Known for its inspirational desert setting, some of the most soul-stirring results are permanently on view in the Harwood Museum's octagonal Agnes Martin Gallery, a special experience in a surround setting with benches at the center for quiet contemplation of Martin's globally praised, subtle abstract canvases. Larry Bell's extraordinary work in glass contemporary sculpture and other formats and media are always on view, too, at his own Studio Annex on Ranchito Road.

It's not all on the abstract end, of course. Cowboy-song master Michael Martin Murphey - whose Rocking 3M Wildcat Ranch is in Red River - is known to play Taos when his concert schedule brings him home. In the classical vein, you can catch performances of the Taos School of Music's highly respected annual festival during most of the summer, and watch for August's concerts of the Music from Angel Fire chamber music festival.

San Miguel de
Allende, Mexico

When you head farther south to the jewel-like town of San Miguel de Allende, in the heart of Mexico, about midway between Guadalajara and Queretaro, what you may notice first is the little city's extensive roster of working, noted visual artists. Not unlike Taos, the place is something of a destination for those with a vision and the talent to express it, from tradition-based artisans (try the new Artes Mexico gallery's collection of hand-wrought works in copper) to the print abstracts of Jim Johnston, who moved from New York to San Miguel in 1977.

The town's patron, Saint Michael, is feted each year on September 29. But repeat visitors learn that it's March in which they can see the jacaranda trees in glorious bloom. Walking arts tours are available if you can get yourself down the cobblestone streets without stopping at one of the town's nouvelle-Mexican restaurants. And if you want to hang on to this idea for a quick winter getaway, in December, the annual San Miguel Music Festival is a staple of the city's arts season.