Wahleah Flanagan and son, Sean; metal sculptures by Sean.
Photography courtesy Wahleah's Taos Pueblo Gallery
IN THE MIDST of the magnificent blue mountains of the Sangre de Cristos lies the timeless American Indian village of Taos Pueblo. Within the borders of this renowned, majestic, ancient settlement, you will find a hidden treasure, Wahleah's (pronounced Wa-Hey-Lah) Taos Pueblo Gallery. Wahleah's is located on the pueblo's south side, across the river and over the footbridge from the well-known main pueblo building and church. Don't be deceived by the humble exterior. Wahleah's has many rooms filled with an exceptional assortment of breathtaking art representing most of the American Indian tribes of the American Southwest.
Yet Wahleah's was not always the spectacular gallery you see today. It began modestly in the 1930s with the artwork of Wahleah's grandmother and grandfather. Wahleah's grandmother was a talented artist who created beautiful beadwork and pottery; Wahleah's grandfather made moccasins to sell in their small shop. Wahleah's mother contributed modern ideas to the shop by introducing the uniquely crafted works of other tribes around the state, in addition to the ones of her own people.
In 1966, Wahleah left the pueblo to attend school at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, at which time she was crowned the 13th Miss Indian America. There she met the love of her life, Don Flanagan, who played basketball on the Fort Lewis College team. Don went on to an outstanding career as head women's basketball coach for the University of New Mexico Lobos and has since retired. The couple has been married for 49 years, and they have four sons: Sean, Craig, Shane, and Brent.
The strength behind Wahleah's Gallery — the family. From left: Shane, Brent, Wahleah, Don, and Sean Flanagan.
Over the years, Wahleah's Taos Pueblo Gallery has succeeded thanks to its adherence to tradition, positive thought, and perseverance. It is built on respect for and commitment to the heritage of Taos Pueblo Indian traditions. Family members devote their time and individual talents to the gallery, hoping it will not only prosper but also emanate a feeling of enchantment to visitors. Both family members and dedicated friends operate the shop, and all take pride in sharing this magical place with you. The employees' virtue, honesty, and overall integrity have also enhanced the family-owned business's success. Their life experiences as Native Americans inform their ability to present the arts and crafts of indigenous and Taos Pueblo people to the modern world. Having grown up in the area, they have much pride in the gallery and are enthusiastic about what they are sharing with you.
The gallery features one of the finest collections of Native American arts and crafts, including the works of many well-known American Indian artisans. At times, the pottery collection represents all 19 pueblos. Every corner discloses authentic wonders, including traditional crafts such as pottery, turquoise jewelry, Hopi kachinas, storytellers, drums, and sculptures, as well as contemporary merchandise like T-shirts and tiles created by native artists.
Wahleah's showcases masterful works of many exceptional artists, one of whom is Wahleah's son, Sean. He is an accomplished artist who has won many awards with his traditional painted deer, elk, and buffalo hide drums. He also creates extraordinary and highly desired metal sculptures and wall art; his creations have found homes around the world. Seeing one of his pieces is a delight. Owning one gives you a chance to take home a token of this modest artist's immense creativity. Because the gallery is on tribal land, all purchases are tax free.
Wahleah's Taos Pueblo Gallery is open during the regular Taos Pueblo visiting hours, usually from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the summer and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter. Taos Pueblo is closed for six weeks from mid-February until March in recognition of tribal customs. The pueblo also may be closed without notice for funerals or special traditional occasions. A visit to Taos Pueblo should be considered a privilege, and respect of the area as well as the residents is expected. The Taos Pueblo people are very traditional and proud of their heritage. There are no phones or electricity, and mail is not delivered, but you can contact Wahleah's by calling 575-758-9765 or 505-294-8056 or by simply visiting.
Four generations of shopkeepers have made this a very special and intriguing corner of the world. To visit is an experience not to be missed. Look for the red rug and the decorative adobe stair-shaped oven outside the gallery. Here you will find an enchanting shopping experience whereby you may purchase a piece of exquisite American Indian art. May your visit to Wahleah's Taos Pueblo Gallery be an experience you will never forget!
Wahleah's Taos Pueblo Gallery
South Side of the Taos Pueblo, NM
575-758-9765 or 505-294-8056