This past August, I was at the Coe Center doing an internship for two weeks, during which I was tasked to think of and complete a project after spending time in the wonderful art collection the Coe has to offer. Going into the internship I had no idea what topic or theme I wanted to pursue for this project, but I did know that I wanted to create a series of watercolor paintings. I decided to give myself some time to see and explore the Coe collection and Santa Fe in hopes that it would help me come up with a theme. I ended up becoming interested in the architecture of Northern New Mexico and how it has evolved from the pre-contact period to the present day. I set out to create five watercolor drawings illustrating this theme.

Looking at building examples across this period of time, I couldn’t help but notice the interplay of Indigenous architecture, materials and building practices with European influences. This is most clearly evident when we focus on the subject of adobe architecture. I landed on five examples that explore the treatment of adobe— the Taos Pueblo, the San Miguel Chapel, a territorial-style house, the Loretto Chapel, and a modern McDonald’s.

The Taos Pueblo is an Indigenous community that uses traditional adobe building methods, accreting over the centuries. The San Miguel Chapel chose to adopt local adobe building techniques and combine them with a European approach to architecture. The territorial-style house also used Indigenous adobe elements but combined them with an overall colonial design. The Loretto Chapel, by contrast, in the Gothic revival style, was designed without any engagement with the landscape and Indigenous building practices. Finally, I chose to include a modern example, a McDonald’s, which tries to blend with the landscape by using faux adobe style. While this project, completed in a short time, highlights specific buildings and their details, a broader view is that this is an example of how different cultural influences come into play in the built environment.

This opportunity to intern with the Coe Center has been a great experience and working with the vast collection of art it has to offer has been incredible. Even just two weeks of being with the Coe has been wonderful and inspiring. None of it would be possible without the staff working at the Coe Center. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped me during my internship and really given me a chance to work with the Center. You guys are all awesome!


Abigail E. Wixom
Highschool student, NY State, age 16
August 2021



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