This post on the Georgia O’Keeffe Behind the Scenes Tour updated and republished 4/11/2016..
Georgia O’Keeffe was drawn to New Mexico. She spent much of her long life in Abiquiu, northwest of Santa Fe. Today, people are drawn here to follow her footsteps. They want to visit the places she lived and those she immortalized on canvas and paper. Both her Abiquiu Home and Studio and Ghost Ranch, where she spent over 50 summers, attract visitors from around the world.
While her Ghost Ranch home isn’t open to visitors, the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio, owned and operated by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, offers seasonal tours from March through October.
Georgia O’Keeffe in Abiquiu
Georgia O’Keeffe began spending summers at Ghost Ranch in 1934 and bought, Rancho de los Burros, her home there, in 1940. O’Keeffe, an avid gardener, wanted to grow her own vegetables. The soil here was poor and it was difficult to get a garden to grow. She discovered an abandoned house in the village of Abiquiu that sat on about three acres suitable for growing. O’Keeffe set about trying to buy this property which belonged to the Santa Fe Arch Diocese. It was years before she was able to convince them to sell it to her, but finally, in 1945, they did. The restoration, under the supervision of her trusted friend, Maria Chabot took about four years. Miss O’Keeffe (as she is known around here), moved to the house, where she would spend much of the rest of her life, in 1949.
Touring the Home and Studio
The standard Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio Tour takes visitors around her gardens, into the home’s courtyard, to view the famous black door and also a glimpse into her living room through the window. While most of the home is off-limits because of fragile floors, the tour includes a stop in her kitchen and pantry. Then the tour moves across the yard and into her studio. You can view her bedroom at the south end of the studio building through the wrap-around windows.
Georgia O’Keeffe Behind the Scenes Tour
In 2013, the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio added the Georgia O’Keeffe Behind the Scenes Tour. It’s a more detailed tour of the home going to areas that aren’t included on the standard tour.
Highlights of the Behind the Scenes Tour
One of the highlights of the Georgia O’Keeffe Behind the Scenes Tour is a visit to the room behind the famous black patio door (said to be one of the reasons she wanted the house). This is where O’Keeffe prepped and stored her canvases. Some of her unused ones are still stored there as they were during her life (along with some of the artist’s other possessions).
Next is a glimpse into her library, its four bookshelf lined walls crammed with books. The collection includes books from writers she knew personally such as D..H. Lawrence. While the Georgia O’Keeffe Behind the Scenes Tour doesn’t enter the room, again due to fragile flooring, it’s revealing to peek into this book-lined sanctum.
After spending a bit of time in the kitchen, pantry and separate studio building (all on the basic tour) and the artist’s bedroom, the group then heads downhill to the most unusual stop on the tour: O’Keeffe’s fallout shelter. Sometime in the late 50s or early 60s, in the midst of the Cold War, she had a fallout shelter built into the hill. She said it wasn’t so much that she wanted to survive a nuclear conflagration; she wanted to view and paint the aftermath. It’s an odd thing to encounter anywhere and something that you probably wouldn’t expect to find in rural New Mexico. But in an odd way, it makes sense. Abiquiu isn’t far from Los Alamos, as the crow flies.
As dusk deepens and tour members get back on the bus, they can reflect on touring this refuge of one of the best-known artists in the world and marvel at what they saw. Hopefully, it’s locked in their mind’s eye; no photos are allowed at this hallowed place.
If you go
Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio Tour information:
The basic tour runs from March through November. Days, times and rates are on the museum’s website.
What you need to know about touring the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio tours
The Standard Tours are offered from early March through October. Tickets, $35 each, must be purchased in advance.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Behind the Scenes Tour has a short season. It’s held on Wednesdays evenings at 6pm from the beginning of June into early September. The current cost for the hour-and-a-half tour is $65. Reservations are a must.
The Special Tour is only offered on Thursdays from June through November at 10am and 1pm. This tour of the Home and Studio ($65 per person) is led by Agapita (Pita) Judy Lopez, the museum’s Historic Properties Director and co-author, with Barbara Buhler Lynes, of the 2012 book, Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses. Lopez, who worked for Miss O’Keeffe for over ten years, offers extensive insight into O’Keeffe’s daily life at the Abiquiu house.
If touring O’Keeffe’s home is an important part of your Santa Fe itinerary, reserve early; space is limited and it can fill up quickly. Reservations for the season open in January.
A few more things
If you want to see where O’Keeffe lived and painted at Ghost Ranch, coordinate your Home and Studio Tour with Ghost Ranch’s Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour.
Both the Abiquiu Inn and Bode’s General Store serve lunch daily. The Abiquiu Inn serves dinner. Ghost Ranch offers inexpensive cafeteria-style meals daily. The public is welcome for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Author’s note: We were guests of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for the Behind the Scenes Tour. Their generous hospitality did not affect this post in any way, The first time we toured the site was on our own dime and we loved it then as well.