Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Veterans of All Twenty Placitas Studio Tours: Founder Riha Rothberg, Bunny Bowen, Lisa Chernoff, Mary Hofmann, Nancy Couch, Jon Couch, and 2017 Coordinator Andi Callahan.
(Not pictured: Peaches Malmaud and Karl Hofmann)

Signpost featured artists

Twenty years of Placitas Studio touring———and counting

~Oli Robbins

A couple decades ago, Riha Rothberg envisioned Placitas as an artistic destination—a place already brimming with both traditional and eclectic art (created in an assortment of visually unique studios). She launched an annual studio tour, now enjoying its twentieth year and thriving, thanks to Rothberg and a team of dedicated local collaborators.

All committee members work on a volunteer basis and are driven by their involvement in, and respect for, the Placitas art community—a community that, frankly, partially owes itself to the tour. Indeed, artist after artist interviewed by the Signpost has expressed a fondness for the tour and the far-reaching opportunities it generates. Studio-goers are likewise grateful for the candid and creative environments the tour affords them. Describing itself to the Signpost back in 2004, the Placitas Studio Tour (PST) committee wrote, “In the process of visiting our studios, you will have the opportunity to explore the many places in Placitas that most people never see. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes peek at part of the artistic life of Placitas."

Rothberg, a multi-media painter (this year in studio #7), is the tour’s own tour de force. Her co-committee members have lovingly granted her the monikers “Mother” and “Diplomat,” since she has—for twenty years—been tasked with everything from meetings to advertisements, applications, and obtaining sponsorships. It was originally Rothberg's work on the Placitas home tour, back in 1997, that led to conversations about Placitas’ artistic makeup. Its dense population of artists—many of whom are interesting characters who possess a great deal of talent—made it ideally suited for a studio tour.

In its inaugural year, 36 studios participated. Now, after years of success, the tour tends to garner around sixty artists. To borrow the accurate and now twenty-year-old words of Rothberg (promoting the very first tour for the West Side Journal in 1997), “As different as the artists are, so are the studios.”

Looking back on that first year, Rothberg says that she was naive. “I made a poster and took it somewhere to be blown up, and I put it up at the Merc. It was pink. I remember that! And it said, ‘First Annual Placitas Studio Tour, Call for Artists.’ And at the end of the tour I thought, well that wasn’t so hard. I could keep doing that.” So she did. And a set of seven loyal local artists have stood by her side, opening their doors for the tour every year for twenty years. These "originals," pictured above (l. to r.) are Riha Rothberg, Bunny Bowen, Lisa Chernoff, Mary Hofmann, Nancy Couch, Jon Couch, and Andi Callahan. (Not pictured are Karl Hofmann and Peaches Malmaud.)

As the tour has grown (both in size and maturity), Rothberg has welcomed the help of committee members, now integral to the tour’s accomplishments. Planning and orchestrating alongside her during the tour’s first year were Thomas Ashe, Nancy Bolton-Couch, Jon Couch, Wayne Mikosz, Michele Bourque Sewards, and John Shannon. And over the years, as Rothberg has flirted with the idea of scaling back her duties, others have continued to step up to the plate. The hardworking team of 2017 includes Rothberg (advisor to all), Callahan (coordinator), Bunny Bowen (webmaster and go-to figure), Marce Rackstraw (ad design and map maker), Joan Fenicle (brochure designer, photo editor, and more), Mary Hofmann (brochure manager, party shopper, and beloved “run around”), Jon Couch (irreplaceable “sign guru”), and Nancy Holley (social media manager and coordinator-in-training for 2018).

This year's coordinator, Callahan has been a committee member for many years, a tour artist since the very beginning, and is well-versed in various essential chores and deadline requirements.

Bowen’s allegiance to the tour, like Callahan’s, hasn’t ceased. She created the PST website in 2004 and presently maintains it. Says Bunny, “Gosh, twenty years of experiences—and no two years alike. I have always liked that in the studio tour I can show whatever media I happen to be excited about at the time, as well as the medium I am best known for. That makes experimentation fun and permissible… So, at the tour, expect artists to be trying new things and stretching their creative muscles.”

The beginning of each calendar year brings the committee a frenzied laundry list of deliverables. Says Callahan, “It's furious in January—January just blows up." The mandatory meeting for all participating artists is the first major deadline for the organizing team. Thanks to the generosity and graciousness of Jim Fish, the meeting has, for several years, been held at his Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas—where the loads of signs are also stored, assembled, and disassembled.

Just as it has for each of its previous 19 years, the tour will commence the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, May 13 and 14, and run from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m daily. Visit one or several of the 59 artists, 13 of whom are new to the annual event. Studio guests are encouraged to explore, where they can begin to get to know the artists’ philosophies and styles, download a brochure and map and plan their routes.

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