Silver City Arts & Cultural District
A town of only 10,000 residents, with more than 50 galleries and art spaces speak to the richness of Silver City. Nestled in the foothills of the Gila National Forest, the early history of the area is characterized by the cultures of the Mimbres and Apache. In the nineteenth century, miners began to settle the area, quickly establishing the town of Silver City. The town’s rough and tumble history includes the boyhood days of Billy the Kid, whose mother is buried in the town cemetery, and the various forts built to offer protection for settlers in the area. As the bottom fell out of the silver market, the town turned to ranching and copper mining to sustain itself.
Today, Silver City is home to a vibrant arts scene—one of the most renowned in the Southwest. Painters, potters, printmakers, weavers, glass blowers, jewelry makers and other artisans have made their home here. The Mimbres Region Arts Council, a leading arts organization, supports ongoing public art projects, local artists, and presents performing arts events, along with the Grant County Community Concert Association and various area theater groups. The district balances historic era frontier buildings, while also engaging in more contemporary and colorful art forms. The town boasts three historic residential districts immediately adjacent to the historic downtown district.
Silver City has a wealth of festivals and events, including the Blues & Bikes Festival, the Tour of the Gila bicycle race, Chocolate Fantasia, the Gila River Festival, and the Southwest Chicano Music Festival—just to name a few. The CLAY Festival is the Silver City Arts & Cultural District’s signature event, showcasing nationally recognized artists and scholars, and providing an immersive experience in the many forms of clay. Additionally, film festivals, concerts, art fairs, and gallery showings are on offer in Silver City. Other exciting local events that enhance the cultural economy include: the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s Trail Days, Southwest Festival of the Written Word, and the Tamal Fiesta y Más. Two great historic hotels and several B&Bs enable visitors to spend the night in the district and enjoy many great restaurants and cafes, coffee houses, and shopping—all within walking distance
The newly renovated historic Silco Theater, built in 1923, provides a chance to catch the latest releases in a theater with digital upgrades and modern amenities. Two other theaters in the same block are part of a larger plan to create a Theater District in downtown Silver City. The El Sol Theater is undergoing renovations and will be a performing arts theater, while the Gila Theater is still waiting for the right plan and a little tender, loving care. Light Hall, built in the late 1920s, was recently renovated on the campus of Western New Mexico University and offers visitors and locals a movie-going experience too. Also at the university, the Fine Arts Center Theater offers a home for larger indoor concerts, while Old James Stadium provides a delightful venue for outdoor concerts. Gough Park, part of the Arts & Cultural District, is the perfect venue for outdoor musical events.
Visit the Western New Mexico University Museum to see one of the most comprehensive permanent exhibitions of prehistoric Mimbres Mogollon pottery and artifacts in the world. The Silver City Museum, located in the Victorian Ailman House in the Historic District, provides visitors with great insight into the history of this colorful town. At the museum, learn about the creation of the “Big Ditch,” now a popular downtown park and one of the entrances to Silver City’s many greenways, as well as the history of mining and more from other ongoing exhibits. Start your visit at the Murray Ryan Visitor Center, 201 N. Hudson Street, and you’ll soon see that there is so much to see and do in Silver City that you may want to stay an extra day!
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