Santa Fe’s status as an arts destination is an enduring part of its appeal, and nowhere is that more evident than on Canyon Road, the epicenter of the city’s exciting art scene. Art has been an integral part of Santa Fe’s culture for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that this storied road has evolved over the centuries to become one of the most exciting arts destinations in the country.
Once a footpath used by Native Americans when embarking on the arduous trek from Santa Fe to Pecos, the route grew in importance when early Spanish settlers used it to transport firewood from the nearby mountains into town. As the Spanish settlement prospered, residents erected adobe homes and compounds to house the burgeoning population. It was this charming enclave that welcomed the painters of the early 20th century who eventually put Santa Fe on the map as a haven for artists and art lovers. Los Cinco Pintores—the Five Painters—were a group of Modernist artists who settled there, inspired by the fascinating people and stunningly beautiful landscape, and grateful for the inexpensive accommodations that allowed them to set up their homes and studios.
This intriguing history renders Canyon Road more than just a “shopping street,” and its artistic DNA informs the modern-day ambiance. Many of the centuries-old adobes that once housed Spanish farmers and, later, starving artists, have been converted to art galleries, and they contribute to the sense of discovery you’ll experience when exploring the cozy compounds and inviting storefronts that offer a broad array of paintings, sculpture, objets d’art, and installations. More than 100 art galleries, studios, jewelry shops, and boutiques purvey art in all its forms, from Native American to contemporary, stonework to textiles, historic to cutting-edge, all of which coexist happily amid the timeless mystique of Canyon Road’s unique aesthetic.
In all seasons of the year, you can participate in events that welcome both locals and visitors. Probably the most famous is the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk, when lanterns consisting of sand-filled paper bags containing votive candles lend their gentle glow to rooftops and adobe walls while celebrants stroll the neighborhood to share in the seasonal cheer. You can ward off winter’s chill with hot cider or stop by one of the many street-side bonfires. In other seasons, events include the Canyon Road Spring Art Festival, with artist receptions, art demonstrations, exhibits, and auctions; the ARTfeast Edible Art Tour in early summer, when galleries team up with local restaurants to offer exceptional food and beverages along with fine art; and the Historic Canyon Road Paint Out and Sculpt Out, a fall celebration in which artists line the route to work en plein air and interact with visitors. And any time of the year, you can enjoy the Friday night art openings each week that let you check out the art and mingle with fellow art lovers in a festive atmosphere. Afterward you can make a night of it by stopping by one of Canyon Road’s fine dining establishments.
Santa Fe’s world-renowned art street thus brings together history, culture, and tradition within a few short blocks, enlivened by the creative spirit that has endured for hundreds of years. See you on Canyon Road!