In Times Square

Tom Schultz

Getting a little cultureI’m not a big follower of some forms of culture, but do enjoy a little bit occasionally, and it does depend on the kind of “culture” we’re talking about.

So, with that preface, shortly after the Riverfest celebration concluded, we took off on a long discussed trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the immediate area including Taos.

I was caught up with the beautiful scenery that’s found in the west and New Mexico in particular. It is a different landscape, to be sure, but the ever changing scenes are fantastic.

We were not disappointed as we were kept busy throughout the week in New Mexico, and a fair amount of the attractions were full of culture and also quite interesting.

I’ll touch on a couple of them briefly today and I’m sure many of our readers will say “been there, done that,” but maybe some memories will be brought to the forefront or some may be inspired to take a similar trip.

One stop we had talked about for quite a while was getting tickets to the Santa Fe Opera. Just seeing the opera venue was breathtaking. It’s an open air opera that seats over 2,000 people and is set in the mountains. When sunset arrives the colors are simply incredible.

We enjoyed The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, and the opera was excellent but also truly enhanced by the incredible setting. The Santa Fe Opera is known throughout the country for its high quality shows and the equally important scenery. The setting in the mountains is spectacular. It was well worth the ticket.

Another cultural stop we made in Santa Fe was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. This is a beautiful museum that includes over 700 of her works of art, and they are grouped somewhat chronologically as she matured as one of America’s greatest painters.

I enjoyed the artwork on display (within my limits of art appreciation!) but more than that I was interested in learning a bit more about this woman who is one of our state’s most famous natives.

Georgia O’Keeffe was born on Nov. 15, 1887, just a few miles outside of the city of Sun Prairie. The exact location is 2405 County Highway T, Sun Prairie, and it is at the intersection of Town Hall Drive and T in Dane County.

People from Watertown often take Highway T as a “back road” and a change in scenery when traveling to Madison. The house at that location is no longer standing, having been burned down a half a century ago.

Shortly after the turn of the century, Georgia O’Keeffe left Wisconsin and moved to the East Coast, where she started formally studying art and by the 1920s she was considered one of the world’s greatest painters.

In 1949, she moved to New Mexico and it was through that transition that the museum became located in Santa Fe years later.

Georgia O’Keeffe was always proud of her beginnings in Sun Prairie, but things got a little messy by the 1970s when Sun Prairie officials wanted to name at park after her. They also asked her to appear in the Sun Prairie bicentennial parade, and to donate a painting to the Sun Prairie historical museum.

She said “no” to both requests and that soured the Sun Prairie community, but that was understandable because she was already in her 80s and had failing eyesight. Getting from her rural home in New Mexico to Sun Prairie under those circumstances would have been difficult at best.

In the end, those hard feelings were put in the rearview mirror and today Sun Prairie honors her with a historical marker, exhibits and special events to put a focus on her roots here in Wisconsin.

We enjoyed visiting the museum and seeing the large number of original paintings that were often donated or loaned to the museum, but It was those historical facts, along with her close proximity to Watertown in her early years that made the museum visit more intriguing to me.

Connections to our community and the immediate area are always fascinating.


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