Even on the Walls

Artist Zara Kriegstein's Judicial History of Santa Fe, Series of four murals at the Santa Fe Municipal Courthouse
Artist Zara Kriegstein's Judicial History of Santa Fe, Series of four murals at the Santa Fe Municipal Courthouse

Artist Zara Kriegstein's Judicial History of Santa Fe: Series of four murals at the Santa Fe Municipal Courthouse

Taking care of a ticket or a minor offense in Santa Fe can be an artsy experience, and I’m not talking artful dodger. You’re on your own when it comes to beating the charge. But if you find yourself in the Santa Fe Municipal Court Building on the Southside at 2511 Camino Entrada, take a look at the four large murals on the courthouse wall. They’re spectacular.

Created by Zara Kriegstein, who died in 2009, the murals are titled: The Judicial History of Santa Fe. Each mural represents a different period: pre-colonial New Mexico, the Spanish and Mexican period, the territorial era and statehood.

Viewers won’t find any dry facts, dusty footnotes or wordy appendices in these historical accounts. On the contrary, there’s nary a dull moment in Kriegstein’s presentation. The artist, who was born in Berlin and moved to Santa Fe in the 1970s, did her homework, then let her imagination, creativity and artistic gifts run wild, freely exploring the past. The result: each mural is a detailed presentation of our colorful history, reminiscent of the great Mexican muralists, spun in satiric narratives and vignettes. As a result, viewing the murals is fun.    

For those of us who need the equivalent of SparkNotes, there are historical essays placed conveniently beneath each mural. Natives and longtime Santa Feans will see familiar faces in Kriegstein’s narrative history. The artist used people she knew, including herself, as models in the murals.

Because of the art, the courthouse has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. People who get married in the courthouse often have wedding pictures taken in front of the murals. However, you don’t have to have a traffic violation or a marriage proposal to see Kriegstein’s murals, just go on over to the Municipal Courthouse, it’s near the intersection of Airport Road and Cerrillos Road not far from the Santa Fe Police Department.

The murals also underscore an important point. In Santa Fe, one of the greatest treasures is the vast quantity of superb public art.

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