There’s more to life than art. There are also dogs. That seems to be the point of view at Nedra Matteucci Galleries, where dogs are at least as important as the beautiful works of art.
Nedra Matteucci Galleries is the oldest, continuously operating gallery in Santa Fe. It was founded in 1972 by Forest Fenn as Fenn Galleries. (Fenn, who recently passed away, is the creator of a treasure hunt that bore his name.) Nedra Matteucci acquired the gallery from him in 1988, and under her guidance it has evolved into one of the major dealers in Western art. The gallery specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, including the Taos Society of Artists, the Santa Fe Art Colony and artists of the American West. They also represent thirty-five living artists. The galleries’ one-acre sculpture garden is a top destination for Santa Fe visitors. It allows the gallery to showcase monumental outdoor sculpture in a beautiful venue, making it one of the premier sculpture galleries in the country. It is also home to a group of inveterate animal lovers.
The Santa Fe Animal Shelter was founded in the 1930s, and by the turn of the millennium, it had clearly outgrown its original location. It partnered with the City of Santa Fe to locate a hundred-acre site near the Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe municipal golf course. Nedra and her husband, Richard, helped lead the capital campaign that raised the funds to build the new Santa Fe Animal Shelter. The spacious center opened in 2005, and since that time, it has added several other facilities, including dog parks, an adoption center and an animal hospital. Matteucci also donated a bronze sculpture of a dog that greets visitors to the facility. The work is by Dan Ostermiller, one of the gallery artists, who specializes in animal sculpture.
For as long as Matteucci has owned her gallery, it has been a pet-friendly place. Not only dogs but also ducks, turtles, peacocks and rabbits have found a home here. Matteucci herself used to bring her dogs and her pot-bellied pigs to the gallery. Visitors are welcome to bring their dogs, where the staff is likely to coo at them in baby talk.
Nearly all the staff bring their dogs to work. Director Dustin Belyeu usually brings his beagle, Bodie, along. Gallery staffer and dog-lover Anna Brunt brings her border collie mix, Vini. She also volunteers as a trainer for Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW), an organization that provides training for a variety of support dogs. Brunt typically cares for a dog for a year. She usually brings her current trainee to work, along with Vini. The staff inevitably falls in love with the trainee. Once trained, though, the therapy dog is placed with a client who needs an assistance animal. After tearful goodbyes to the soon-to-be ADW graduate, the cycle starts again.
For Nedra Matteucci and her animal-loving staff, art and dogs are truly a match made in heaven.
Kevin Paul is a multimedia artist with a penchant for running trails. He is a long-time resident of Albuquerque’s South Valley, where he and his wife, Kayla, watch migrating birds and tend their garden and orchard. He has spent many years in and around the Santa Fe art scene.