By Paloma Lopez, Educator, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research
The 2023 Native Arts Speaker Series, Grounded in Clay Conversations, has ended. This year we partnered with the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) to host three events over four weeks in MIAC’s Katherine O’Keeffe Theater. The series was very well received with each event reaching capacity. All of this year’s speakers are members of the Pueblo Pottery Collective and co-curators of the Grounded in Clay exhibition. Topics explored by our speakers throughout the series first surfaced during the planning phase of the exhibit; the aim of the series was to afford time and space to underexamined issues and lesser-known narratives intersecting Pueblo people and pottery.
Dr. Matthew Martinez (Ohkay Owingeh), Dr. Christina M. Castro (Taos, Jemez, Chicana), and Jason Garcia (Santa Clara) opened the series with Earth, Wind, Fire, Water: Pueblo Pottery and the Environment on March 31. Martinez, Castro, and Garcia, who have been friends since college, had a frank discussion about the connections between Pueblo people, land, and pottery, the long-term effects of the Indian Removal Act on Pueblo people, and the enduring importance of nature to Pueblo people as evidenced by recurring design elements in Pueblo art across generations.
The second event, Conversation and Pottery Making: An Afternoon with Clarence Cruz and Samuel Villarreal Catanach, was held on April 14. Clarence Cruz (Ohkay Owingeh) and Samuel Villarreal Catanach (Pojoaque) opened their event with a conversation about language and land and the ways in which they intersect with each other and with Pueblo pottery. During the second half of the event, Cruz treated the audience to a pottery-making demonstration. In just twenty minutes, the expert potter brought a pot to life, coil by coil, slipping into professor mode along the way to explain each step to an enraptured audience. Villarreal Catanach closed out the event with an audience Q&A.
The final event of the series, Untold Pueblo Stories: Hidden Histories and the Pueblo Diaspora, was held on April 21. Diego Medina (Tiwa-Piro-Manso), Albert Alvidrez (Ysleta del Sur), and Jerry Dunbar (Ysleta del Sur) challenged the audience to rethink what they thought they knew about Pueblo history with an illuminating discussion about underrepresented Pueblo stories and communities. Medina, Alvidrez, and Dunbar shared their knowledge and experiences and answered questions posed by an exceptionally engaged audience.
A fourth event, From Me to You: A Conversation with Pottery with journalist Tara Gatewood (Isleta, Diné), was rescheduled for May 1 but had to be canceled due to an unexpected illness.
We would like to extend a big thank you to all this year’s speakers for sharing their time and expertise and for their continued support of the Grounded in Clay project.
Recordings of all series events will be made available to view on our YouTube channel shortly. In the meantime, view all available speaker series videos here.