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Sharing Knowledge and Collaborative Curation: Native Women Artists Featured in New MIA Exhibit

Jun 3, 2019

“It may ruffle feathers, but diversity means there’s a different way of doing things. If you want buy-in from the Native communities, you have to listen to them.” —Teri Greeves, SAR’s 2003 Eric and Barbara Dobkin Native artist fellow, quoted in a recent New York Times article exploring the current Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibit, Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists.

Co-curated by Teri Greeves and Jill Ahlberg Yohe, MIA’s associate curator of Native American art, and guided by an advisory team of twenty-one Native and non-Native artists and experts, Hearts of Our People stands apart as a striking example of collaborative curation. Now, the exhibit’s approach is receiving national attention.

In Vogue, the Art Newspaper, the Minneapolis City Pages, and the New York Times, the coverage underscores an emerging movement in collecting and exhibiting institutions that emphasizes the importance of working in a meaningful way with source communities when curating works by Native artists. The collaborative approach taken by Greeves and Ahlberg Yohe took them on a six-year journey to create the final show. It also meant extending the curation and exhibition development beyond the walls of the museum and welcoming the artists and communities who would eventually be the focus of the exhibit into the process. As the Times notes,

The cohort of women that Ms. Greeves and Ms. Yohe assembled represents nations from the Haida of Alaska to the Mohawk of the eastern United States and the Canadian southeast. They have been involved in virtually every decision, such as determining the exhibition’s thematic structure and signing off on the artwork and texts for the extensive catalog. In doing so, they may have set an example for indigenizing the curatorial process. (Read the full New York Times article here.)

See the collaborative approach in action in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s video:

The SAR community can also be seen in the works within the exhibit. In addition to being curated by an SAR alumna, Hearts of Our People features pieces by several former Native artist fellows including Nora Naranjo Morse, Ramona Sakiestewa, and Dorothy Grant.


Working with source communities is a cornerstone of the ongoing work at the School for Advanced Research’s Indian Arts Research Center (IARC). The 2016 publication Guidelines for Collaboration, created by the IARC, the National Museum of the American Indian, and others, provides a practical resource for working together that is aimed at both museums that collect Native American works and the source communities from which these works originate.


Teri Greeves was SAR’s 2003 Eric and Barbara Dobkin Native artist fellow. Each year, the IARC at SAR offers residential fellowships for Native American artists who are pushing artistic boundaries. With access to the IARC collections and SAR’s historic campus, fellows have an opportunity to bridge contemporary practices with traditional Native artistry and are ushering native arts into the future. Learn more about our artists and the program here.

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