Museum of Spanish Colonial Art Changes Name

So long, MOSCA—hello Nuevo Mexicano Heritage Arts Museum

It’s official—after 22 years in a gorgeous house designed by John Gaw Meem near Museum Hill, the institution formerly known as the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art shall henceforth be known as the Nuevo Mexicano Heritage Arts Museum.

The name change follows survey results conducted and implemented by consultant Mark D. Bennet of the firm Uniting By Design and Audrey Rubinstein of Santa Fe’s Metta Agency. That survey pulled from a mix of museum members, donors, Spanish Market Artists and various other Santa Feans.

“This is actually part of strategic planning we adopted in 2021,” says the museum’s Executive Director Jennifer Berkley, who started with the organization in 2020. “It was about finding the right name so we can better communicate with our constituents.”

According to Berkley, the term “colonial” often tripped up guests. Some would arrive expecting art solely from the late-1500s and early 1600s, while others assumed it was perhaps an armory of some sort. Some also assumed every last piece in the collection would be from a Spanish artist.

Even the term “colonial” can be difficult to unpack, particularly in Santa Fe where many decry the tri-cultural myth that states Indigenous, Spanish and anglo folks all gather in perfect harmony. The Land Back movement has, of course, gained some steam here—the site of the Plaza obelisk, for example, is still a box obscuring the one-time monument’s remains.

“We are sensitive to that for sure,” Berkeley says, “and it certainly has come up over the years. But I would say the name change really is simply a better reflection of our collection and we hope we’ll attract more visitors to this museum that I think is really the only one of its kind in New Mexico.”

The Nuevo Mexicano Heritage Arts Museum often shows works by contemporary and living artists—not to mention non-Spanish artists—alongside its more historical pieces. In a nutshell, the new name is meant to rep the New Mexico arts world more wholly.

“I think it definitely reflects more of what we’re trying to do here,” the museum’s curator Jana Gottshalk says. “The conversations I’ve had with people have been that they don’t know what to expect from our former name, and it was hard to host contemporary shows with that name.”

However, Gottshalk proved the community would turn out in droves for shows featuring contemporary and living artists with 2018′s Gen Next: Future So Bright, a thrilling exhibit that featured artists like Thomas Vigil, Brandon Maldonado, Luis Tapia and others. This week, the museum kicks off Gottshalk’s newest exhibit—The Ugly History of Beautiful Things, featuring artists like Terran Last Gun (Piikani), Patrick McGrath Muñiz, Daisy Quezada Ureña, Vicente Telles and more.

“I’ve often said of New Mexican art that it’s hard to talk about it without historic context,” Gottshalk tells SFR. “That’s true of a lot of art, but this exhibit is about exploring the often complex stories behind something that is beautiful to look at—that it doesn’t just mean a beautiful piece of art, it’s about how the art was treated, how the people making the art were treated.”

Gottshalk says she culled language for the exhibit from museum constituents as well as her own expertise, and the information included in the show will delve into each work’s backstory as much as possible.

“I also used the exhibit as an excuse to pull out some things from the collection that wouldn’t otherwise be shown,” she adds, “including a pink matador costume—right down to its pink socks.”

The Nuevo Mexicano Heritage Museum’s collection itself remains at the forefront of Berkley and Gottshalk’s current plans.

“With COVID, collecting and purchasing and gifts have all kind of slowed down,” Gottshalk explains. “There definitely needs to be an emphasis right now on collecting contemporary work. We need to make sure we’re keeping up-to-date with what artists are doing right now, which is not to say we won’t continue to collect works of historic significance.”

After all, Berkley says, the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, which oversees the Nuevo Mexicano Heritage Arts Museum, turns 100 next year.

“The exhibit about that next year will be about 100 years of collecting,” Berkley says. “It’s going to tell the story of our century. It’s important that we honor and respect the legacy of our founders and everyone who has been involved with the Society for the last 100 years.”

The Ugly History of Beautiful Things Opening Reception: 5-6:30 pm Friday, May 10. Free. Nuevo Mexicano Heritage Museum, 750 Camino Lejo, (505) 982-2226,

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