Roundhouse: A kaleidoscope of art

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By Kirsten Laskey

There is something special about the Capitol Building in Santa Fe. As the saying goes, there is more to it than what meets the eye. The building is significant for more reasons than just its appearance; it is the only round capitol building in the U.S. It is what the building contains inside that makes it invaluable.

Walking down corridors, climbing up stairs and entering offices, the evidence of the Capitol’s significance is everywhere. It is like viewing a collage, or spinning kaleidoscope of the art world in New Mexico.

As Docent Barbara Counts said, “There’s a lot to this rotunda.”

Art is everywhere in the Roundhouse. There are paintings done in oils, ink, pastels, watercolors hanging on the walls and sculptures at every corner. The art collection ranges from a collage made out of dyed rolls of newspapers to a buffalo head assembled out of every piece of junk imaginable.

There are powerful pieces such as a fountain that symbolizes the importance of water and there are silly pieces such as a sculpture of a man stringing floss between his ears.

In total, Counts said, the collection of art in the Roundhouse totals more than $5 million and hundreds of artists are represented.

She said the collection is part of the museum system in New Mexico.

New acquisitions are continuously being made. Counts said a board determines whether a piece will be exhibited.

To be accepted, Counts said, is a big honor.   

“We always have new talent that needs to be recognized,” she said “Certainly there are well-established artists that will remain, (too).”

It can be any medium. “We have collages, acrylics, oils on canvases, sculptures and graphite drawings,” Counts said.

The collection can also be of any genre, she added.

But the major determining factor, Counts believes, is the quality of the art. “I think the excellence of the art determines whether it is accepted.”

Even though there is wide variety, the collection showcases New Mexico artists’ work.

It is a collection that gets a lot of attention, too. Counts said, “During the legislative session, we probably have 1,500 people who go through the Capitol every day.”

“It’s a very friendly Capitol, I think,” she said.

It is important to have art in Capitols, Counts said, because “art reflects the culture. It is particularly important here because it’s a tri-cultural area. It has social reflections of the cultures and the artists’ viewpoints of the society, of history, of religion and politics.”