Above: Warren and Joan Malkerson's Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography and Gallery 408 in Carrizozo.

An attempt to entice travelers into exploring Carrizozo’s art spaces has grown into a Tularosa Basin phenomenon. Warren and Joan Malkerson, expat Minnesotans, turned their sights to this little town southeast of Socorro in 2005 and invested in a “herd” of aluminum burros. They invited local artists to paint the beasts, then set them outside businesses, along the roads, and atop a few buildings. Motorists who noticed them stopped into the couple’s Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography and their Gallery 408. A feeding frenzy followed. “We’ve sold more than 400 of the painted burros,” Warren says. “They’re in more than 30 states.” Nearly every Lincoln County artist has painted one, including some fourth graders who had a field day with Mondrian blocks and Pollock splatters. Besides strengthening the region’s artistic appeal, the burros (selling for $500–$1,300 apiece) help animal-rescue efforts and challenge Malkerson to fit them into buyers’ cars. He especially likes watching each one leave, burro head placidly peering out of the trunk.

Story Sidebar

From Albuquerque, take I-25 south and US 380 east for about 150 miles. From Las Cruces, take US 70 northeast and US 54 north for about 125 miles.