museum. We offer behind-the-scenes tours of our collections as well as tours of our architecture, archeology, and gardens. The Society also offers traditional art-making workshops, open studio tours with other community-interest events during Viva la Cultura the week before Traditional Spanish Market, and specialty regional, national, and international tours.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has put many of our educational programs temporarily on hold, we are pleased to exhibit “Trails, Rails, and Highways: How Trade Transformed the Art of Spanish New Mexico.” Curated by Robin Farwell Gavin, this exhibit traces the impact of travel from the early trails that traversed New Mexico to the cyber trails that today bring the world to our fingertips.

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Spanish Market

Traditional Spanish Market began nearly 100 years ago to promote Hispanic traditional arts, and it has grown into the oldest and largest juried art show and sale of its kind. Approximately 200 adult and youth artists compete for coveted award prizes in eighteen art categories. This annual Santa Fe Heritage event draws collectors, community residents, and visitors from around the world.

The first Spanish Market was organized in 1926 by writer Mary Austin and the Spanish Colonial Arts Society 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. In keeping with that tradition, prizes are still awarded today.

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Reference Library

The Hale Matthews Reference Library in the Stockman Collections Center at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art holds over 3,000 books, periodicals, and paper memorabilia. Scholars, students, and artists have access to concentrated research on topics of art and architecture with an emphasis on the regional Hispanic and Spanish Colonial traditions. 

The 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 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.

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Museum Campus

The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art opened to the public in 2002 in an historic residential building that was designed in 1930 by renowned architect John Gaw Meem in the Pueblo-Spanish Revival Style. Meem, along with Isaac Hamilton Rapp and Mary Coulter, were instrumental in the definition and development of our unique Santa Fe Style architecture. 

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. The building was sensitively adapted to provide exhibition display galleries and offices for administrative staff. Santa Fe Style architectural features and furnishings are highlighted throughout the building.

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