Holiday Glow

If you’re looking for some Holiday adventures this month, two luminous and art-influenced spots to visit are Glow: A Winter Lights Event at Santa Fe’s Botanical Garden, running Dec. 4-Jan. 3 on Thursdays-Saturdays 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays 5-9 p.m., and the twinkle-lit open house events at Madrid, an artist’s destination on Turquoise Trail National Scenic Highway.

One of the many light displays at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden's Glow

One of the many light displays at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden’s Glow. Photo by Charlotte Martinez.

On opening night, Dec. 4, Public Relations Director Fran Cole admires that along with the hundreds of holiday light fixtures illuminating Santa Fe’s Botanical Garden, the nearly full moon adds its own ambiance. “Did we order that or what!?” she says.

For the month of December, Cole shares that the 1,350-acres of Ortiz Mountains are host to the lighting designs of Joe Dean, whose company Lumenscapes spent over two months planning and installed hexagonal domes and dazzling light projections along paths and courtyards of the gardens.

“I came out and did my own aerial photography,” Dean says, “and I worked on a layout to figure out how to make this place glow.”

Dean’s first dome, upon entering the site, is most important for it is reserved for Santa Clause himself, who sits among gifts and a Christmas tree, with kids already on his lap. Next stop, the hot chocolate dome. Buy one and get free refills for the rest of the night! Once Santa and the hot cocoa is taken care of, the garden’s circular trails welcome families to warm up by courtyard fires, sit on benches while listening to Christmas or reggae music, or walk through the many moving light fixtures that end by the beautiful red bridge overlook.

Visitor to Santa Fe Botanical Gardens Jeanette Martinez poses with Santa

Santa Fe Botanical Garden visitor Jeanette Martinez poses with Santa Clause! Photo by Charlotte Martinez.

Along with Glow installations, the garden is also hosting the site specific sculpture show “Morphic Nature,” created by SFUAD’s own students as well as students from the Institute of American Indian Arts. The site pieces, interspersed among the garden’s circular art trail, range from carved logs to shaped branches and were made entirely from the garden’s recovered plant material. Director Cole explains that because the sites are “clearing out for the next phase of Botanical Garden,” she was glad that the extra twigs, branches, leaves, etc. were used in a creative capacity.

Cole adds that students from SFUAD will be free to the site during regular business hours, Thursday- Sunday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., otherwise tickets for Glow nights are $8.

28 miles from Santa Fe’s Botanical Garden, the town of Madrid is also glowing beneath the full moon with its spectacular twinkle lights and shop lights. From the sky, the town might look like a gathering of fireflies in the middle of a dark desert.

The story of Madrid is reputably unique. First a mining town from the 1920s to the 1940s, it became a ghost town in the 50s when it shut down. According to Lori Lindsey, owner of Madrid’s famous Mine Shaft Tavern, the town was maintained by a single family until is was revived in the 70s. The “History of Madrid New Mexico” brochure records that the town was sold to “individuals who brought in artists, businesses, tourists, and summer festivals” while retaining the “historic character of the town.”

Have the greatest green chile cheeseburger at Madrid's Mine Shaft Tavern!

Have the greatest green chile cheeseburger at Madrid’s Mine Shaft Tavern. Photo by Charlotte Martinez.

“Nobody’s really from Madrid,” Lindsey says, but “we believe in what we’re doing here.” The business owner addss that instead of being a residential town, Madrid thrives off its commercial reputation, housing artists from all over the world who open shops and galleries for locals and visitors alike.

“Here you find a unique gift you won’t find in Santa Fe,” Lindsey says, sitting in Cowgirl Red, an art vintage store she co-manages on Madrid’s two-lane main street. The shop includes shelves of cowboy boots and spurs while a few doors down, Linda Dunnill’s Heaven Boutique evokes a victorian era vibe, the complete opposite of Lindey’s Western motif. And at the end of the street, you can visit “Maggie’s Diner,” a movie set left by the crew of Wild Hogs in 2007.

In the spirit of Christmas, the unique townspeople of Madrid revive the traditions of the old mining town by hanging up strings of lights along the main street, decorating businesses and homes with a brilliant glow, and preparing for their annual Holiday Parade.

“It’s such a cool experience,” says Kevin Ward, a resident near Madrid who sits at Java Junction, a local coffee shop. Ward shares that once the town was revived, there was an “old timer” who brought the Christmas parade and lighting show back. “And it’s rumored,” Ward adds, “that back in the 30s and 40s…, Walt Disney was here and he supposedly got his inspiration for Small World.”

In addition to the lights, business owner Lindsey adds that the Mine Shaft Tavern has the “best green chile cheeseburgers” and their weekend live musicians include local groups like “Hot Honey,” “Todd the Fox” and a Santa Fe band called “The Jakes.” And if you’ve seen the TV Series “Longmire” and remember the set of the Red Pony, Lindsey adds that her Mine Tavern was the inspiration for that set and that many actors from the show will often visit the Tavern to get the “feel of the Red Pony.”

Of course, the townspeople must be credited for the originality that is Madrid today. Shelly Johnson, marketing director of the art space Studio 14, for example, shares that “there are more dogs in Madrid than people” and hands out a bumper sticker that reads “What Would Seppie Do?” Who is Seppie? It’s Johnson’s elderly dog, who was dressed up, along with her owner, for Madrid’s Christmas Parade.

The "Chicks with Chainsaws" music group poses in Studio 14 gallary

The Chicks with Chainsaws music group poses in Studio 14 gallery in Madrid. Photo by Charlotte Martinez.

Johnson, along with a fellow artist and musician Lori Swartz who keeps her company for the evening, shares that in addition to being artists of the studio’s winter gallery, they are two of the three Chicks With Chainsaws members, a music trio whose music plays on Madrid’s radio station KMRD 96.9 FM.

“We keep it interesting around here,” Johnson says before heading to the Mine Shaft Tavern with her fellow chainsaw chicks for a drink. “We live a vacation.”

Studio 14 gallery, displaying work from 20 local artists, is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.