When American artist and curator Sara Eyestone first came to La Posada, she was just a small child with her grandmother in the late 1950’s, peering upward to take in the work of famous artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and Will Shuster gracing the hotel’s walls. At that time, local and traveling artists were welcomed to the grounds at a discounted rate and painted on site. Tourists attended creative classes and prestigious collectors knew that the hotel was synonymous with the finest purchases available on the market. The program fell by the wayside over the years as La Posada grew and changed hands several times. Given her history, it only makes sense that two years ago Eyestone was hired as art curator for the establishment (and the only hotel curator in all of New Mexico) and dedicated her vision to reinstating La Posada’s sense of art community support to honor its colorful past, the glory days of the 1940’s and 50’s.
Within La Posada’s hallways, lobbies, restaurants, and bar, Eyestone features original, American art by living artists only. Currently showing 45 artists such as Bruce Clovis Smith and Nancy B. Frank, who casually stops by to deliver a new painting while I’m chatting with Eyestone. She also boasts over 400 on the waiting list as so many are eager to show at the historic site. While the hotel takes a small commission, selling this work at its studio rate is a far cry from the galleries nearby which double and triple the cost. A long-time artist and showing in La Posada herself, Eyestone should know. “The way to support the arts is to support the artist,” she confides, one hand emphatically tapping the arm of her chair in the lobby during our interview. She began the current collection by hanging the work of 20 artists and re-arranging them carefully as they sell. These days, she easily keeps busy hanging and re-hanging as items sell, often to newlyweds who marry at La Posada and want to begin collecting as husband and wife, taking home an original piece of art from the location of their ceremony. Artists have a two year contract with the hotel that they can renew but their work must remain exclusive to La Posada. You won’t find any of the same artists in any of Santa Fe’s myriad of galleries off the plaza nearby.
You need not be an esteemed artist to enjoy Eyestone’s gracious company. She offers various classes to the community at large. Every Thursday from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., she hosts memoir writing classes, asking attendants read The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast, compelling them to think imaginatively as writers, often for the first time. She also imparts her own knowledge of oil painting in a two hour class for a minimal fee. “It’s the cliff notes of oil painting,” she says with a smile. “I demonstrate how to thin and thicken paint, what each tool does, and encourage people to paint an apple.” Eyestone’s eyes flicker with enjoyment as she retells the memory of a particular class—a father and daughter vacationing together. The father was especially satisfied with his apple painting, bragging loudly until he saw his daughter’s still life, far superior, at which point he declared he would keep his day job. Other art events on-site include art history tours and chef-hosted afternoon receptions with the artists.
During our tour, Eyestone exchanges pleasantries with everyone we pass. She is widely known and everyone we encounter is happy to see her. She keeps reiterating to me that she dreams of recapturing La Posada as the art destination it once was. Having gathered and displayed some of the best American art of this century with incredible passion and warmth while never sacrificing approachability or easy conversation, I can’t help but wonder if she knows that she already has.