Bayfield gets art
Red House Gallery brings offbeat to main street

Red House Gallery owner Kinsee Morlan stands outside the Mill Street gallery, which also happens to be the house she grew up in. After spending several years active in the art communities of San Diego and Tijuana, Morlan has returned home./Photo By Stephen Eginoire.

by Stew Mosberg

Bayfield, it can be said, is a sleepy little town; a place that rarely has street traffic or crowds of people, except when sheep are running down Mill Street, or the July 4th picnic is taking place. “Historic” Mill Street, as it is euphemistically called, has no stop sign, no traffic light, no movie theater, and up until a few weeks ago, no art gallery. Now, courtesy of Kinsee Morlan, it does.

Morlan, 27, recently returned to her hometown after living an eclectic lifestyle in San Diego and Tijuana. She was born, and the way she tells it, conceived, in the very home she now occupies.

After the young iconoclast graduated San Diego State University with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science, she spent the next few years writing about art for San Diego’s CityBeat. During that time, she commuted across the border to Tijuana on a regular basis, had an apartment there and became familiar with the underground art community in both cities.

Becoming enamored with the anti-establishment art world and its artists, along with the edgy work they produce, she started a series of “roving” art shows by putting on exhibitions in alternate venues such as warehouses, abandoned beach houses and factories. Now back in the town of her birth, she is intent on doing the same in the Four Corners, including Bayfield.

Recognizing that it is an ambitious project, she isn’t leaping into it all at once. To test the waters, she has turned her home into “The Red House Gallery,” which is not so incidentally the color of her small clapboard dwelling, and where she recently staged a grand opening of sorts.

If at first the opening of an art gallery in Bayfield seems to be naïve, it is quickly overshadowed by Morlan’s laid-back enthusiasm – not quite ebullient, but at the same time not suggesting grandiose illusions. “I’m kind of going to roll with the punches and see how it goes with the first show,” she declares.

Morlan’s initial concept is to invite lovers of art and the offbeat to see her small, multi-media personal collection of artwork by emerging Mexican and American artists. It is a mixed bag of objects that include prints and posters, plus some of her photography.

Morlan knows that exhibit openings draw the traffic. She’s had as many as 600 people at one of her events in Tijuana, but as with that show, she doesn’t expect to see a lot of people stopping in at The Red House after the initial reception night. On the other hand, she will open her doors for people who make an appointment.

Not content to stop at her property line, Morlan has enlisted support from the owner of a large empty building across the street. At the very last minute, she pulled together an exhibition of local artists’ works and mounted them in the vacant building in conjunction with her show at The Red House.

Kinsee Morlan sits in her home/ gallery space surrounded by her small, offbeat collection of works by emerging American and Mexican artists./ Photo By Stephen Eginoire.

Not content to stop at her property line, Morlan has enlisted support from the owner of a large empty building across the street. At the very last minute, she pulled together an exhibition of local artists’ works and mounted them in the vacant building in conjunction with her show at The Red House.

With lessons learned running her nomadic “Activa Project” art shows in Tijuana, Morlan will be looking into alternate space opportunities around the Four Corners, and hopes to replicate the success she experienced in Tijuana and San Diego.

Giving artists a chance for exposure to an interested public who might not otherwise see their work is what gives Morlan a sense of deep satisfaction. “I’m not in it for the money,” she says, “I want people to know they can own an original piece of art for a little more than they pay for mass-produced prints at a furnishing store.”

She readily admits to deriving great pleasure from looking at the art on her walls and knowing who created it and what motivated them. “Why buy art,” she asks, “that everyone else has?

“Think globally, buy locally,” she muses, “ is a great way to do that.”

Discussing the opportunity for the tiny town of Bayfield, Morlan says she hasn’t received much response from the Bayfield Business Association, but still hopes to help activate Mill Street. She plans to continue having openings every third Saturday of the month. “It became a happening in Tijuana, bringing in people from all over to see art and to socialize,” she recalled.

If people respond to the idea and it draws from the surrounding communities, it is just possible business on Mill Street will grow and more art galleries will open. With Bayfield being adjacent to Highway 160 and nestled between Pagosa Springs and Durango, and Ignacio less than 20 miles south, the town might well become a bridge to culture. Hey, stranger things have happened.

For Morlan, adjusting to the slower pace of a teensy, somnambulant Bayfield might take some getting used to. Tijuana is one of the Mexican border towns that the United States Government has issued travel warnings against. Morlan is almost cavalier about the crime in that drug-infested tourist spot, but says she never really worried about her safety, “I knew where to go and what to avoid. I’ll miss the quesadillas, the beautiful language ... I’ll miss having to defend the city every time I tell people where I live. I’ll miss the culture, the excitement and the adventure.”

While Bayfield might be perceived as a safer respite than the tainted Tijuana, Morlan’s move back was prompted by her desire to begin a new chapter in her life, one that will hopefully include marriage and raising a family, and of course, building an art community.

You can contact the gallery for an appointment by e-mailing Morlan at



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