Friday, December 22, 2017

A Walk in the Woods and a Bit of Foraging

Holly Tree in Massachusetts.

A walk in the woods is good for you, it is known as Forest bathing, in Japan it is called 'Shinrin-Yoku'. It helps to keep your heart strong and your mind fresh and alert. Whether you are 5 minutes away from a patch of woods or an hours drive, it is worth taking the time to slow down and enjoy the nature around you for your health, for you spirit. This Holiday Season it's a good reminder to slow down and enjoy everything around you, especially what Mother Nature has to offer us, still.

In search of Teaberries in a New England Forest.

“Let our law-givers then make haste before it is too late to set apart this surpassingly glorious region for the recreation and well-being of humanity, and all the world will rise up and call them blessed.”  (excerpt from “A Rival of the Yosemite” John Muir 1891)

Toadstools growing along a stump in the forest.

While on a recent trip back to Massachusetts to visit family & friends, one of my cousins reminded me of the Sally Milligan woods where we would go to gather wild Blueberries. The berries were small and delicious, it took great effort of time and caution to not get caught in the brambles all around. Back then the park seemed enormous, with every tree and rock bigger than the next. I loved to climb up into the trees there and sway in the breeze of the forest around me, way up high with the birds and squirrels. One of my favorite berries to gather in the forest were Teaberries, they taste like Teaberry or Beaman's Gum and are probably part of the recipe for making that illustrious gum immortalized in the film "The Right Stuff". 'Loan me a stick of Beaman's' still to this day floods my memory bank with moments of finding those berries growing on the forest floor hidden under delicate leaves.

Harvesting Teaberries.

The old Girl Scout Pond frozen in Winter.

Nearby to this patch of woods was what we knew as the "Girl Scout Pond" a place to find pollywogs and tadpoles, to catch frogs and fish for sunfish. We'd recovered a sunken raft cobbled together with big rusty nails which I had an unfortunate altercation with. Stepping on a nail, led to the discovery of the raft, meanwhile for days on end I drained the hole in my foot from the puss that gathered from the infection. Never telling anyone about this, and miraculously enough not contracting gangrene or worse. Now the pond includes a restored lodge where once lived the Estes family. Kim Estes was the daughter of Edie, one of the best people I knew at Beverly High School. My visit to the pond and the woods brought back wonderful memories of fireflies and tree peepers at night. I am thankful to have lived an extraordinary rich life.

Sally Milligan Park Placard.

Estes Lodge Placard, the pond is now known as Camp Paradise.

"Winter comes suddenly, arrayed in storms, though to mountaineers silky streamers on the peaks and the tones of the wind give sufficient warning. You hear strange whisperings among the treetops, as if the giants were taking counsel together. One after another, nodding and swaying, calling and replying, spreads the news, until all with one accord break forth into glorious song, welcoming the first grand snowstorm of the year, and looming up in the dim clouds and snowdrifts like lighthouse towers in flying scud and spray.

Classic New England Stone Wall, my grandfather Antonio built many of this type of wall along the Northeast railroad tracks.

Studying the behavior of the giants from some friendly shelter, you will see that even in the glow of their wildest enthusiasm, when the storm roars loudest, they never lose their God-like composure, never toss their arms or bow or wave like the pines, but only slowly, solemnly nod and sway, standing erect, making no sign of strife, none of the rest, neither in alliance nor at war with the winds, too calmly, unconsciously noble and strong to strive with or bid defiance to anything.

Rich Green Moss growing on the trunk of a tree in the woods.

Owing to the density of the leafy branchlets and great breadth of head the Big Tree carries a much heavier load of snow than any of its neighbors, and after a storm, when the sky clears, the laden trees are a glorious spectacle, worth any amount of cold camping to see. Every bossy limb and crown is solid white, and the immense height of the giants becomes visible as the eye travels the white steps of the colossal tower, each relieved by a mass of blue shadow.

Leaves lie above and below the frozen icy surface of the pond.

In midwinter the forest depths are fresh and pure as the crevasses and caves of glaciers. Grouse, nuthatches, a few woodpeckers, and the other hardy birds dwell in the groves all winter, and the squirrels may be seen every clear day frisking about, lively as ever, tunneling to their stores, never coming up empty-mouthed, diving in the loose snow about as quickly as ducks in water, while storms and sunshine sing to each other. 

