The next show was called the “Crafty Mountain Fair” and was held in 1972 at the infamous Thunderbird Bar. The local village bar was a happening place, with live music, alcohol, and good food. Various local artists brought their creations to the show and sold to their friends and others who were fortunate enough to have heard of it.
The next art event was more ambitious, prompting the creation of the Soirée Society. It was called the “Fantasy Fair,” and it took place in the parking lot of the bar in the summer of 1973. Special aerodynamic canopies were designed and hand-fabricated on the floor of the bar for the artists to display their work underneath. The fair consisted of about 30 booths and included a sound stage for local music and food.
After the two shows at the Thunderbird, the Placitas Mountaincraft and Soirée Society sponsored a film series that took place in the Placitas Elementary School gym. Movies were shown once a month for a small admission, with homemade cookies and drinks sold to those who came to enjoy the evening of entertainment.
“It was an opportunity for people to get together and feel community,” Susan Junge said recently of the film series. She had a background in film and managed the event for the Soirée Society. She remained a director of the society for 25 years, broadly describing its mission as an “opportunity to promote educational and cultural events.” The society also administered a small art workshop for local teens.
Another artistic event the Soirée Society supported was a series of theatrical performances produced by local residents and held in the old Zocolo building in Bernalillo. Different themes were chosen for the shows, scripts were written for one-of-a-kind productions, poetry was read, and local musicians played. The local cast would rehearse for months before the opening performance, when the community came together and packed the building to see and hear the performance.
“It was fun to have high quality, live productions in our own community,” said Dana Roth, Soirée Society director. “I was so impressed by the singing, acting, directing, song writing, and poetry of our neighbors and friends.”
Several years went by without any events being planned until 1982, when the Placitas Mountaincraft & Soirée Society, under the leadership of Peaches Malmaud, sponsored the first Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale. There were people living in Placitas and surrounding areas who were making arts and crafts, but had no place to sell them. The inspiration was to once again create a venue for artists to show and sell their work. Peaches served as president of the Soirée Society for 18 years before passing the reins to Nancy Couch, Jon Couch, and Mary Hofmann to continue the holiday sale.
“We needed to recruit others because it took all of us and more to do what Peaches had done alone,” said Jon Couch. Bunny Bowen and Dana Roth were added to the board of directors.
In 1998, the Placitas Studio Tour was born. Inspired by Riha Rothberg and a few others, artists got together and made nearly 200 signs to direct the public to the 26 studios. The first studio tour was well received by Placitas and surrounding areas and has continued for 14 years. In 2002, the Placitas Studio Tour was adopted by the Placitas Mountaincraft and Soiree Society to take advantage of its nonprofit status, although the studio tour retained its own board to manage the event.
“It is very affirming to learn how the Placitas community has been so nurturing to artists and to trace the connections between the various arts groups through the last forty years,” said Bunny Bowen of the studio tour board and a current Soirée Society director. “We often aren’t that good at organizing ourselves, so a big thank you goes to those who founded the Soirée Society.”
“The Placitas Mountaincraft and Soirée Society helped to lay the foundation back in 1982 for Placitas as an art community by bringing together artists and various service groups to sell artwork and raise money for projects,” said Nancy Couch of the Placitas Holiday Arts & Crafts Sale and current president of the Soirée Society. “We are happy this tradition has continued for the past 30 years.”
Reprinted with permission from the Sandoval Signpost, June, 2011.