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Placitas Studio Tour committee

Placitas Studio Tour organizers: (l. to r.) Andi Callahan, Bunny Bowen, Riha Rothberg, Barry McCormick, Marcia Rackstraw, Wayne Mikosz. Photo credit: Oli Robbins

c. Convergence Studios

“Cupid On A Trampoline,” collaborative painting, by Wayne Mikosz and Riha Rothberg

The Placitas Studio Tour: the spaces behind the art

—Oli Robbins

The Placitas studio tour, now in its fifteenth year, provides the opportunity for visitors to see the spaces, views, and objects that inspire Placitas artists to create. Art is so often seen once it is extracted from the studio, at which point its relationship to its own process and history is censored by curators, critics, and gallerists. Indeed, these honchos of the art world move to elevate the status of a work of art, and often present it as if it is something far removed from both the viewer as well as its original home, the studio. The artwork of many of the artists participating in the tour can be found in fine art galleries and museums, but the tour reminds art enthusiasts that the shaping of art begins in the studio—a place of process, creativity, and inspiration.

Riha Rothberg has played a foundational role in the creation and maintenance of the studio tour since its inception. In 1997, while working on the Placitas Home Tour and noting its popularity, Rothberg—with a little coaxing from Tom Ashe—realized that a studio tour might enjoy equal success. Since the beginning, the tour has not been juried. “That was one of my sticking points,” says Rothberg, “I was determined that this should be inclusive.” Not all artists work full-time at their craft, though, as Rothberg explains, certain artists were “kitchen table artists” their first year and have evolved over the years into successful, full-time artists. The tour has doubled in size; in its first year it included 27 artists, and in recent years has accommodated close to sixty. 

The tour is currently organized by a group of Placitas artists—Rothberg, Wayne Mikosz, Barry McCormick, Bunny Bowen, Marcia Rackstraw and Andi Callahan—all of whom open their studios during the tour weekend. Mikosz has noticed that some guests find it intimidating to “come into an artist’s studio and look at all of these things and not understand a great deal of it.” But, for other visitors, the tour offers a less intimidating art-viewing experience than does a museum or gallery.

Rackstraw finds that “to let people come in and talk to them and make them feel comfortable and at ease in front of art might encourage them to go into a gallery.” Certainly, in the studio, when talking to the artist, you’re one step closer to the art than in a gallery talking to a sales person. Says Rothberg, “That place that artists create in becomes really a part of who they are.”

In many ways, Rothberg is the driving force behind the tour, though she adamantly holds that her co-organizers are integral to the tour’s success. As director of the tour, Rothberg runs meetings, makes and disseminates advertisements, keeps track of deadlines and organizes the applications. She also, with McCormick, familiarizes herself with studio locations and creates directions. McCormick is in charge of the tour signs—once hand-made and now silkscreened—which direct visitors from studio to studio. Each year, due to new artists joining or previous artists dropping the tour, the order of the tour changes. McCormick must divide the map up into sections and write out clear, user-friendly directions.

Mikosz, along with Callahan, takes on the arduous and demanding task of finding new sponsors and renewing previous ones who are willing to donate anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to the tour. Rackstraw, an art director for a publishing company, manages the advertisements and submits them to the printers, while Bowen supports the website. Prior to launching the website, Bowen made the tour brochures and advertising inserts. This year, after realizing that many tour-goers rely on smartphones and iPads for tour information, she reformatted the website design to make it smaller and therefore capable of fitting on such hand-held devices. Callahan, in addition to hosting the yearly kick-off party, wherein artists, spouses and sponsors celebrate the beginning of the tour by gathering together the Thursday prior, maintains the mailing list and sells advertising.  

This year, the studio tour has no starting point, as its comprehensive website provides more than enough information with which visitors may plan their tours. But those who wish to rely on printed maps as they make their way from studio to studio are still encouraged to do so. Maps can be found at all sponsor locations as well as in each artist’s studio.

To ensure that the artists themselves don’t miss out on seeing the newest art produced by members of their community, the organizers of the tour arrange an artists tour the weekend following the studio tour. The artists involved in the tour are welcome to assemble in a group and go visit other artists’ studios.

