leroy garcia: the long road from taos
by Rosemary Carstens
Leroy Garcia’s heritage stretches back through four centuries of New Mexico settlement. His earliest ancestors in the state made their way from Spain and up through Mexico to forge a dynasty of cattle ranchers in and around what is known today as Taos. As a boy, second of eleven children, Leroy spent many hours on his grandfather’s cattle ranch doing chores. Milking cows twice a day acquainted him with their multiple personalities and the pranks they could play—he’s had his nose broken and been “kicked, smacked, and pooped on”—all in a day’s work.
Leroy’s father worked at a mine north of Taos for 20 years providing their gas and electric services and then another 20 years as a planning engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratories. He instilled in all of his children the importance of a strong work ethic. The family built their own home by making the adobes, collecting logs from the mountains to peel and use for vigas, and collecting rocks for the exterior walls.
No stranger to hard physical labor, at age 8, Leroy started selling newspapers to help out his family and took his turn chopping wood and stacking it for winter heat. As a young man he put in time as a tire buster at Big O and worked construction. The importance of getting in there and doing whatever it takes to reach a goal has been a lifetime perspective and no doubt underlies his strong success in the gallery business.
After high school, Leroy completed an Associate of Arts and Sciences (AAS) degree in business administration and management at Brigham Young University-Idaho and then transferred to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He began a long-term collaboration with noted Santa Clara Pueblo potter and sculptor Tammy Garcia. During the course of their relationship Leroy directed all aspects of business, and most aspects of concept development and creative production, to include Tammy’s expansion into bronze sculpture, jewelry, and glass.
Leroy opened Blue Rain Gallery in 1993 in an upstairs bedroom of his father’s house, located right along the road near the north pueblo entrance. The Gallery’s fast growing success led Leroy to pursue a more prominent brick and mortar location for the gallery on the Taos Plaza, and eventually in Santa Fe. A born entrepreneur, Leroy has a well-developed eye for innovation and opportunity, two essential qualities for a man engaged long-term in the business of art. Also a talented artist, he continues to produce a personal line of limited edition bronze sculptures and patinaed tiles and, recently, cast-glass lead crystal artworks.
When asked about his ability to stay successful and relevant over almost a quarter of a century, Leroy emphasizes his team: “I have been blessed to have surrounded myself with great people who have supported us from the beginning.” Named after Tammy Garcia’s grandmother, also a pueblo potter, Blue Rain Gallery initially focused on Native American art. But around 2000 they began to diversify to include outstanding regional and contemporary artists working in a variety of media. Leroy also saw the potential and rising collector connoisseurship in fine art glass and began to include top and emerging artists working in the medium.
“We look for talent that is innovative and refined, not mass produced, and for those with a unique voice,” says Leroy. “We look for relationships that empower the gallery to act exclusively and allow us to fully invest in marketing their artworks. Mutual trust and transparency is essential. One element of our success is that we have always reinvested a substantial portion of our profits in the promotion of our artists.”
Painter Doug West, an artist who appreciates his six-year relationship with the gallery, concurs which makes it mutually beneficial:
From the first, I greatly valued Leroy’s clarity in defining the parameters of business responsibilities on both sides. He told me exactly what to expect in terms of shows, sales efforts, promotions, and payment. He set forth guidelines concerning exclusive representation and regular production of new art. Most of all, he insisted that I immediately discuss with him any concerns over the course of our arrangement.
Leroy has an excellent sense of humor while at the same time being a very serious, astute business man. I have great respect for how he has built Blue Rain’s excellent reputation, and I am proud to be included in the gallery’s outstanding mix of creative, excellent artists.
Collector confidence relies upon a gallery’s solid ongoing foundation and reputation. Over the decades, they have expressed their confidence in Leroy Garcia by continuing to come first to Blue Rain when looking for new acquisitions and, when it’s time to divest, they know they can count on Blue Rain for highly professional representation.
Blue Rain Gallery has expanded across the country to participate in major shows from coast-to-coast, maintained a satellite gallery in Scottsdale’s art district for six years, and recently opened a new location in the progressive Santa Fe Railyard Arts District, which will eventually become their main gallery. The gallery represents a rich assortment of Contemporary, Native American, and Regional art to include include paintings, sculpture, glass, ceramics, and jewelry. Leroy Garcia continues to push the boundaries of what constitutes “Western Art,” to explore originality and break through to new heights.
It has been a long and winding road for the skinny kid from Taos, but one that continues to reward his efforts and enrich his life and the lives of art lovers everywhere.