of "New Mexico's Best"There
is no place on Earth quite like Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art.
Yes, there are other folk art museums in the United States, but none as exuberant,
good-humored, and diverse as this.The cornerstone Girard Collection is a real
gem: a fantastic and fanciful array of more than 100,000 objects gathered and
carefully curated for display by Alexander Girard, an architectural designer whose
work took him all over the world.
makes this collection unique, besides its seemingly endless and eclectic variety,
is the way in which Girard-who died in 1993-grouped his objects into a harmonious
whole. He could see beyond the differences in an assortment of dolls and masks,
for example, and find the cross-cultural commonality.
is a showcase for the human spirit, as expressed by untrained artists near and
far. That's one reason Girard insisted that the items not be labeled, so that
they could be experienced with unmitigated awe and wonder. (For those with a need
to know, a printed guide provides detailed descriptions of each piece.)
the Girard Wing, which never changes, other noteworthy sections of the museum
include a comprehensive multi-media display documenting New Mexico's rich Spanish
colonial history, as well as the most diverse textile and costume display anywhere,
which like the Girard collection occupies its own wing. All together, the various
components make MOIFA, as local people call the site, the world's largest folk-art
If You Go:
The Museum of International Folk Art (505-827-6350) is at 707
Camino Lejo, 3 miles east of the Plaza (buses run about every half-hour).
It is part of a three-museum complex that includes the state-owned Museum of
Indian Arts and Culture and the privately owned Wheelwright Museum of the
American Indian. Each is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., except for
Mondays in January and February and on major holidays. There are no restaurants.
There is a $5 admission fee for visitors 16 and older, or a four-day pass to all
four state museums in Santa Fe is available for $10. On Sundays, New Mexico residents
are admitted for $1.
Tip: If your timing is right, folk artists and musicians will be on hand
to show and explain how their traditions are continuing into the 21st
century. You may also see demonstrations of Indian pottery making, weaving, beadwork
or other Native American craftwork at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, just
across the parking lot from the Folk Art Museum. In the opposite direction, the
Wheelwright Museum has similar demonstrations as well as a full-scale, working
reproduction of a reservation trading post.
more information on MOIFA and Santa Fe's other state museums, go the Things
To Do page on Santa Fe Always Online.
Mahler is author of "New Mexico's Best" and several other books. A journalist
and photographer as well, he specializes in travel writing, among other subjects.
He has contributed to National Public Radio since 1973 and to the Los Angeles
Times since 1979. He has written thousands of articles for more than 100 magazines
and newspapers, including The New Mexican, New Mexico magazine, and Santa
Fean magazine. A longtime resident of New Mexico, he lives in Santa Fe.
a full listing of Richard Mahler's books, and to place orders for them, visit
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