The collaborative work of co-organizers Rothberg and Mikosz, which can be viewed at Rothberg’s studio, is among the many highlights of the tour. Rothberg and Mikosz started working together in ’95, after showing together at the Santa Fe Contemporary Art Gallery and finding that they shared a similar artistic thought process and color philosophy. At the time, Mikosz was creating color field paintings while Rothberg was focusing on dream imagery and abstracted representations. Over the years, Mikosz has begun to incorporate shapes, while Rothberg has embraced abstraction. Says Mikosz, “we sort of crossed.” They began joining forces by working on the same piece, which they would pass back and forth. Eventually, their method changed. Says Mikosz, “we realized we had enough in common and we should try something at the same time.” Rothberg adds, “We got right into the zone. The process of painting with another artist is faster.”

Rothberg and Mikosz have noticed that painting together helps them unleash their intrinsic creativity faster since, when working with another person, you must detach yourself from your individual ego, preconceived ideas and desires. Says Rothberg, “Together we become one person—it’s like one brain and four hands.” Their only rule is that “there are no precious marks;” they can’t become attached to a direction in which they thought a piece might be headed.

Using rags, hands, brushes and palette knives, the pair creates abstract paintings and mixed media pieces. Says Mikosz, “we don’t use anything in terms of realism, but if we happen onto it (figurative imagery) in the process of painting, we’ll look at it.” They’ll often find faces in their works and will sometimes choose to make such imagery more obvious to the viewer. Still, Mikosz maintains that their work is “heavily abstract.”

Several New Mexico towns put on studio tours, but the Placitas tour is unique in that it does not include commercial operations and is exclusive to the community. Artists who do not live or work in a studio in Placitas are not eligible to be included in the tour. The studio tour reminds the viewer that the studio should not be forgotten, and that it is a space as telling as the work it houses. Held each year over Mother’s Day Weekend, the tour will take place May 12-13, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

c. Vangie Dunmire

Painting nature

—Vangie Dunmire

I have always thought that I would like painting in watercolor even though I was advised to begin with oils or acrylics. My first painting instruction was on a cold January night in a friend’s studio in Gardiner, Montana, where a group of eager students gathered for our first lesson. A number of “still lifes” were arranged around the room, and we settled in our chairs with easels, paint, and brushes. I’ll never forget the excitement of learning to paint a three-dimensional form onto a flat surface.

Many other “firsts” followed at various locations due to job-related moves with my family—drawing and art history courses at Utah State University, Painting and Art History at NMSU-Carlsbad. After collecting all my college credits from the previous thirty years, I qualified for an associate degree at Carlsbad. Finally, in 1958, I entered UNM in the College of Fine Arts studying art history and studio art and earning a BFA degree in 1988. Individual instructors and art classes followed, and I enjoyed them all. Living in Placitas has allowed me to concentrate on painting in my home studio. 

My art reflects the many places that I have lived: National Parks around our country, the Southwest, China, and Europe, and includes landscapes, architecture, flowers, people, and non-representational forms. I have played with many watercolor techniques and materials. No matter what the result, I always enjoy the process.

An artist reception for Vangie Dunmire will be held at the Placitas Library on May 11 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

c. Franes FanningFrances Fanning’s book debut

Meet the author Frances Fanning, writer of the popular “Meet Your Neighbor” column in the Albuquerque Journal. She will be signing copies her newly released novel, “Rhythm of My Heart” on May 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Centennial Kickoff Celebration at Coronado State Monument and also on May 19 from 11:00 to 2:00 p.m. at Under Charlie’s Covers—located on Highway 550 in Bernalillo, next to Walgreen’s.

The novel is a portrait of Maritza, a young Hispanic/Irish woman from northern New Mexico. Her childhood memories, depictions of New Mexico’s unique history and culture, breathtaking scenery, and wry observations of life when she moves East with her Pueblo Indian husband demonstrate that we can find balance in our lives when we listen to the rhythm of our hearts.

The cover art is by Jade Leyva. Copies of the novel will be available for purchase at both events.

