Building Partnerships: visiting the Doel Reed Center for the Arts in Taos, New Mexico

At the end of last week I was in Taos, New Mexico—home of the Doel Reed Center for the Visual Arts—for an art history conference. And although I had attended the conference several times before, I’d never visited the Doel Reed Center, which is actually located a few miles south of Taos in a small town called Talpa.

Ed Walkiewicz, professor emeritus and director of the Doel Reed Center for the Arts, welcomed me to the property and gave me a generous tour.

The Doel Reed Center for the Arts is located on the estate of Martha Reed, Doel’s daughter. Martha lived with her father on the estate until he passed away in 1985; she continued to live there for the rest of her life.

This switch plate in the main house reminds me that when Martha was alive, she had over thirty cats in her orbit—and she often left the door open so that they could come and go.

The decision to leave the Reed property—which retained Doel’s printmaking studio as he left it, as well as several other buildings—to OSU was the beginning of a project that already includes artists in residence and summer courses for students and community members.

When renovations are complete, landscaping will transform the packed-dirt driveway into a pedestrian area connecting the property’s buildings with each other and the spectacular mountain vistas that surround them.

There are several existing connections between the DRCA and the OSU Museum of Art. For example, over the course of the DRCA’s existence, several donors have given works by Reed to the project. Those works are part of the Doel Reed Center for the Arts Collection, but are housed, catalogued, researched, and made available to students by the OSUMA. Like many of our partnerships, it is a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties: we get to include DRCA Collection works in the programming we create for the university, and they are guaranteed safe and appropriate care for the works in the collection.

Doel Reed, “Elements of the Past,” 1950. Etching and aquatint, Doel Reed Center for the Arts Collection, OSU Museum of Art.

Martha Reed passed away in 2010, and the property came into OSU’s possession. Many plans that had been on hold during Martha’s lifetime sprung into action: major renovations were necessary on some of the buildings; the substantial art collection had to be assessed; and decisions had to be made about how best to use Reed’s studio.

One discovery was that run-off water from seasonal rains had degraded the foundation of this building. Pylons were put in to return long-term structural support to the walls. This building may house visiting scholars or faculty when the renovations are complete.

The property is charming: smaller than it looks in many of the publicity photographs, it was immediately deeply appealing to me as a destination for scholarly exchange and exploration.

The floors inside the building Martha lived in are being replaced—but even without them, the fireplaces and snug stucco conjure images of intense seminar discussions and late-night conversations. Plans for the interior include flexible furniture that can be used for classwork and informal events.

My visit with Ed Walkiewicz, director of the DRCA, was driven by more than curiosity. The DRCA’s on-site art collection has been moved into storage during the renovations, and there are questions about what will happen to it next. Martha Reed, a well-known fashion designer, left a major collection of her designs in addition to the paintings, prints and drawings left by her father. The available options in Taos are not ideal for long-term storage of the entire collection, so I was there to see how the OSUMA could help out.

A work space in Reed’s printmaking studio.

And then there’s the studio. Last spring, Art Department faculty members Chris Ramsay (then department head) and Mark Sisson (professor of printmaking) visited the property and determined that Reed’s studio could house a working printmaking studio in addition to preserving the historic studio. This plan has obvious appeal to printmakers—but it is also a fascinating opportunity for students interested in museums, historic properties, and living history to participate in the design and interpretation of the space.

All the buildings are brightly colored in pinks and turquoises, with local details like the hand-blown glass lamps and hand-carved doors. This is the door to Reed’s studio.

We didn’t decide anything on the spot—I was too busy being charmed by the intimacy and potential of the property to delve into details of policy!—but I am looking forward more than ever to a fruitful and mutually rewarding relationship between the Doel Reed Center and the OSU Museum of Art.

To learn more about the Doel Reed Center for the Arts, watch the video—or visit their website!

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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One Response to Building Partnerships: visiting the Doel Reed Center for the Arts in Taos, New Mexico

  1. Janette Dickerson says:

    I am a former student of Mr. Reeds’ and would visit him and Mrs. Reed when in Taos. He would walk across the yard with my children and pick up pottery shards for them. He would show us his latest work in the studio and since it was a former goat shed, on humid days the smell would confirm its former use. I am so glad OSU is making use of the property and plan to visit next time I am in the area.

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