Taste the Rainbow

Summer of Color promises a jam-packed season of fine art, food and fun

Sometimes, good ideas start not with careful contemplation, but with a dose of sweet epiphany. Such was the case with the Summer of Color, a seasonlong collaborative exhibition-palooza spearheaded by the Museum Hill Partners, which include the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and the International Folk Art Market.

During the Summer of Color (Memorial Day through Labor Day), which received an official proclamation by Mayor Javier Gonzales in February, each cultural institution adopts a specific color to be featured in its exhibitions and programming. The idea was initially sparked, says Steve Cantrell, public relations manager for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, by a walkthrough of the Turquoise, Water, Sky: The Stone and Its Meaning exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. "We realized that, by happenstance, the Museum of International Folk Art would be hosting a red-themed exhibition," Cantrell says, "and the color theme just spiraled outward from there."

What started as a seasonal marketing strategy for the Museum Hill Partnership soon became a much larger undertaking. Downtown institutions, including the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the Santa Fe Children's Museum, climbed aboard, as did the outlying living history museum El Rancho de las Golondrinas. "The Santa Fe Gallery Association caught wind of the idea," Cantrell points out, "and before we knew it, we had more than 50 galleries that wanted to be involved. Then came restaurants with colorful menus and cocktails, and hotels with special Summer of Color packages."

It's been a long time since Santa Fe has seen a summertime collaboration of this scope, the last one being 2004's Russian Summer, which found city and state officials and Santa Fe businesses joining forces for an exploration of Russian art and performance. Summer of Color promises to be more organized and more fluid in its purpose and execution, perhaps because there was some extra funding to help pull it off. With a $30,000 event-sponsorship matching grant from the New Mexico Tourism Department (each cultural institution on Museum Hill pitched in to make the match), organizers realized that the opportunity was ripe for wider participation.

Museum Hill is offering a multitude of exhibitions and events throughout the summer that are color-coordinated in some way. Besides the ongoing Turquoise, Water, Sky exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (710 Camino Lejo, 476-1250), which is on view through May 6, 2016, visitors can take in the exhibition The Red that Colored the World (through Sept. 13) at the Museum of International Folk Art (706 Camino Lejo, 982-4636). The exhibition celebrates the historical artistic significance of the American cochineal, an insect that produces carminic acid, which is then mixed with certain salts to make crimson-colored carmine dye. At the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (750 Camino Lejo, 982-2226), the color indigo is investigated through the exhibition Blue on Blue: Indigo and Cobalt in New Spain (through April 2016).

Silver is honored at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (704 Camino Lejo, 982-4636) with the June 7 grand opening of the museum's new Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, the institution's first major gallery expansion in its 78-year history and the only center of its kind in the world. The grand opening includes art demonstrations, performances by the Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth Hoop Dancers, storytelling, live music and Native foods. On May 30, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden (725 Camino Lejo, 9103) opens Monarch: Orange Takes Flight, a display of orange-themed container planters strategically placed throughout the garden. Botanical Garden staff and volunteers offer a series of educational programs, including "Monarchs and Milkweed," which teaches people how to attract monarch butterflies to their yards. Monarch remains on view through Sept. 13.

Taking up the color green in the name of "hope, sustainability and preservation" is this year's International Folk Art Market on Museum Hill's Milner Plaza (July 10-12), which brings together more than 150 artists more than 50 countries. Chat with artist vendors, take in an art demonstration, nosh on international cuisine and listen to live music from around the world. And don't miss the market's free community celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on Wednesday, July 8, in conjunction with the St. John's College Music on the Hill concert series.

Downtown, the New Mexico History Museum (113 Lincoln Ave., 476-5200) features a series of educational programming called Adobe Summer, which explores the natural building material that so defines the historical architecture of the state. At the New Mexico Museum of Art (107 W Palace Ave., 5072), the exhibition Colors of the Southwest brings New Mexico's inimitable natural light and color into focus with a selection of paintings, photographs, prints, watercolors and ceramics from the 20th century onward (through Sept. 13). The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson St., 946-1000) adds its splash of color to the mix with the ongoing Georgia O'Keeffe: Line, Color, Composition, a career-spanning exhibition of O'Keeffe's work that delves into her drawing practice, color palette and compositional approach (through Sept. 13). Some activities at the Santa Fe Children's Museum and El Rancho de las Golondrinas tie in with Summer of Color programming, such as A Year of Celebrations #8: Color, a mural-building project at the Children's Museum (June 1-Aug. 23).

The list of Summer of Color participants is staggering, and while there was some talk of creating a tiered event-pass system for it, organizers decided to keep things simple and make it an à la carte affair this time around. Exhibitions are by museum admission, and many other events, such as gallery openings, are free. For a full list of Summer of Color events, participating museums, galleries, restaurants and hotels (and some great cocktail recipes), visit summerofcolorsantafe.org

Palate to Palette
A small sampling of Summer of Color happenings:

Museum Hill Café (710 Camino Lejo, 984-8900). A special five-course prix fixe menu celebrates the Summer of Color and Museum Hill's seasonal palette. The meal includes gazpacho; sweet corn-jalapeño fritters; avocado and shrimp salad; a vegetarian Three Sisters Stew of beans, corn and squash; and a dessert of grape dumplings and ice cream. Wine pairings for each course are also available.

Evoke Contemporary's Monochromatic (550 S Guadalupe St., 995-9902) presents a multimedia group exhibit of work by more than a dozen artists who used a single hue in the studio for this show. (Opening reception: 5-7 pm Friday, May 29, through June 24.)

The Artist's Toolkit: New Mexico Artists at Work. In this unusual exhibit, Matthews Gallery (669 Canyon Road, 992-2882) gives art lovers rare access to treasured Santa Fe art-ifacts from private collections, including Tommy Macaione's paint palette, John McHugh's brushes, Alfred Morang's notes on color and Hilaire Hiler's color wheel. (Opening reception 5-7 pm Friday, June 5, through June 10.)

Glow: Riffs on Beauty Reigns at Turner Carroll Gallery (725 Canyon Road, 986-9800) presents a group show of work inspired by the recent touring museum exhibition Beauty Reigns: A Baroque Sensibility in Recent Painting (June 9-30, opening reception 5-7 pm Friday, June 12).

Celebrating Red. The long-running Flamenco Dinner Show series at El Farol (808 Canyon Road, 983-9912) is colorful enough, but for the Summer of Color, rojo takes center stage along with the restaurant's Spanish cuisine-inspired menu. Reservations for this popular event are a must. (6:30 pm July 9-Aug. 23, call for show dates.)

Here Comes the Storyteller. Joe Hayes, Santa Fe's favorite storyteller, brings his talent to the Wheelwright Museum (704 Camino Lejo, 982-4636) for a fun fête of Southwestern lore. This is one the kids can definitely enjoy. (July 25-Aug. 16, weather permitting, call museum for times.)

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