Dr. Adam Herring, a professor of art history at SMU, introduced an entirely new method of teaching to his course entitled “Art and Architecture of Hispanic New Mexico.” His unique class taught in Taos, New Mexico, not only utilized the tradition classroom environment at Fort Burgwin but also made use of surrounding buildings, galleries, and sites of historical, cultural, and religious importance. More specifically, this course examined the artistic heritage of colonial New Mexico as it applied to secular life in Spanish haciendas, churches, museums, and towns.

The element that differentiated Dr. Herring’s class from other art history courses was the interdisciplinary approach to teaching he used. Within this one course, students read and creatively wrote about, drew, photographed, visited, experienced, and physically learned how to make Hispanic art and architecture. In addition to studying artistic and architectural angles, Dr. Herring’s class dug deep into anthropological, philosophical, cultural, and social perspectives though a healthy balance of lectures and discussions. The hands-on learning aspect of the course was what made it unusual.

For the first day of class, students took a fieldtrip from Fort Burgwin to the Taos Pueblo. The Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community. It has been designated both a World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. The multi-level adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years. These structures are visually impressive because they transform appearance as the angle of the rising sun changes.

The pueblo’s design mimics the prowess of the mountains in their background. The current inhabitants of the land continue to observe many of the practices of their ancestors. Much of what they eat is grown on site or hunted in the nearby mountains and their drinking water is provided by both rainfall and their origin of life, the great Blue Lake. Today, the Taos Pueblo is also a place of commerce. The residents sell locally made jewelry, art, instruments, and religious artifacts.