A nestled bundle of branches in the forest.

One of the noblest and beautiful of the late winter sights is the blossoming of the Big Tree like gigantic goldenrods and the sowing of their pollen over all the forest and the snow-covered ground - a most glorious view of Nature’s immortal virility and flower love."
(Excerpt from “Our National Parks, Forest Depths” John Muir 1901)

A Walk in the forest.

'I Remember Trees'
I remember where the Sycamore trees grow in a meadow, Chopping a dead
tree down with a hatchet as blisters rose on my hands, a Crabapple
tree full of Cedar Waxwings, the simple chair made of Aspen tree
poles, where Birch trees shed their bark to the ground as lovers shed
their clothes to the bedroom floor, a Pinon Tree hosting a swarm of
bees, the driftwood we found on the beach I carved into little
creatures, standing in the top of a Pine tree feeling the slightest
breeze cause it to sway, carving our initials into the bark of a tree
on an island in the middle of a Blue Lake, I remember You.

Peace to one and all, enjoy each moment, R.

The Sally Milligan Park Monument. 
I am thankful that this park was there for me to explore 50 years ago, and again last week.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Taos Marketing 101 (Notes)

At some point about ten years ago it seemed that everyone was becoming a Marketing Expert. I began attending “Marketing” meetings in Taos in 2002. First were the Taos Chamber of Commerce meetings at the Rotunda in Taos Plaza, those moved to the banquet room at the Kachina Lodge. Then the town of Taos hired a full time “Information Officer” who I began to ask questions of. Mostly my query began as, Why don’t you include the businesses in Ranchos de Taos? This was met with a strict by the book reply, Ranchos does not contribute to Lodgers tax for marketing of the TOWN of Taos. Alright-ee then I asked; What about your use of imagery of the Ranchos Church, San Francisco de Asis Church and imagery of Taos Pueblo in your visual marketing campaigns? Gotcha, and then it began, I became a player or as some would say a thorn in someone’s side. 

I have a tendency to hold people accountable or what I call ‘Holding someone’s feet to the fire’. I don’t react well to poor excuses.

Attending meetings fairly regularly, not all of them but many, enough to know what was going on and stay in the loop. During my attendance I’d take notes, lots of notes. During these meetings I’d share my voice, knowledge, ideas and speak up with positive feedback. I learned from SMFA Faculty meetings that any time I attended a meeting and walked away feeling I had learned something that was a good productive meeting. The norm at Museum School meetings was that they were productive, unless it reverted to talking about a lack of parking for the faculty and students. The norm at Taos meetings tends to be talking about the same issues these past 15 years and not much forward movement. A single person at a meeting could black ball months of effort to move forward. As I move forward I will keep names out of this unless relevant.

At one point there had been a “Summer of Love” promotion which garnered Taos with the first of much positive nationwide press. There was also an early works exhibit of Agnes Martin paintings at the Harwood Museum. To help promote these events the marketing people printed small scale banners to be hung around Taos Plaza, the center of the town. The promotion “Land, Light and Legend” was an epic failure, during a presentation meeting with members of Taos Pueblo in attendance a logo of the Pueblo with the river, an eagle and other Pueblo related imagery was shown. The Pueblo members said one thing, “NO” then got up and walked out. In 2015 a promotion of “100 Years of Taos Art” (which included banners) celebrating the illustrious history  and anniversary year of the Taos Society of Art colony. The Taos Pueblo was asked their thoughts and gave their blessing to this promotion, it was not as ‘controversial’ as some will have you think. There will always be naysayers and blackballers in every community. We are currently at a time in the US that seems more decisive than ever before.


As someone who travels to areas with museums, I’d been noticing that one of the ways cities promote their art scene and special events is through the use of large banners hanging on lamp posts along boulevards. When I suggested that Taos do the same, it was at first met with resistance. The reason being that the town would then need to invest in a system on which to hang the banners. In return I took photographs of the then current Christmas decorations, went back to the people in charge and showed them that these hangers were already in place. Taos has had banners hanging along the main boulevard ever since, (although not consistently). Now there’s a new banner program which will select 40 artists to be reproduced on banners across Taos to promote the theme “Taos is Art”. Hallelujah, finally a promotion of living artists right here in Taos.