Hoekenga authors mysteries

Placitas mystery writer David Hoekenga will be selling and signing his New Mexico mysteries on May 12 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Under Charlie’s Covers bookstore, located at 120 E. Highway 550 next to Walgreens in Bernalillo. Hoekenga is the author of Jemez Hijinks, Placitas Particular, and Santa Fe Solo, all featuring detective Signe Sorenson.

For more information call 404-2097 or visit:

c. Frank Fell

“Balloon Fiesta,” oil painting, by Frank Fell

Frank Fell at Range’s Red Boot

The Red Boot Gallery at the Range Cafe in Bernalillo invites you to an artist’s reception for “The Art of Northern New Mexico” by local oil painter Frank Fell from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on May 4. Frank is a carpenter by trade, but spends his spare time creating colorful paintings, which tell stories of the New Mexico he loves. His paintings depict beautiful landscapes, lazy days of fishing, cherished dogs, and quintessential New Mexico images. Refreshments served and music will be provided by ‘Stop S’il Vous Plait!’ with Juan Wijngaard and Sharon Berman, presenting village music from France, Spain, and other lands on hurdy-gurdy and accordion.

Last event of the PAS’s Silver Anniversary Season

Shirley C. Ericson, Placitas Artist Series

On May 20, the Placitas Artists Series completes its Silver Anniversary Season by presenting the art of L. Heath (Fusionism), Emily Holcomb (jewelry & mixed media), Cheri Reckers (dyes on silk), and Suzanne Visor (painted silk) with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church at 2:00 p.m.

L. Heath (Linda L. Heath) was trained as a mathematician and sociologist, specializing in computerized forecasting. With the next chapter of space exploration being centered here in New Mexico, Heath has been inspired to create a new type of art called “Fusionism” or “Fusionist Art.” It is a perfect blending of her technical background with ancient techniques and ideas.

Emily Holcomb majored in Art Education at the University of Georgia, she taught high school art in Atlanta. Although her original focus was in drawing and painting, she developed a strong interest in fiber-arts and mixed-media about ten years ago. Holcomb has shown her work in a variety of venues including Atlanta, Louisville, Kentucky, and Albuquerque and won several awards.

Cheri Reckers earned her BFA with honors from the Columbus College of Art and Design and has been a professional silk painter for over twenty years. Her award-winning designs have been exhibited at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, the World of Wearable Art in New Zealand, and the Bernina Fashion Show in Houston. She has been featured in Fiberarts magazine, the Fiberarts Design Book and New Mexico magazine. Cheri teaches workshops at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Suzanne Visor, a New Mexican most of her adult life, grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. Armed with a BS degree, she headed west in an MGB. It was just too hot to drive any farther that summer day, so she settled down for a while in Tucumcari, then Gallup, and finally Albuquerque. She sold toys, started a daycare center, wrote PR, did casework on reservations, and taught art to a diverse group of children and adults. In the mid-Nineties she began painting with silk dyes, which she said she should have been doing all along.

To see the artists work, visit:

Following the artists reception at 3:00 p.m., the Placitas Artists Series will present Willy Sucre & Friends playing string sextets featuring Guillermo Figueroa and Valerie Turner, violinists; Willy Sucre & Elena Sopoci, violists; and Joan Zucker & James Holland, cellists. The program could include Johannes Brahm’s String Sextet in G Major Op. 36, and Antonin Dvorak’s String Sextet in A Major Op. 48.

Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert, or may be purchased in advance at The Merc Grocery Store in Homestead Village in Placitas, Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho or on-line at Prices are $20 in advance. At the door, prices for General Admission are $20 and for Students, $15.

This project is made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The facility is completely accessible. Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242.) For more information call 867-8080 or visit

Albuquerque Folk Festival to be held at new location

The Fourteenth Annual Albuquerque Folk Festival will held at a new location in the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, located at 9201 Balloon Museum Drive, NE in Albuquerque, (turn north off Alameda). Events will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. New Mexican and regional performers, workshops, jams, and dances are available all day on June 2.

There is free parking and free camping with jamming at night on June 1 through June 3 at noon. All ages welcome. For details, see: or call 301-2822.
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