The artistic history of the Southwest resides in Georgia Gersh’s blood. A child of the mountains near Taos, in northern New Mexico, she’s the daughter of noted abstract expressionist Bill Gersh. Today she owns magpie, a gallery featuring local art and gifts. For her and many others, Taos is defined by the art and culture of this region.
Gersh opened magpie in 2014 to showcase artists living and working in Taos, some known and some yet to be discovered. Something about Taos must engender this artistic milieu, considering the many galleries and museums. “To me, it’s the landscape and the feel of the area,” she says. “You can’t really look in any direction without imagining that someone could paint or photograph the view, and you’d want to hang it in your house. Everywhere you look is just gorgeous.”
One place where visitors can experience the artistic depth is the Taos Art Museum, located in the former house of artist Nicolai Fechin. Another, the Millicent Rogers Museum, not only features the New York socialite’s support for art and culture, but also her collection of everything Taos—jewelry, furniture, clothing, and more. The contemporary Harwood Museum of Art highlights modern artists and traveling exhibitions.
There’s also a long history of classical music and literary events, recalling the salons of early 20th-century culture patron Mabel Dodge Luhan. The Taos Center for the Arts is a popular venue for live theater, films, and music.
A little bit of curiosity helps visitors make connections to the town’s history and culture, easy to do because of its small-town friendliness. Walk into any shop and there’s a good chance you’ll end up talking to the owner, who probably grew up here. The plaza-area shops on Bent Street and Kit Carson Road—Two Graces, Momo, Jones Walker—as well as the John Dunn Shops are stuffed with locally made books, pottery, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind gifts.
For those seeking authentic Native art and jewelry, Taos Pueblo is the destination, a place where you can talk with the artisans who crafted them. The pueblo, an architectural and anthropological wonder dates back just over 1,000 years, also helps visitors learn more about Native American culture—just as the Río Grande Gorge bridge attracts anyone in awe of the area’s natural history. (Please be respectful of Taos Pueblo, its sovereignty, community and culture. COVID restrictions and closures are strictly enforced. Visit taospueblo.com for current guidance.)
The complexities continue. Spanish art and culture thrives, with artists making santos, retablos, and other items. One of the largest Hindu temple dedicated to Hanuman draws people from throughout the world. And that there’s a significant counterculture contingent, most clearly demonstrated by a visit (or overnight!) to the Earthship Biotecture community.
Gersh knows that alt-culture well. Her father moved to a hippie commune in the 1960s, and that’s where she was born and raised. “Taos is magical, inspiring, accepting, creative, and original,” she says. “I feel fortunate every day to live here. Come with an open mind and prepare to be surprised.”