From my notes of 15 years are some of the following thoughts which I recorded at a great deal of meetings. Where does this information go to, what gets done and what does not get done at all? In my opinion, if you have an idea and it’s a great one, bulldog it through until it sees the light of day. It’s up to you to persevere and do something wonderful for this community. 
Don’t Give Up.

The Taos Tourism Council was an ad-hoc group of movers and shakers which tried to steer the hired firm of Griffin & Associates to do their bidding. They pushed an agenda of ‘sweepstakes’ listed in magazines which would provide email lists. Businesses could participate in being listed by giving something for the sweepstakes prize. Many of the prizes were never collected. Today it is questionable whether email lists actually are effective.

The following is from my notes of bullet points on what has been discussed at open meetings regarding Taos Marketing: 

Is marketing giving any focus to art galleries?
Let’s get more galleries involved, (with marketing).
Bring relevancy back to the Taos Art market.
A lack of awareness to the art market. 
Art marketing seminar.
How do you educate people to collect art?
Artists don’t know how to talk about art.
Market art.
Cynicism, there’s a low grade opinion of the quality of art here.
Embarrassingly amateurish, i.e.; Ladies who paint flowers.
We are sliding backwards, what has happened to any sense of contemporary art in Taos?
A higher quality of art in Taos, what does that mean?
They used to come here to discover something new.
The Sprit of art is still here.
Art has always been important and very very special here.
Many Galleries and artists have websites but don’t keep them up to date.
Museums could present artist symposiums.
Taos has an outreach to the rest of country. 
It’s not just about the galleries, it’s about the artists.
Collectors are interested in art with a resume.
Create an intelligent conversation about art.
people should be out painting to create an art atmosphere.
The most popular special edition they’ve put out has been the Taos Gallery Guide.
We don’t focus on marketing art because it doesn’t add to the tax base when all the art is being shipped out of state.
Send events, press releases and a blurb about your business to the marketing people. The more info we can get to the marketing peeps the more they can help. They asked for 75 words or less, that is not a whole lot of info.
Utilize the Taos Calendar. Which one of the many?
This will help with putting a packet together for travel writers visiting Taos. 
Bring in more media/travel writers. Who?
Be supportive of what local businesses are doing in a collaborative fashion.
The Arts & Cultural District will feature 7 Historic areas (including Ranchos de Taos, yay, well actually this never happened).
The image of Ranchos de Taos is nothing but a ghetto. A roller coaster ride, bad publicity if any at all.
Ranchos has fallen off the map and is completely left out of Gallery promotions. Get us back on map, how? We have so much to offer in Ranchos. What can we do to get the town to recognize Ranchos?
Police shootings are keeping tourists away.
Focus on positive aspects.
Encourage diversity and a variety of products.
Attract women over 50.
How do you track and know if your marketing is working?
Pool of consumers is smaller. (I doubt it)
Disposable income is gone.
Everybody’s business is hurting.
How do we bring value into Taos?
No one is spending like they used to.
It’s hard for a small business to survive here.
Curb appeal. Beautification of Store fronts. 
Too many empty store fronts.
Affordable Housing, Affordable rentals.
Promote one day concert events.
Taos App
Video Marketing.
The Main Street Program will revitalize Taos Plaza and downtown.
Arts & Culture needs more Marketing (this was a statement from the new mayor of Taos Dan Barrone)
Museum planning of exhibits can be three years out.
Taos Sacred Places Theme. Remarkable Women of Taos.
What can we offer during Spring Break other than skiing?
How do we attract skiers to come down off the mountain?
Sizzling Sexy Saturday Block Parties.
Promote wireless internet for visitors.
The state was marketing the Food industry in New Mexico, we should be leveraging the state marketing. Farm to table.
Culinary adventure.
Is Lodgers Tax up due to an increase in Rates or are there actually more visitors?
We don’t market in Santa Fe because it is considered a day trip for visitors.
On boiling down the marketing effort, what are the actual results, what are people doing and does it work?
Maybe your business is not the product people are looking for thus your efforts are not working.
Make sure that once people are here in Taos, that they find your business.
LGBTQ weddings are being heavily marketed.
Eco-Tourism. What is happening with this?
Taos Plaza Kiosk, non functional, not being utilized.
Help with solutions
There will always be parking problems.
Single most important issue: Business retention.
We need to be networking more, especially through Social Media.
We need parking areas well marked, there’s no point to people just driving around to see the sites, we want them walking around.
The average daily spending for visitors in Santa Fe is $406.66, what is it in Taos?
Update your website.
Post your business hours on your door front.
The Taos Fantasy is Taos Style.
Focus on your strengths.
Slogan, a simple message.
Give people a reason to prefer you.
Name Awareness.
Remind people who you are and why they should shop with you.
Marketing is a slippery slope to attempt to track.
Trying to keep Taos close to top of mind awareness.
Create itineraries from a local perspective. Interesting local stories.
My Taos, Beauty and nature. A simpler creative place. Authentic.
Slow down in Taos. Transformation re-connecting.
Create a true Tag line. Do we have a ‘Brand’ a Tag line? Taos is the Brand. Stop changing it. Solidify a LASTING Idea for a Tag Line. A Tag line that speaks to everything. 
Embody the State Tag Line, New Mexico True.
How do we know if marketing is working?
Use a combination of print advertising and social media.
Try marketing to Los Alamos, an extremely wealthy community less than an hour drive from Taos. They didn’t purchase art, they came for the history.
A small town connection in Taos is something you don’t get in other places.
Taos needs a logo.
Town would love to have people out painting, especially in the Plaza.
Taos Plaza is Underwhelming, Underutilized, and not Inviting.
What are the issues?
A parking study.
A parking plan.
Come up with more themes.
Think outside the box.
Kiosk is looking for volunteers.
Keep your website up to date.
Know your town. How often do you shop around Taos?
Cash Cows: Texas and Colorado visitors. are they coming to Taos any longer or are they done with us?
Taos is Older, Higher, Newer.  
Taos Voluntourism.
Differentiate from other mountain towns. Promote authentic experiences.
Millennials: No Spending Money 20-35 year olds. They are on the verge of becoming major players. making decisions based on Social Media interaction. Use QR Code on your storefront.
Gen Y ?
Gen X-ers: Opportunity, educated interested in adventure travel and music 35-50 year olds.
Baby Boomers: Are spending less and dying 50 and up.
Visitors need at least 3 days in Taos. How do we promote this?
Spring Arts Festival is now the Taos Lilac Festival. Replicate Fall Arts in the Spring.
More events.
Be constructive.
How do we get word out?
The Town website is a mess, impossible to navigate.
Hospitality Training, businesses are failing epically in this. Online training for customer service.
Customer service consistently comes up as an issue in Taos
Photography of Taos Imagery needs to include people interacting. Offbeat intimacy, emotional, compelling photography of Taos.
At one particular meeting of panelists I wrote: I have no hope of learning anything at this ‘performance’. 
What can we do to Put IDEAS into action.
Marketing is NOT for people who are here already.
Write the story Ourselves.

