The Tale about An Intellectual who Brought a Lot of Money to a Desert

Once upon a time there was an artist. It was she and not he as you might think at first. She was very talented, dedicated and brave. She also was very lucky. And she was lucky simply because she was discovered by a famous artists promoter. His name was Stieglitz and he lived in New York. His art gallery “291” was the hottest spot for the young artists and he was a famous photographer and an intellectual. He cared very much about where American Modernism was heading. He could not imagine his life, God forbid, in a modernist-less world. He considered New York to be not cultured after living in Germany for many years and he had never been to the wilderness of the Southwest. Yes, you guessed correctly, he was a little out of touch with the life of working America; he could care less about anything that had nothing to do with his small, but very beautiful on the inside, intellectual bubble. Georgia and Stieglitz fell madly in love with each other, got married and lived happily ever after, at least for a while…

One day, she and a group of her friends traveled to Santa Fe is search of her muse and it was love at first sight! She fell in love with its mountains, its valleys and with the color of its sky. To make a long story short, she decided to buy a house in Abiquiu and spend as much time as possible there. She lived in a little house with two dogs and was painting all day long. Guess what? Her intellectual husband Stieglitz who was missing her terribly in cold and gray New York was showing her work of warm enchanted lands in his gallery and the beauty of nature and her modernists’ style awed a lot of people and they started to buy her paintings for a lot of money. She showed to the intellectual world Indian Pueblos and majestic mountains made out of a hundred shades of the red clay. And one day, Georgia became famous! More intellectuals started to visit her in New Mexico and loved it as much as she did. By now you have probably figured out that it was Georgia O’Keefe.

Robert and I visited Santa Fe and of course, embarked on the homage to Georgia’s house this summer. New Mexico is truly a land of contrasts. Abiquiu is located about 40 miles north of Santa Fe. A scenic drive up Interstate 45 took us through majestic landscapes coexisting with quite disturbing poverty. Half way to the middle of nowhere we lost all connections with the civilization – the signal on our cell phones. After about 30 minutes in a car we arrived to Abiquiu Inn, a small charming hotel located in the middle of nowhere where it is quiet and beautiful. Georgia’s house, still in the middle of nowhere, is filled with priceless intellectual properties from Stieglitz’s archives, modernists’ furniture gifted to her by the designers themselves… and I mean things like Eames’s famous chair. Modernism is my very favorite art period and it was weird to see all of that in the house facing the most austere wilderness, the million dollars view from her studio window.

Here comes the money part: New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the US and despite that Santa Fe is an oasis of culture like you would not believe! And as we well know, where there is culture, there is money. If you suddenly feel the urge to buy a masterpiece and drop some serious money, where do you go? Believe it or not, you are not going to New York or Los Angeles–you go to Santa Fe.  There are 250 world-class art galleries in a town of the size of Victoria, Texas. If you miss World Class Opera in the middle of the hot summer, where do you go? Yes, you guessed correctly, you go to Santa Fe once again. If you are a serious foodie and need to feast your taste buds on French, Southwest, Italian, Japanese and many, many, many, more cousins. Where do you go? You go to Santa Fe. Guess who just started wineries? Guess who can afford a high-end Chamber Music Festival? Guess where you can see various shows on any given night?

There are many music and art lovers living in San Antonio and at least once a year many of us fly to Santa Fe to see the opera, to stroll along the Canyon street with its 250 galleries and to check out new restaurants. Now multiply this modest number of us to as many cities as possible in the US and you will get the general bulk of a cultural tourism. Some of these tourists fall in love with the place from the first sight, just like Georgia did and they buy houses there. They buy houses first and then they start supporting an opera and other cultural and educational endeavors. With time this support a little by little snowballs into a very prosperous cultural oasis in the middle of the desert in one of the poorest states in the country. Quality of art defines quality of life and as we know well life is short so we better enjoy it while we can. People choose to live closer to the greatness of human civilization that the art is.

This is a tale of how intellectual comes to the desert in the middle of nowhere and makes it rich. And the lesson of this tale is – Art touches everyone in a profound way and brings prosperity where it is rooted.  And now, my dear curious children, it is time to bed. Do not let the bedbugs bite.

Read about Santa Fe’s Art District

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