If you are simply visiting “The City Different,” or you’re a local seeking a new and somewhat unique experience, consider checking out Santa Fe Art Tours.
Owned and operated by Elaine Ritchel, the art gallery and museum walking tours are purposefully conversational, unscripted and highly interactive. That means be prepared to talk about what you are seeing, feeling, and experiencing with a group of happy, curious, art-loving strangers.
Originally from Indiana, Ritchel attended high school and college in Albuquerque and later went to graduate school in Austin, Texas where she received a master’s degree in art history. While in school, she volunteered in museum education at the UNM Art Museum and at Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art.
Following graduate school, Ritchel spent several years living in Croatia where she worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. She developed the museum’s first interactive conversational tour for English speakers and started leading independent tours for expat groups.
Eventually, Ritchel felt the urge to return home to New Mexico. Once back in Santa Fe, she was surprised to learn there were no art tours in the city and decided to remedy the problem. After spending some time getting reacquainted with the local art scene, she launched Santa Fe Art Tours in late 2015.
Regarding her unique approach to museum and art education, Ritchel says, “I love seeing people actively connect with the work on view that often comes through their personal observations…There’s not usually that sort of space to connect with the work personally on a more traditional lecture style tour.”
For Ritchel, the Santa Fe art scene is surprisingly diverse, offering more than just Southwestern art and colorful landscapes. “There’s a little bit of everything. There’s Peters Projects right next to Nedra Matteucci Gallery. So you have this sort of cutting edge contemporary space right next to a more traditional space. And that’s really great for tours. Within just a few steps, I can show people completely different types of art.”
Whether it’s an art and chocolate tour or a guided stroll through downtown Santa Fe, each outing with Ritchel offers a different experience. The most popular tour is the Canyon Road Quickie, a great introduction to the famous art route.
The recently added Farm to Canvas tour, led by local artist Liz Brindley, focuses on the connection between art and the natural world. Brindley, the owner of Prints & Plants, a pop-up printmaking business, takes the group through the Railyard District, stopping at two to three galleries before proceeding through the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. The tour culminates with a hands-on printmaking workshop.
Beginning in July, Ritchel will offer a day trip called the Colors of Chimayo. Ritchel and co-host Angelisa Espinoza of Heritage Inspirations will lead a variety of cultural activities in the charming village, including a visit to the historic Santuario de Chimayo, conversations with various local artists, and a tasting of local chile.
You can schedule a tour online at; santafearttours.com
Tours are offered on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and are limited to groups of eight.