As you can read here, there have been plenty of 'ideas' through the years, many have been repeated, not many implemented. Much of this seems to be throw out ideas and see what sticks. At Two Graces Plaza Gallery we do the best we can with all of this. We try to keep the shop looking fresh. We try to give great customer service, although this can be trying in itself at times. We try to keep on top of current trends. We offer a variety of services from tours to lodging, and we even allow classes to be held in the gallery when we feel it is appropriate and helpful to someone and their group. Each day can bring a new challenge for a business owner in Taos. We appreciate your ongoing support to all of the small businesses in Taos, even ours, which at times a little too often, as frustrating as it can be seems to have fallen off the map.

PS: I believe that Georgia O'Keeffe is an enormous draw to Taos, Santa Fe & Abiquiu, that if we ever pulled our heads out of the sand we should be utilizing this brand more than we do currently, my opinion.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ila McAfee, a Taos Treasure

Ila McAfee  Born in Sargents CO, October 21, 1897-April 18, 1995, Dies in Pueblo, CO

Oil Painting by Ila McAfee

This oil painting by Ila McAfee is 5” x 7” on canvas board is full of dynamic energy, reminiscent of Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley and John Marin. Ila in her own words, preferred to “paint action and emotion from imagination”. The painting at lower left is clearly signed in the fresh paint (inscribed), “Ila Mcafee” and is currently in the original ca. 30’s champagne silver frame. The painting depicts the ‘Snow Covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains’ of Taos from the point of view of the El Salto area meadows ca. mid-1930. The small scale of the painting is not in any way a deterrent to its powerful presence. Taos artists often painted what was commonly known as “suitcase” paintings, small format paintings which were easily packed into visitors’ suitcases to immediately take home with them, (no need for shipping).

