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Southwestern artistic hues

Courtesy Laredo CVB

There must be something in the mountain air that makes the colors of the Southwest come to life.

From Nevada to Texas, destinations throughout the Southwest are known for their arts communities. The creative culture of the region dates back hundreds of years to the artwork of the Native Americans who first lived in the area.

And like those early inhabitants, today’s artists still find inspiration in the mountains, deserts, valleys and rivers that make up this beautiful region of the country.

On a tour of the Southwest, groups can find artwork in a wide variety of places. Santa Fe, N.M., and Sedona, Ariz., have built reputations on their thriving arts communities.

And other cities, such as Reno, Nev., and Laredo, Texas, have plenty of arts attractions for visitors as well.

Laredo, Texas
Travelers can explore the soul of Laredo during visits to several arts institutions around this south Texas border town. The best place to start is the Laredo Center for the Arts.

“The Laredo Center for the Arts has great galleries,” said Joel Vazquez, tourism sales manager for the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They set it up with all kinds of work by local artists.”

Four exhibit galleries at the Laredo Center for the Arts offer rotating exhibitions of artwork in all manner of media. Two of the galleries focus specifically on the work of Laredo artists.

Groups can arrange for docent-led gallery tours that include discussions of the elements of art, the principles of design and artist biographies. Hands-on art activities are also available.

There’s more art to discover at the Texas A&M University Art Galleries. This museum features a collection of American paintings, drawings and photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection places a strong emphasis on Texas art.

Visitors can find art at other shops and galleries around Laredo, such as 201 Galleria, which displays work by both local and international artists. October brings an event called Rio Fest, which features an outdoor painting competition on the Rio Grande.

Sedona, Ariz.
Many visitors go to Sedona for the incredible red rock formations and then fall in love with the town’s art community while they are there. Much of the art is influenced by the area’s Native American heritage.

“The art scene in Sedona stems from the Native American art on the Indian reservations close by,” said Kegn Hall, public relations manager for the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. “Artists come up from the reservations on a daily basis. They bring rugs, pottery and jewelry, and it’s all handcrafted.”

The art heart of Sedona is found in Tlaquepaque, a traditional Mexican-style village near the center of the city. This development features 30 art galleries and stores, along with four restaurants.

Visitors will enjoy the adobe buildings and cobblestone streets, and appreciate the art in the complex’s fountains and public sculptures.

Tlaquepaque visitors will find a number of vendors who specialize in sculpture, as well as photography of the rugged Arizona wilderness. Traditional jewelry is also a big seller.

“Jewelry here is really indigenous,” Hall said. “They use a lot of rocks from here in Sedona and copper from an old mining town about 40 minutes away from here. Copper is really prevalent in Sedona, so a lot of stuff at Tlaquepaque is made from beautiful deep copper inlaid with stone.”

Groups can also explore the shops on Sedona’s Gallery Row or attend major arts events that take place in town in early May. All year round, the Sedona Visual Arts Coalition offers private tours of local artists’ studios for visitors.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.