Developing Passion: A Brief History of Collecting at the Indian Arts Research Center

Storage JarStorage JarZuni Pueblo, c. 1720
clay and pigment
IAF.1
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research

This is the Zuni jar that was broken during that fateful house party, which resulted in the formation of the Pueblo Pottery Fund.
Storage JarZuni Pueblo, c. 1720
clay and pigment
IAF.1
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research

This is the Zuni jar that was broken during that fateful house party, which resulted in the formation of the Pueblo Pottery Fund.

Breaking a pot can sometimes be a good omen—at least it was for the beginning of the Indian Arts Research Center’s collection. The collection was started one night in 1922, when someone broke a Zuni storage jar during writer Elizabeth Shepley’s house party. Informed by a belief that Native cultures were dying out—this was initiated in the nineteenth century and affected collecting policies and practices well into the twentieth century—the guests, Kenneth Chapman, Wesley Bradfield, and others, felt impelled to start an Indian arts collection to preserve the pottery traditions of Southwest. They believed that many artistic skills and forms were being lost as Native people battled to preserve their cultural traditions in the face of assimilative governmental policies.

They formed the Pueblo Pottery Fund, which in 1925 became the Indian Arts Fund (IAF) as its mission broadened to include the finest examples of jewelry, textiles, and other works. Artists, archaeologists, and donors such as Elizabeth White collaborated with the fund, and they continued to collect what they perceived to be authentic and valuable pieces. That same year, the collection numbered 477 pieces and was stored at the Fine Arts Museum in Santa Fe, today known as the New Mexico Museum of Art. This drew many wealthy visitors, including John D. Rockefeller, who made a donation that enabled the building of the Laboratory of Anthropology (where the IAF collection was also stored), and much later, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Today most of the IAF pieces are held at the Indian Arts Research Center, although there are some at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. The Indian Arts Research Center’s collection has continued to expand over the years, and currently it has over 12,000 pieces by Native Southwest artists, spanning from approximately CE 550 to present day.

Building Bonds at the Indian Arts Research Center

TurtleTurtleAndrew and Judith Harvier (Pojaque and Santa Clara Pueblo), b. 2006
Micaceous clay
SAR. 2007-1-493
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research
TurtleTurtleAndrea Khapovi Harvier (Pojaque and Santa Clara Pueblo), c. 1988
Clay
SAR.2007-1-406
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research

As a young child, Andrea Harvier was inspired by her parents’ art production to create this turtle. The IARC has two turtles created by the Harvier family.
TurtleTurtle
Two turtles created by the Harvier family.

Many of the art pieces that form the Indian Arts Research Center collection were created by artists from the same family. When these artists visit the collection, they may see a work made by a mother, father, grandfather, or grandmother, and in a way this is like a family reunion through the objects. The collection also has many pieces created by children, whose works were often collected along with those by established artists in their family. Artists sometimes sell their children’s works alongside their own at art markets and other arenas. This gives the children a chance to develop their artistic and marketing skills. When you view a piece in the collection, you cannot see the ties that bind them to their artistic family, nor the collectors who put them in their homes, because these webs are intangible. Nonetheless, they remain powerful.

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