Primary Kent Kanouse

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Canyon Road

Main Streets 2017: New Mexico

Primary Kent Kanouse
Paint Out Larry Lamsa
Primary Kent Kanouse Paint Out Larry Lamsa

The half-mile stretch of Canyon Road that attracts a million and a half visitors each year is unique in American culture.

This is literally a homegrown arts mecca, which began its commercial life when a group of painters here was permitted — by special city designation, in 1962 — to sell their artwork from their homes. Canyon Road has since grown into the third largest art market in the United States. Dozens of galleries and studios mingle with restaurants, jewelry and antique shops, boutiques and bars in the single-story adobe structures that line this narrow, memorably colorful lane.

Canyon Road’s history goes a long way back — to the Native Americans who used it to reach the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and to the 17th-century Spanish settlers who hauled firewood on the backs of burros from the forested mountains into Santa Fe. For nearly three centuries after that, this was just a dirt road through a farming neighborhood. But after the railroad reached Santa Fe in 1880, artists and photographers rode began settling here in the early years of the 20th century.

Canyon Road stayed a creative but quiet neighborhood until ’62, when the city’s decision to designate this a “residential arts and crafts zone” enabled residents to sell their work from home. With a historic style ordinance protecting the road’s traditional architecture, businesses, many of them connected to the arts, began to multiply and thrive along the road.

Canyon Road today is an international arts destination. Many doorways of the adobe structures are painted in vivid hues, visitors can watch painters and sculptors work in their studios, and galleries host exhibition openings throughout the year, especially on the popular monthly “Fourth Fridays.” The American Planning Association has named Canyon Road one of the Great Streets in America, and it finished second when USA Today reported the outcome of its 2013 reader poll, “America’s Most Iconic Streets.”

Much-anticipated special events include the Canyon Road Spring Art Festival in May, the Edible Art Tour in June, the Historic Canyon Road Paint & Sculpt Out in October, and the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk, when the road is lined with the small paper lanterns that are a New Mexico tradition.

But really, every day is a creative festival here. That’s what makes Canyon Road one of a kind.

Primary photo taken by Kent Kanouse
Paint Out photo taken by Larry Lamsa
Santa Fe, NM is home to a 2017-18 LifeChanger: Priscilla Cordova

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Silver City, New Mexico – Bullard Street

Main Streets 2016: New Mexico

There’s not a lot of rain in Silver City. But when it does fall, it can be quite a deluge, especially since the town was built where water naturally drains right through. That’s how Main Street here was supplanted by Bullard Street as the main thoroughfare.

One night in 1895, a wall of water came rushing through the central business district, leaving a trail of destruction and a 55-foot-deep ditch where Main Street had been. The solution? The back doors of many Main Street businesses became their new front doors, opening onto Bullard Street, which soon grew into the heart of this mining town. Today, what was once Main Street is now known as Big Ditch Park. It’s one of many parks around town that cater to the outdoor-loving people of this small city in central New Mexico.

Silver City started life as an Apache campsite — today, it’s a bicyclists’ mecca, an archaeologist’s dream, and home to many a cowboy. All of this part of New Mexico is a haven for people seeking rugged outdoor beauty, history, arts, culture and entertainment. Silver City streets feature classic Western adobe architecture as well as some Victorian beauties, with many local buildings dating to the community’s early years as a mining town. One of the classics is the 1923 Silco Theater, whose marquee is a beacon on Bullard Street. The Silver City MainStreet Project offers a trove of information.

The Silver City Museum occupies one of the beautiful historic buildings, an 1881 Italianate red brick mansion whose exhibits give creative, thoughtful introductions to the city’s history. There’s also plenty of art to see in some of the historic buildings. The Mimbres Region Arts Council provides a map to more than 50 murals that are housed in the buildings around downtown.

Just off Bullard Street on Yankie Street, the art and crafts continue along two blocks of galleries and artisan workshops, including the Silver City Art Association. The best times to visit might be during the Silver City Fiber Arts Festival in November or the CLAY Festival in the summer.

Western New Mexico University on the west side of downtown helps pull it all together, and gives Silver City the youthful energy of a college town. And sitting at the edge of Gila National Forest as Silver City does, there are always plenty of outdoor recreation options, just an easy ride from Bullard Street.

Bash on Broadway and Clay Festival photos courtesy of SC Daily Press

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