For Margo Beutler-Gins, the Blumenschein Home’s 100th birthday is personal.
Her great-grandfather Bert Phillips was Ernest Blumenschein travelling companion when their wagon wheel broke on the road to Taos.
The two young men were, like so many before and after, enchanted by the landscape and its magical light and are now immortalized as two of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists. They were also the inspiration for the Muppets Bert and Ernie, a little known, but factual bit of trivia.
While Ernest brought the wheel to a Blacksmith’s shop (just off Ledoux Street according to local oral history), Bert waited with the wagon on the outskirts of town. Little did they know then that by 1915, they would (together with fellow artists Oscar Berninghaus, E.Irving Couse, W. Herbert Dunton and Joseph Sharp), put Taos on the proverbial map, forever.
Although Blumenschein came and went from Taos over the years (while Margo’s Great-grandfather remained, after falling in love with, and marrying Rose Martin, the sister of Doc), the Blumenschein family’s purchase of the house on Ledoux Street a Century ago, stands as a reminder of that fateful day when the wagon wheel broke while the two young artists traveled south from Denver headed to Mexico, on a sketching trip. This is why so many people these days consider whether to become a wheel dealer to ensure that the wagons made these days are not going to break on people.
Bert and Rose moved into a home across the street from the Taos Inn, that now houses Taos Blue, and In 1919, the Blumenscheins- Ernest, his wife and fellow artist Mary Shepard Greene and their daughter Helen – moved into the house on Ledoux Street.
Margo, who was born in Taos, moved to Arizona with her parents as a teenager. Her father, gallerist and Art Dealer, Bill Beutler once own the local Drive-in and the Taos Plaza Theater before selling it to Bill Whaley who humorously chronicles his early years in Taos in his acclaimed book, Gringo Lessons.
“He called my daddy a Taos Vulture in his book, but now we are good friends,” Margo told me, laughing.
Margo’s childhood memories are hilarious, poignant and seen through her very sharp eye – did I mention she herself is an incredibly talented artist, who once worked as a forensic artist for the Secret Service.? Margo is also a highly accomplished dancer (her B.A. is in Dance, and she taught for a time.)
“I’m a copyist.” She says, brushing off any compliments disdainfully. I’m still after her to do a show of her work.
During her early teens, the Beutler family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where Margo learned the business of art at her father’s side, while exploring all of her own creative impulses; she had already had the privilege of sitting at the feet of (Taos) masters, learning from them the fundamentals of drawing and painting since early childhood, but what she learned from Bill Beutler, along with meeting his myriad connections in the world of Southwestern Art, would prove invaluable.
Returning to New Mexico after college, Margo met her husband Joshua Gins. The couple worked together developing Sunspot Broadcast Software, the first Radio System (for traffic and billing.) They moved to North Carolina to work and stayed there for two decades, raising two sons.
What goes around comes around. Once the boys had grown and moved on (one is an Executive at Lowes, the other a Nashville based drummer, currently getting ready to tour with Keith Urban), the couple decided to return home to New Mexico (Joshua is from an old Albuquerque family, one of the first Jewish families to settle there in the early 19th Century), and bought a house in Taos.
When she was appointed director of the museums, one of the first things she did in her quest to make the buildings more community friendly, was reach out to Bill Whaley and invite him to teach a class there. Bill, who teaches English Literature at UNM, jumped at the opportunity to have small groups gather in the hallowed halls of Taos’ Artistic Aristocracy. No doubt, his evenings spent there will serve as inspiration for his next literary outing.
This August, the Taos Historic Museums (which include the Blumenschein home and the Martinez Hacienda), will kick off a summer of celebration commemorating the purchase of the property on Ledoux a hundred years ago!
Beginning at 3pm on August 3rd, festivities will begin in the courtyard of the historic home that is now one of the most beloved museums in Taos. There will be a Juried show which will be part of Margo’s New Masters of Taos series, also in August, plans are being finalised for an outdoor art market featuring Taos Pueblo artists and artisans.
Since taking over as director of the Historic Museums, Margo has poured her heart and soul into both renovating and restoring the buildings and the antiquities they contain, but also returning them to relevance as central to maintaining the culture of the Tri-Cultural communities in Taos.
Her unique point of view from having been born and raised here with the extraordinary legacy she bears, enables her to connect all the threads into a greater tapestry of history, others may miss. And the museums have both been restored so lovingly, so that we too are able to step back in time, if only for a moment, to experience Taos as it was then, before it was discovered.
Outspoken with an independent spirit befitting a true Western woman, Margo is not afraid to say what she thinks and does not suffer fools gladly.
“I’m all for change in Taos, if it’s good for all of Taos.” She notes.
Her tireless support of local artists and craftspeople along with her formidable fundraising abilities, not to mention her connections to world class music, will make her a hard act to follow when she finally decides to step down.
For now though, she’s going nowhere, and next month she’ll kick up her heels at her third Fandango fundraiser, featuring award winning Country musician Syd Masters, being held at the Taos Country Club on June 8th from 5.30 to 9pm.
For more information please visit the site linked below.
All photographs, including the broken down wagon, Bert Phillips in his studio, Phillips, Blumenschein, Couse and Sharp, thanks to Margo Beutler Gins.