While a soak in the healing waters is essential, the magic of Truth or Consequences really comes alive when visiting the town’s art galleries and shops downtown.
Field Report: Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Elevation: 4,245 feet
Fun fact: Truth or Consequences (formerly Hot Springs, New Mexico) is named for the radio and television game show hosted by Ralph Edwards. In 1950, Edwards announced that if a town in the U.S. was willing to change its name to “Truth or Consequences,” he would bring his crew to that town and film a live broadcast for the show’s tenth anniversary. Hot Springs, New Mexico heeded the call and the town’s name was changed. Edwards loved the town so much that he returned each year until his death in 2005. He hosted the annual Fiesta Parade during the first weekend in May, a festival that still takes place to this day.
Notable for: Hot springs. The geothermal waters springing out of a rift near the Rio Grande have long been a destination for travelers, with the first bath house constructed out of adobe built in the 1880s. Prior to that, the springs were utilized often by the Chiricahua Apache.
The stories are all different, but they usually reach the same conclusion: “We just kept coming back to Truth or Consequences because there was something so magical about it.” This is how most anecdotes go about T or C. Denizens will talk about visiting once or twice and then becoming residents of the beloved town after being enchanted by its beautiful vistas, tranquil hot springs, and thriving arts community. There is almost never a bad time to visit, but the hot springs that T or C is famous for are best enjoyed during the winter months.
While a soak in the healing waters is essential, the magic of T or C really comes alive when visiting the town’s numerous art galleries and shops downtown. The arts scene gets the spotlight every second Saturday of the month for Sierra County Art Hop. The lively energy is palpable with buskers on every corner, almost like wayfinders guiding visitors where to go next.
At any time of the year, however, the T or C community is keen to welcome visitors with hospitality and endless stories about their precious home. Maybe the source of the magic lies in the healing waters, or maybe it’s something else more mysterious, but you can always expect to feel drawn back to Truth or Consequences after you leave.
Art and Culture
Artists Kyle Cunningham and Jeannie Ortiz came to T or C in 2011 because they wanted to be in a place where they could express their creativity uninhibited. Cunningham reflects that the qualities of the desert encourage experimentation and innovation, and these are the driving forces that inspired their iterative gallery project Desert Archaic. It first opened in June 2012 in a shared space with local artist and gallerist Olin West. In the eleven years since, Desert Archaic is now an established art gallery that centers emerging artists from T or C and elsewhere. The gallery is now on the brink of its next exciting phase as Cunningham and Ortiz are moving the gallery to a larger building downtown. The new space will be focused on their goal of supporting the flourishing artistic community by offering workshops and other public programs. intentionallyconfusing.com
The ethos of experimentation continues at Artist Abbey, a gallery and Airbnb owned and operated by artists Hieronymus Bogs and Lisa Talavera. This multidisciplinary and multifunctional space has brought artists local to New Mexico and from around the United States to exhibit work and present musical performances. Artist Abbey has become a notable hub in the middle of the Southwestern desert. Bogs describes the mission of the space as “artist-centered” and shares that the Abbey is committed to showing work that would not be given exhibition space in a traditional art context. Since the space is both commercial and residential, guests staying at the Abbey will enjoy the unique experience of living inside an art gallery with an inspiring rotation of exhibitions. When exhibiting or working artists come to stay, the Abbey functions as an artist residency space. The space sees many visiting artists who are passing through New Mexico on their way from coast to coast. hieronymusbogs.com/artistabbey
Founded in 1998 by the late Northern New Mexico painter Harold Joe Waldrum, RioBravoFineArt is a stalwart of the Historic Hot Springs District in T or C. While most of the gallery’s collection is made up of Waldrum’s estate, RBFA represents twenty-four regional artists, and they’re still adding to their roster. Although T or C has transformed over the gallery’s life- time, there has always been a strong arts community, reflects Richard Koteras, who works at the gallery. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of RioBravoFineArt, and the gallery is celebrating by having a retrospective of H. Joe Waldrum’s polaroid photographs on view from May until June. riobravofineartgallery.com
The Center Gallery Fine Art
One of T or C’s newest art spaces, gallerist Art Burger opened The Center Gallery Fine Art in 2021, in a former massage therapy office. He found his way to T or C after working for three decades in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Like most, he was drawn to the town for its strong community vitality. Burger jumped on the opportunity to open the gallery when it came up, and it kickstarted his venture into fine art and supporting the younger generation of artists in the area. This year, The Center is hosting its second annual Sierra County Student Art Show, which is a contest open to student artists in New Mexico. In addition to the showcase, there are scholarships and other prizes awarded to the best in show. During the monthly Art Hops, The Center’s front yard is a party with friends connecting, re-connecting, and meeting for the first time against a backdrop of live music. thecentergallery.com
Stay and Rest
This retro-chic hotel is perfect for anyone looking to add some nostalgia to their visit. The Charles is a hotel, a gift shop, massage parlor, and bath house (rumored to have the hottest springs water in T or C). charleshotspringsresort.com
The Sierra Grande is a beautiful property that taps into the beauty of the desert in its landscape and bath house design. The hotel offers soaks, an extensive spa menu, and excellent dining. tedturnerreserves.com/sierra-grande
This hotel and bath house leans into mid-century kitsch with each room themed after iconic television programs. Visitors have the option of staying in the Superman, The Jetsons, or Star Trek room, among others. blackstonehotsprings.com
Truth or Consequences Brewing Company
The T or C brew pub is a community staple located in the heart of downtown. Enjoy a visit with friends, or, if traveling alone, expect to make many. torcbrewingco.square.site
Ingo’s Art Cafe
Ingo’s supports all your coffee needs together with books, art, jewelry, clothing and textiles, and other goods. ingosartcafe.com
Xochi’s Bookstore and Gallery
This sprawling used and rare bookstore is filled to the brim with books that you might not find anywhere else. Xochi’s collection and presence in T or C has been building for twenty-five years with many oddities finding their way to this store. xochis.com
Geronimo Springs Museum
A prominent county collection, the Geronimo Springs objects and artifacts span the long history of Truth or Consequences from when the region was occupied by the Apache all the way up to when Ralph Edwards brought the television show and name-change to the town. The museum gets its name from a hot springs site known as “Geronimo’s Spring,” which eventually became the site of the first built bath house. It is said that Geronimo, a prominent Apache leader, spent several months seeking respite and healing in the geothermal waters. sierracountynewmexico.info/attractions/geronimo-springs-museum
The Chiricahua Apache, who are one of the earliest Indigenous peoples known to occupy the region that is now T or C, considered the hot springs water to have healing properties, and thus the area was considered sacred and deemed a neutral ground during times of conflict. Later on, when the Spanish settled the area, they also interpreted the waters to be miraculous. Folklore around the magical springs spans multiple cultures and eras. The healing nature of the waters can be explained by measuring the trace minerals present, which include magnesium and lithium among others. There is such peace and reverence tangibly present in the soaking tubs throughout T or C, however, it’s hard not to believe in a deeper mystical nature of the warm springs.