by Elizabeth Cunningham
The June 18th Mabel & Company symposium opened with a surprise. In conjunction with the debut opening of the Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West exhibition, Taos Mayor Daniel Barrone declared the third Saturday in June as Mabel Dodge Luhan Day. Before revealing the official proclamation, Mayor Pro Temp Nathaniel Evans delivered a speech on behalf of Mayor Barrone.
Excerpted here, the oration opened with a welcome to “celebrate the life, philanthropy, writing and other accomplishments of one of Taos’ most famous, and sometimes controversial, figures, Mabel Dodge Luhan.”
Mabel’s accomplishments followed, as “a political and social reformer who was almost a century ahead of her time, advocating for social and income equality, women’s rights, racial equality, and the rights of Native Americans.”
Naming the notables she attracted to Taos, including writer D.H. Lawrence, conductor Leopold Stokowski, painter Georgia O’Keeffe, and photographer Ansel Adams—“a list that reads like the Who’s Who of the 20th Century”—Mabel was recognized for establishing Taos as an art center. The groundwork she laid made Taos a cultural, artistic, and inspirational mecca.
With her many contributions and achievements, the mayor opined that if Mabel Dodge Luhan were alive today, he would “certainly be naming her the First Lady of Taos, and most likely be offering her any number of jobs heading tourism, marketing, our Arts and Cultural District, and probably designating her our ambassador to the world.” Indeed, he added, Taos would not be as well known for the arts, were it not for “this extraordinary lady and patron of our community.”
The speech ended with Mayor Pro Temp Evans reading the proclamation on behalf of Mayor Barrone, the Town Council and the Town of Taos:
WHEREAS, Mabel Dodge Luhan was a world renowned writer, humanitarian, and mentor of the arts that brought prominence and notoriety to the Town of Taos and Northern New Mexico, and
WHEREAS, Mabel Dodge Luhan was a driving force in bringing together the talents, styles, artists, inspiration and markets that created the modern American art movement, popularized it throughout the world and served to position Taos as a creative center for the arts, and
WHEREAS, Mabel Dodge Luhan introduced the world to the unique inspirational beauty, hospitality, and cultural diversity of Taos, laying the foundations of our modern tourism and arts industries, and
WHEREAS,Mabel Dodge Luhan was one of, if not the most prominent and globally known resident of our community from 1918 to 1962, serving as our unofficial ambassador, mentor and host to the arts, to the outside world and to many of the most talented, influential and well know figures of her lifetime, and
WHEREAS, Mabel Dodge Luhan advocated, promoted and symbolized in her lifetime many of the humanitarian ideals of economic, racial and social equality, as well as the independent, entrepreneurial, yet tolerant and compassionate principles that we pride ourselves on and identify ourselves with as Taoseños, and
WHEREAS, we as a grateful and appreciative community wish to recognize the many talents and accomplishments of this unique member of our community and her contributions and importance to our history and our present place in the world,
I, Daniel R. Barrone, as Mayor of the Town of Taos and on behalf of its elected leaders and community members do hereby recognize Mabel Dodge Luhan by declaring the third Saturday of June (June 18th, 2016), for here and forever more as Mabel Dodge Luhan Day.
Councilman Evans then invited Lois Rudnick, co-curator of the Mabel & Company exhibition and author of eight books on Mabel, and me, on behalf of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, up to the podium to receive the proclamation. After handshakes and thank yous, my remarks amounted to one sentence: “Mabel has her day!”
The more eloquent Lois expressed her appreciation to Mayor Barrone and the Town of Taos staff. She added a footnote to the proclamation presentation: “It’s also my birthday.” What a fitting tribute to Mabel — and to Lois, who has spent the last forty years bringing Mabel back to take her rightful place in American art and cultural history.