Close to Home: Exploring Mountainair art scene

I was trying to make it seem like the owl was looking out on the road through the plant like a real owl would. Photo by Dustin Barton.

The idea of this travel feature is to go in any direction one hour from Edgewood. We’ve decided to focus on our immediate area before we branch out further.

Mountainair is a small town full of local art, with three galleries open currently. Cibola Arts Gallery, the Manzano Mountain Arts Council Center, and Gypsy Raven. On the day we were there Gypsy Raven was closed.

Like most things in Mountainair, the three galleries are within walking distance from one another. In addition to the galleries, there is art on the sides of the buildings in the form of paintings and mosaics all over town.

The first gallery we went to was MMAC Center. They have a really interesting space and it’s free of charge to go inside. It’s very large, and in addition to a gallery space and a piano in the main room, they also have art studios inside; they offer lectures, concerts, workshops, classes and other art-related activities.

The art exhibit that they currently have hanging features paintings, mostly oil and pastel, punched tin, copper sheet artwork, sculptures, and mosaics. While we were looking around, a man came inside, sat on the stage and started practicing his trumpet. He also played the piano while we were there. He didn’t say any words but he did communicate his passion pretty clearly and it was an absolute treat to hear him.

Dustin was struggling to talk to me over the volume of the horn and it was distracting him from his photography assignment. I told him to try and appreciate the free concert, regardless of the volume.

For me studying art helps improve my work, and is also about appreciation. Like a gorgeous landscape, it takes more than a 3-minute look to really take in the scene. My son hates this about me. He is young, impatient and was not raised in art studios and galleries like I was.

I make him wait, regardless. My homeschooling mom brain is hoping he will appreciate the arts later on in life when he has more patience.

Before we went to the next gallery we decided to check out the gift shop. I noticed that every single piece art in the gallery and all the items in the gift shop had a little label that said all proceeds go to support the arts council. At the MMAC, if you have $10 you can leave with something unique.

The woman running the gallery told me everything in the gallery gift shop used to be treasured by someone and were all donated. Dustin and I both had no trouble finding items we wanted to buy. My birthday is around the corner, so Dustin decided to buy me two gifts with his own money. He helped me choose a stunning silver ring with a carved stone.

We also spotted a puzzle box shaped like a cat and had to get that because our family loves puzzles. We also found a basket of dried lavender sachets and got three of them which we plan to use as tea because we were told the lavender was locally grown the year before. Dustin spent a grand total of $22. At this point, we had spent about an hour in town and spent only $7 of the budget the newspaper provides and that was for gas.

Our next stop was Cibola Arts Galley, also free. It’s a traditional gallery, full to the brim with art. I felt like a kid in a candy store when I walked in. They have so many different types of art in there I would be ill-equipped to describe it all here.

Dustin was really drawn to little handmade journals. They had handmade paper, binding and they were hand-stitched. He also found knives and fountain pens with gorgeous woodwork.

At this point, Dustin was getting hungry so we didn’t spend as much time in there as I would have liked.

We drove around Mountainair looking at the options. I wanted hot coffee and to be able to sit inside. We found ourselves at Jerry’s Ancient City Café.

We decided to give it a go. The service was excellent and the menu was reasonably priced. I had Dustin do some math before we ordered. I told him how many gallons it took to fill my car and how many miles a full tank takes the car. From there, I had him do some simple algebra and calculate how many miles to the gallon the car gets. Then we googled how many miles it is from Edgewood to Mountainair and back. He confirmed my calculation of $7 for gas, round trip and figured out we had $43 left to spend on lunch.

We ordered a large appetizer, two entrees and two drinks, which came in at about $30 with the tip. I was pleased to realize that we came in under our $50 budget this week with ease, spending a grand total of $37.

We had full bellies, Gypsy Raven was closed and I got a call that Tijeras was getting hammered by snow. We decided it would be best to go home.

Mountainair is off of U.S. 60 and connects to N.M. 55, which takes you through Pinta de Agua, Torreón and Tajique, and connects to N.M. 337 through Chilili and Escobosa to Tijeras.

It’s a beautiful drive with the snow-capped Manzano Mountains in view for most of the drive. I always go home that way because of the scenery and that is what we did to get home as well. I would tell anyone that they should drive to Mountainair that way—it’s beautiful all year long.

Do you have suggestions for places close to home we can explore for this feature? Please contact me at news.ind.manager@gmail.com.

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