ARTFeast Cleanses all Palates

"Sure, the glamour of a gallery showing with fine cuisine seems gaudy to some, but for these folks it was a well-deserved pat on the back for their efforts with an added bonus of keeping the arts alive and well-funded for future generations."

Whole Hog Cafe's spread at Zaplin-Lambert Gallery tantalized the visual and culinary palettes. All photos by Michelle Rutt.

ARTFeast, now in its 16th year, is a weekend-long event that displays various restaurants/catering companies, distinguished homes, and national and/or locally recognizable artists. The Feb. 22 Canyon Road event was a tour of the street’s best art galleries, inside of which the city’s top restaurants displayed samples of their food.

As the sun began to set on Canyon Road, lurkers from just outside Santa Fe crept from their warm and humble abodes to scour the streets in search of the finest art and cuisine the city had to offer. Depraved souls they must be, smiling and casually strolling the infamous gallery-studded street, taking in the rich culture of the city and its surrounding. Actually, these people were far from what I’m trying to gravely depict. In fact, they were all incredibly welcoming and warm in nature.

The first stop was Arroyo. With cups of fresh water available upon entry, the theme was beginning to become rather apparent: water. Artist Scott MacLaren, whose work was displayed in the front of the gallery, took pictures with a tungsten filter, on a very simple-looking camera, to result in his blue-tinted photographs of the white sands and gorgeous mountains of New Mexico. Across from MacLaren’s set-up was Arroyo’s food selection. In response to the adage, “You shouldn’t eat your dessert first,” the gallery served a wonderful white cake with blue and white icing. Washing this down with the fresh water from outside as we left, I was starting to take notice of how hungry I still was, but also how many galleries were still left...

Next up was the Frank Howell Gallery. Upon entering, we were greeted with the utmost sincerity and even shared some laughs with the gallery administrator, Julie Malcolm. Her partner, whose name I did not inquire further about, jokingly stated that he would like to be referred to as “deep throat.”

The gallery itself was filled with expensive bronze sculptures, ranging anywhere from $2-$12,000. The food was provided by La Posada. Pulled pork sandwiches on a soft bun made me temporarily forget I wasn’t in the neighborhood barbecue joint. Too much time had already been used up at this point, reminiscing with excited visitors and the excited gallery staff, so we had to move on.

Just beside the Frank Howell exhibit, the Charles Azbell Gallery could be sensed from a mile away. Like many of the galleries to come, the Azbell was small, but homely. With the smell and warmth of burning wood in the fireplace and the delightful aroma of glazed shrimp courtesy of Del Charro, I was definitely beginning to get an idea of this area. “Best of ArtFeast,” said one of the passing onlookers as I addressed myself to the gallery’s director, Vivian Love, who says her participation in the event is “all for the kids.” (Proceeds from ARTFeast benefit art programs in Santa Fe’s public schools.)

The crowds roaming the street began to get thicker as we headed towards the nearing mariachi music. Expecting a jukebox outside of Canyon Road Contemporary, I was instead greeted by a Mr. Javier Jurado, playing traditional Mexican music in full mariachi regalia.

“He’s been with us for years,” says Nancy Leeson, CRC’s owner. Leeson says that the combination of fitting music and good food are essential to taking in all of the artwork. “We want to cleanse all palates,” she says.

The food to which Leeson referred was another variation of Mexican seafood, provided by Costa Azul. Though it was not as intricate as the Azbell rendition of shrimp, the traditional  dish served on a tortilla chip perfectly complemented the gallery’s theme.

Moving on to the Wiford Gallery next door, the sun was almost set but since the gallery’s walkway was lined with luminarias, we easily found our way inside. As it just so happened, Luminaria Restaurant—located in The Inn and Spa at Loretto—supplied the food for Wiford. Santa Feans may recognize the name from Food Network’s show, Sugar Dome, in which they competed.

Scallop ceviche prepared by Luminaria at the Inn and Spa at Loretto was served at Wiford Gallery.

It was no surprise then that Luminaria’s food was absolutely on point. Scallops Ceviche were at the first booth while the other hosted Caramel Apple Truffles served with a choice of white or red wine. The gallery itself was fairly small, but packed with hungry onlookers. At this point, I couldn’t help but question whether these people were here for the art or the food. Whatever the reason, I think they could honestly care less. Besides, who needs their arm twisted to spend a night on Canyon Road with the city’s best food?

