Santa Fe, New Mexico, brims with so much fine art — its Canyon Road with 80 galleries, is the most densely concentrated area of art galleries in the world — that it spills over into the town’s hotels.
So most of Santa Fe’s hotels are art galleries in themselves. But one of them — La Posada Santa Fe Resort & Spa — which was always called The Art Hotel of New Mexico, has its own onsite art curator. Sara Eyestone is not the only hotel art curator in the world, but there aren’t many; she is a rare breed, and her talents have enhanced an already luxurious, gallery-like historic facility just a few blocks from the downtown plaza.
Eyestone is a writer and an artist in her own right. She has been painting her happy, brightly colored works professionally for nearly 50 years and has had over 50 one-woman exhibitions in museums, galleries and libraries. For the past 15 years she has painted almost exclusively on commission for private collections and public spaces. No wonder La Posada chose her in 2008 to choose the 600 pieces of art by living American artists to grace its walls, and to decide where in the public spaces, including the spa, each piece will go. With the help of the hotel engineers, she even installs each piece where she thinks it works to best advantage (Everybody has different ideas about what works and what does not work,” she explains. “My goal is to showcase excellent paintings in a creative way that enhances each space. As an artist myself, I was born with an eye for this. I have seen the work of over 3000 American artists. So much of it is terrific, and I often say there is much more talent everywhere than there is wall space.”)
Thursday mornings at La Posada finds Eyestone leading a memoir writing session for guests, and every Friday afternoon she gives a talk in the lobby and an art tour. The artist, an admitted shopaholic, also gives out a list of her 50 favorite places to shop for anything and everything in Santa Fe, if guests are inclined to seek out treasures in this goodie-filled town.
Every piece in what La Posada calls “The Gallery Collection” is for sale at the artists’ studio prices, which means that guests who purchase art from the hotel not only buy at the “Collectors Rate,”a truly wholesale price, but they are invited to return at half the nightly rate ($139 to $1069) and no daily resort fees. Eyestone will arrange for an art lesson if a guest wishes to learn to paint. Collectors come to the hotel throughout the year to be guided in their acquisitions by Eyestone’s talented eye.
She never shows more than one of her own paintings at a time at the hotel “because I have so many artists with so much talent to showcase and so few walls in our public areas,” she says. Besides, she has a waiting list for her own oil paintings. During Santa Fe’s off-season she paints by the fireplaces in the hotel, hoping to have enough in three years for a show in 2018 that will coincide with a book she’ll release around that time.
Eyestone is also an expert on the hotel’s rich history and can talk at length on the beginnings of La Posada, which started in 1882 as a private home for a wealthy Jewish German merchant, Abraham Staab, and his bride Julia. The artist explains why Julia Staab still haunts her old home and in fact is now the subject of a book published this year, “American Ghost,” by Hananah Nordhaus, a great-great granddaughter of Staab’s. Homesick for her German heritage, Julia’s husband had their Santa Fe home built to duplicate her house in the Old World, in French Second Empire style with a Mansard roof. Now forming the core of La Posada Hotel, the home looks nothing like the adobe architecture around it, but in the 1930’s and 40’s, so many artists (including Georgia O’Keeffe) had come for the brilliant Santa Fe light, explains Eyestone, and stayed with the family in the home, that they needed more space, and so they built casitas on the seven-acre property, which now house hotel guests. The lobby of La Posada wraps around the old front steps of the original house, which still contains the Victorian furnishings of the original Staab house, in addition to some of the 600 current paintings, but the casitas are designed in the iconic adobe style that dominates Santa Fe.
Eyestone can talk all day about the fascinating history surrounding La Posada, which name means “Resting Place,” and its original owners, with a writer’s entertaining slant. Throughout the hotel are little plaques with the Eyestone philosophy stated on them:
“Life is short.
Buy the art.
Drink the wine.