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Tom and Bev Taylor receive 2022 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts

Bev Taylor, framed in the rustic Studio Bake Shoppe – her “great, good place.” She and her husband, Tom, were honored Nov. 20 in Santa Fe as “major contributors to the arts” for their longtime commitment to helping artists, promoting the arts and creating space for artistic endeavors in their hometown. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)
Couple have distinct vision for future of arts in Farmington

Tom and Bev Taylor were honored Nov. 20 in Santa Fe as “major contributors to the arts” for their longtime commitment to helping artists, promoting the arts and creating space for artistic endeavors in their hometown.

In addition to renovating their historic lumber building into art studios and the Artifacts 302/Bake Shoppe, they have donated handcarved doors to the children’s reading room at Farmington Public Library and renovated the historic Totah Theatre.

“We were so shocked. I was babysitting in Denver for my son with my granddaughter, and I got the call from Michelle Laflamme-Childs, executive director of N.M. Arts and Cultural Affairs, telling me we were one of the winners of the 2022 Governors for Excellence in the Arts Award.

Bev said the call came in October.

Bev Taylor in her “great, good place.” (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)
Tom Taylor has been a strong supporter of the arts for decades. (Photo courtesy of Bev Taylor)

“We couldn’t say anything because they had to inform all eight winners,” she said. “It was about a month later that we were finally able to say, ‘Hi kids, guess what we got.’”

She assumed that a fellow artist nominated her for the award, which was started by Gov. Bruce King in 1974 to recognize the “impact of art and artists in our state.” Georgia O’Keefe, famous for her paintings of flowers and New Mexico landscapes, was the first artist to win the award.

Selected as “major contributors to the arts,” Bev said some have given lots of money, but they’ve “given a lot of their time.” She taught calligraphy, drawing and three-dimensional design at San Juan College for 15 years and works with adults and a few students after school.

The Taylors met in the sixth grade while taking piano lessons from Farmington icon Edna Utton.

“She was a great piano teacher and just a great person,” Bev said. “Tom was just a brat, but you know, he was in the sixth grade – what can you say.”

Their relationship flourished while they attended the University of New Mexico – she studied art history, and Tom, architecture. She was inspired to pursue art by Ralph Lewis, who taught drawing and other art classes there. She took jewelry-making and drawing for four years and recalled a bit of a shock when “this little girl from Farmington” was assigned to draw nude models.

“He was my mentor through all my years in college,” she said. “He turned me into an artist … and I will be forever grateful to him.”

The couple married after their sophomore year and after graduation traveled East in their sporty 1968 Porsche. They visited relatives and saw the sites in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

In Alexandria, Virginia, her vision of the future took shape after being captivated and overwhelmed by the expansiveness of the art and artists displayed at the Torpedo Factory Art Center and learned what was possible.

An enterprising woman had converted the old, three-story warehouse into 80 art studios, and inspired, Bev told herself, “If we ever close the lumber yard, this is what I’m doing – that was my model.”

After returning to Farmington, Tom joined his father in the family’s thriving business, Farmington Lumber and Hardware Co. The company dates to 1908. After the narrow-gauge railroad from Durango to Farmington was completed, Charles C. Mumma moved from Durango to Farmington to start the business. Tom’s grandfather worked for Mumma and bought the business in 1924.

Photo of horse-drawn wagons exiting with lumber. (Courtesy photo)

Tom designed houses on the side, and they bought 10 acres off Foothills Drive in Farmington. As they designed their own home, Tom and Bev realized a compromise in style was necessary. Tom was a fan of innovator Frank Lloyd Wright and Bev, more a lover of traditional adobe style. Their solution was the uniquely circular home in which they raised four children and enjoy to this day. Tom built it, but Bev utilized her jewelry-making experience to teach him how to solder copper pipes. “So, he owes me,” she joked.

Learning from his grandfather, Elmer Franklin Taylor, a brick mason and stone cutter, Tom hustled up bricks from historic houses for the triple-wide brick walled home. According to Bev, the second story required that they make 7,000 bricks during two hot weeks in July.

As a stay-at-home mom, Bev began taking calligraphy class at San Juan College. Then, fully engaged in the craft, she loaded kids in the car for a two-week calligraphy workshop with world-class instructors at the famous Ghost Ranch. This became a routine for the next 25 years.

Married for 54 years, the Taylors have four children, including twins Tara and Tyson, Tenille and Thomas. Tara runs the Bake Shoppe and business duties, while Bev handles “Artifacts 302” bookings and the rental of 16 studio spaces, including three upper galleries.

The completion of a vision

The Taylors saw the end of their lumber era, and the beginning of a new era in art when big-box stores came to town.

After nearly 80 years at 302 E. Main St., the lumber business closed in July 1995 and reopened in September with studio spaces for artists. For 10 years, Albuquerque Hardwoods rented the east side of the building while artists used studios on the other side.

Home of Artifacts 302 in the historic lumber building at 302 E. Main St. in Farmington. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)

Then, as the downtown area struggled to reinvent itself, and the hardwoods business departed, Bev opened the front doors of the building as a storefront gallery in 1999. In 2015 Bev partnered with her daughter to fill the demand for a coffee and bake shop. She came up with the name “Artifacts” because of its “handmade” quality, and “302” because of the address’ rich heritage on Main Street.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, business has been “stellar.”

“We’ve learned by the school of hard knocks, because neither of us knew anything,” she said. “Tom is a great business owner, so he was our financial adviser and backer, producer … and when we needed it he paid the bills.”

A few years ago, Bev read the book “A Great Good Place,” by Ray Holdenberg. “It said everybody needs a great, good place that is not home … and is not work. For a lot of guys it’s a bar, but for girls it’s a little different,” Bev said.

She shared her vision with Tom, who blended renovations with existing features to achieve a remarkable, rustic atmosphere. The spacious room draws one in, with distinct, inviting spaces for groups to gather. The original, massive wood posts and beams are augmented with rustic wood furniture and fixtures that offer an atmosphere of authenticity and tradition. Skylights and large windows create an airy, open feel.

Jamie Church, Farmington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said Artifacts is their go-to meeting place. “It’s my happy place. … It always smells good, and the acoustics are good.

Bible study groups, quilters, knitters, painters and college student all love the ambience.

“We are completely booked every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and some Sundays in December,” Bev said. “And we are booked completely for graduation in May.”

What’s ahead?

Bev said her mission has always been for the public to be able to walk in, interact with the artists and discover how they do what they do. Firsthand experience inspires greater appreciation for art, she believes.

When Main Street was closed for renovation, the Taylors started the “Art in the Alley” project. The Merriam family helped fund the effort, so artists are being paid to do the murals.

Bev has a keen vision for future projects and a can-do attitude that encourages artists and innovators. She brings those traits – including quirky, tasteful artistic touches – to work alongside four generations of family.

They’re in the final process of gaining the designation of Arts and Culture District in New Mexico. It requires a lot of paperwork, and you have to create an event that is unique to your area, she said. Two years ago, the Southwest Apple & Chile Fest Art Walk began the effort.

Their next project is sculptures for downtown in 2023, which will be modeled after Grand Junction’s phenomenal display. Artists will be able to submit through the call for entry website.

“You’re going to be really excited about who we picked for this year,” she said.

Bev by her apple-picker ladder Christmas tree. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)
Fran Mayfield, studio patron has been painting for 20 years. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)