Before making our way to the Gaugy Gallery, we were warned about its size, almost as if to say, “Don’t miss anything.” After touring around a bit and listening to the wonderful live piano/vocals of Charles Tichenor, we came across the Peas ‘N’ Pod catering company’s contribution. A thick smoked potato bisque, cooked with smoked mushrooms, complemented by apple cider vinegar and accompanied by a roasted garlic Crustini with a Ricotta spread, made me go back for seconds. After sharing some laughs with the head chefs and enjoying the delightful piano, we kept steady and headed to the next venture.

Peas 'N' Pod catering served up smoked portabella mushroom soup at Gaugy Gallery.

At the Sage Creek gallery, I was reminded how gluttonous I had been on this night by the plump bronze pig outside the entrance. Inside we ate some pizza from Pizzeria da Lino and washed it down with some sparkling water to prepare for the rest of this journey. The art was becoming hard to focus on, but became beautiful background for my glazed state.

Across the street at the Waxlander, Phyllis Kapp was dressed in full Mardi Gras attire to adhere to their theme. After graciously placing beads over my shoulders (I assure you I didn’t do anything shameful for this), she explained that Waxlander’s participation is strictly for keeping the arts in schools and less about publicity for the artwork.

I decided to take a rest in the Darnell Fine Art Gallery and snag some interviews. There I talked with Jim Brisendine, who was doing the exact same thing. “I need to let this food settle,” Brisendine said with a laugh. When asked why he was visiting ArtFeast he explained that his daughter had been doing some work for the Garson Theater at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design and figured she would appreciate the atmosphere. He also gave some excellent tips of the food to come.

“The lamb at La Fonda is incredible,” Brisendine said. While he wasn’t sure which gallery held said lamb, I was feeling bittersweet about this suggestion. Lamb is a personal favorite, but my stomach was filled to the brim. However, being the noble journalist, I carried on with my quest.

Next up was NuArt Gallery. Filled with contemporary pieces, here the food was scarce as the vultures from before had apparently torn it to shreds. No matter, though, as something else grabbed my attention: fellow SFUAD films students displaying their work. One room hosted projected animations while the other I could only see the flashing of strobe lights. Like a moth to a bug zapper, I hurried into the next room. Ana Laura H. Aguilar, had built an incredible live animation via a vinyl record player that spun a scene of hummingbirds and dancing trees when turned on, accompanied by the strobe light. The bird appeared to be moving and flapping its wings though it was actually comprised of many “frames.”

Santa Fe University of Art and Design student Anna Hernandez displayed her strobe animation.

Tamara Bryan of SFUAD’s Film School said that the department’s participation with NuArt began last year.

“We want people to see film as art again...You know, get it out of the theater and into an artistic setting.” Bryan explained.

After wandering around for a bit, helplessly in search of the lamb I had been so desperately looking for, coming across a whole pig via Whole Hog Cafe (Zaplin Lampert Gallery) and even salmon topped pizza (Rooftop Pizzeria at Giacobbe Frittz Fine Art), I had finally found it! The Jane Sauer Gallery was hosting this delicious lamb via La Plazuela at La Fonda and it was all I could have asked for. While I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable on an empty stomach, it was one of those meals for which you would have sacrificed the contents of your stomach.

With a full stomach and my senses filled with art and music, we were thinking about turning back. Then, I saw a DJ, equipped with a projection of some cool visuals and an urban look about him. Spinning electronic music, the person manning the turntables seemed incredibly pleased to be there. We were at the Beals & Abbate Fine Art. In addition to the urban music, the artwork consisted of ink renderings, a style I had never seen before. The rendering were colorful but had an electric feel about them. Though they were too pricey for my pocket book, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would look like in my dorm room.

A DJ with projection art drew in the crowds at Beals and Abbate Fine Art Gallery.

While we didn’t visit every gallery on the road, I got the feeling that the people involved in this event were truly there for the funding of arts programs in schools. It was also evident that as the majority of the galleries themselves had a warm, homey feeling, with scattered papers at a desk in the corner office with easels and crusty paintbrushes, they gave the impression that these artists spent a great deal of time in these places; for them it truly was about a love for the arts. Sure, the glamour of a gallery showing with fine cuisine seems gaudy to some, but for these folks it was a well-deserved pat on the back for their efforts with an added bonus of keeping the arts alive and well-funded for future generations.