Museum of International Folk Art — Santa Fe, NM

As winter turned unevenly to spring, we headed southwest to Santa Fe. We hoped to find warmer weather, opportunities to hike, and some great museums. Well, two out of three ain’t bad!

Santa Fe and the surrounding area have notable historical sites, landmark churches, art galleries galore, and several world-class museums. Though our time in New Mexico was cut short, we had the great pleasure of visiting the Museum of International Folk Art. The broad plaza below, shared by the Folk Art museum and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, shows the foothills east of Santa Fe. Directly to the west is a lovely botanical garden.

The Folk Art museum’s permanent collection numbers around 130,000 items collected from around the world. The vast majority of that, around 100,000 items, was donated by Alexander and Susan Girard. Only about 10% of it is displayed in the Girard Wing, which is where we spent most of our time.

It wasn’t possible for us to see all we wanted, though we spent much of our day there, and it isn’t possible to share much of that. Below are a few pictures to capture the flavor of the Girard collection.


Much of Alexander Girard’s collection revolves around figurines. He personally designed the dioramas, some small like the dollhouse dining room, and some extensive covering more than 150 square feet. Click on any picture to view the slideshow.


Spread throughout the wing are dozens of textiles featuring a broad variety of styles. Techniques featured include weaving, appliqué, and embroidery.

Mask and Faces

While faces are everywhere to be seen, some stood out more than others. Here are just a few.


On the wall outside the Girard gallery were frames featuring amulets from different parts of the world. The volunteer docent explained that these trinkets from common materials were used for protection or healing. For instance, if a worshiper experienced leg pain, they could borrow a leg amulet from their church to pray with, returning the amulet when their leg was better. Hands are a common representation on these.

Homemade Guitars

While we spent the most time in the Girard wing, with the items shown above, the museum also has a number of other galleries. One of the special exhibitions featured homemade guitars, using creative materials.

We had hoped to return to the museum before leaving Santa Fe. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions closed the museum before we could visit again. We’ll look forward to experiencing it another time.


7 thoughts on “Museum of International Folk Art — Santa Fe, NM

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I could have spent a whole day just looking at the textiles! In the Girard Wing there were no labels on anything. There was a catalog available to use, but given the virus constraints, we weren’t interested in looking things up. So it’s very possible that some of the works were from Liberia. However, I’ve seen that many motifs we associate with one culture or another are much more widely used than we might assume.

  1. BJ Good

    Yes, a delightful & amazing place full of humor and color collected from the global village we live in. This Folk Art Museum was one of my favorites over my years of museum ‘touristing’. I love the homemade guitars special exhibition you picture. When I was there years back one of the special exhibitions was “A Chair for All Reasons”.

  2. melissabluefineart

    This was a great “visit”! Thank you for sharing it so completely. I really enjoyed seeing the different sorts of things people choose to communicate with art, and the different ways they dream up to do so. Wonderful! I can well imagine that Melanie was happy in the textiles. I would be too. And the carvings…


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