Tinkertown: Ross Ward’s Fascinating World in New Mexico

The Tinkertown Band
The Tinkertown Band
The Tinkertown Band – Photo credit: Alan Grinberg/flickr

Off the beaten path in a dusty town 25 miles east of Albuquerque, New Mexico, lies a roadside attraction that is as enchanting and wondrous as it is perplexing. Tinkertown Museum is a one-of-a-kind destination for all things whimsical—and its mythic appeal to locals and far-flung travelers for over 40 years might be what keeps it going.

Upon entering Tinkertown Museum in Sandia Park, visitors will immediately notice the abundance of wacky memorabilia covering just about every square inch of the building’s interior. Wedding cake couples sit snuggly next to Apache dolls underneath colorful old road signs. But on closer inspection, a more personal narrative becomes clear. The scene is also replete with beautiful and eerily accurate hand-carved dioramas of Old West scenes and whittled characters in psychedelic dresses. Clearly, the work of a talented and dedicated dreamer.

hand-carved diorama of an Old West scene
Hand-carved diorama of an Old West scene – Tinkertown, New Mexico

The unique world of artist Ross Ward has its beginnings, appropriately enough, in a perpetual state of imagination. As a child, he was fascinated by the tiny villages and farms he sought out, created by “spare time carvers.” So much so, that by the time he reached junior high, he began carving his own circus figures—many of which are currently on display in Tinkertown.

Tinkertown Circus Diorama
Tinkertown Circus Diorama – Photo credit: Granger Meador/flickr

It took Ross over 40 years to carve, collect and lovingly construct what is now Tinkertown Museum, and although it is still a work in progress (Ross, sadly, passed away in 2002), it remains an inspirational pilgrimage designed to awaken the creative spirit that lives in all of us.

Tinkertown exterior
Tinkertown exterior – Photo credit: Simon Foot/flickr

Perhaps the best description of Tinkertown can be found written on a display sign on the property: “Tinkertown was begun as a hobby in 1962. It was not intended as a public display until your interest helped build our museum.”