When we take our culinary tour group to Santa Fe each year, we always make a point of having tour guide, Peter Weiss, lead our walking tour of the city. Here’s a look at his background and how he got into the business of leading tours.
Q. Peter, I know you’ve been conducting walking tours of Santa Fe for a number of years now. How long have you been doing them?
A. I began leading in-depth tours of New Mexico and the Southwest in 1991. Walking tours of the city weren’t part of that at first but came along soon after.
Q. How did you get started leading tours?
A. I was working with Recursos de Santa Fe, a non-profit that “umbrella-ed” grants for various art, science and other cultural projects through the Southwest. Museums and other specialized groups wanting to gain access to a deeper experience of the area would contact us for advice and eventually they just asked us to provide guided study tours to everything from private art collections to hidden archeological sites, to meeting with Native potters, and all sorts of things in the region.
Q. I know that you’re very knowledgeable about art and architecture. Do you have formal training in these fields?
A. Yes, I have an academic background in art, political science and cultural geography. I also have a graduate degree in sculpture. And for many years I worked as a preparator; shipping, crating and installing major artworks for museums and private collections across the country. I have assisted many artists with site-specific installations, working with artists as diverse as Donald Judd and Marina Abramovic, giving me a profound education in the arts beyond my academic training. And I continue to have a serious art practice, primarily as a photographer. I shoot everywhere I go and have published and exhibited sporadically over the years.
Q. You’re also an expert in the history of Santa Fe. Have you lived there all your life?
A. I arrived in Santa Fe in 1982 and have lived here since. It is an easy place to develop an obsession with, though becoming a true expert in the city’s history might take me many more decades.
Q. Is leading walking tours a full-time occupation? If not, what else do you do?
A. Walking tours are actually a minor part of my tour work. Since 1997 I have also been a lecturer and study leader on adventure travel trips throughout the world. I have led trips in other parts of the U.S. with rich Native American heritages, through the lower Caribbean and up the Orinoco, across north and west Africa, in Japan, the Norwegian Arctic and all through the Mediterranean and Black Seas from Lisbon to Odessa lecturing on art, architecture, history and culture.
Here in the Southwest I am often taking folks as far away as the Grand Canyon, or Big Bend Park in Texas. But when I’m home I love to walk the streets and hidden lanes of Santa Fe and share what I’ve learned about the city.
Q. In your opinion, what makes Santa Fe such a fascinating destination?
A. Apart from being a city with an immensely interesting and absorbing history going back almost 700 years in various incarnations, modern-day Santa Fe is fascinating mix of art, science, contrasting cultures that blend in unexpected ways and highly creative and vital people who have chosen to live in this odd little city on the edge of American culture that never really feels like it is anything other than itself.
Peter Weiss – photo supplied by Peter
Peter with group in Chimayo – Pat Awmack