Taos Mountain View Covered in Snow

McAfee studied art at the Haz Studio School, Los Angeles, CA, the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, National Academy of Design and Art Students League, New York, NY. McAfee was an artist of the WPW New Deal Art project with work included in many museums across the US, including the Harwood Museum of Art (Taos), Millicent Rogers Museum (Taos), Albuquerque Museum of Art & History and the Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe. She was also a Black & White graphic illustrator and illustrator of Children’s books. In her later years she adopted cats which she named Sanka (every one of them) and trained them to perform ‘tricks’ which she filmed and are available to view online on such websites as Youtube

Map location of the White Horse (Turner) Studio

In 1926 Ila married Elmer Page Turner (also an artist) when they visited Taos for the first time. In 1928 they settled in Taos and became actively involved in the newly formed and gaining in popularity Taos Art Colony. The two story McAfee/Turner home on Civic Plaza Drive in downtown Taos is easily noticeable by its carvings of simplified horses carved into lintels over the front door and windows. Their home and studio was known as the ‘White Horse Studio’. She became known for her pueblo paintings and her depictions of horses and landscapes. In 1981, McAfee was voted Taos Artist of the Year. “Indians, Horses, Hills, Et Cetera” was published in both hardcover and paperback editions in 1982, a book of her poetry, illustrations and paintings. Two Graces Plaza Gallery currently has copies of bot Hard & son available. Of the hardcovers it is common to find them with her signature and a drawing of a horse at the front piece. “All the Year ‘round With the Furry Folk” 1968 is a book which she illustrated for author Jane R. Mason. In 1993 McAfee moved to Pueblo, Co to be close to family members where she passed away in 1995.

The Lintel over the window of the White Horse Home & Studio

Ila was asked her first impression of Taos during an interview with Rita Simmons for Southwestern Art Magazine she answered: "[Taos] was so different then, the village was small and the Indians remained uninfluenced by the invaders. Once I asked one of them, "What did you call this country before the Europeans came?" 'Ours,' he told me."

An advertisement for the McAfee/Turner Studio

In 1929 McAfee began showing her paintings at Millicent Bailey’s “Taos Art Shop” on Pueblo Road, where she was shown alongside Taos Society of Artist painters Bert Geer Phillips & E. Irving Couse. In 1939 she was one of the few women artists of Taos to become a member of the Taos Artist Association which then went on to organize a gallery inside the La Fonda Hotel on Taos Plaza, the La Fonda de Taos Gallery. The La Fonda Gallery became the most successful art gallery in Taos featuring “old time Taos artists, with a few others ability”, was Joseph Sharp’s take on the newly formed gallery. Through the years the McAfee/Turner White Horse Studio was open to the public. McAfee also exhibited at the Sagebrush Hotel and at the Taos Blue Door Gallery.

Snowy Peak woodcut by McAfee

“Snowy Peak” 

Snowy peak lifting high
   Is white-bright, a point of light,
Symbol of uplift in the sky.

Better aims of man to guide,
   Pointing his way to strive
The spirit of wisdom at his side.

Great snowy peak
   Pointing up to high ideals
White purity you silently speak.

Ila McAfee “Indians, Horses, Hills, etc.” 1982

The influence of the poet T.S. Eliot is evident here particularly “Ash Wednesday” 1930.

An Advertisement for White Horse Studio

Ila McAfee is one of the many women artists who found her place and inspiration in Taos, a place which allowed her (and others) to flourish as an artist. She was one of the best trained artists to arrive in Taos. This untitled work of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains covered in snow stands among some of the best painters of the time period. Whether compared to the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe’s love of her pedernal, the fresh eye and spirit of Arthur Dove, or the hauntingly beautiful New Mexico landscape paintings of Marsden Hartley, this painting is a jewel among its peers.

A drawn Map of Taos by Ila McAfee

Two Graces Plaza Gallery has from time to time had paintings by Ila McAfee available, please check with us of what is currently in stock. The Snow Covered Mountains painting has found a loving home that looks out onto the Taos landscape.