A Year of Community Engagement: Elevating Native Voices

With the hiring of Pollyanna “Polly” Nordstrand (Hopi) as executive director of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, followed by Marita Hinds (Tesuque Pueblo) as director of education, museum visitors experienced fiscal year 2022-23 (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023) with new leadership and inspiration.

Private donors expressed their support by giving $261,000 for museum exhibitions and education via the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. Museum visitation topped 50,000, including more than 1,800 children.

The museum’s practice of building partnerships with tribal museums and Native communities went on full display in July 2022 with the openings of two major exhibitions. The first was the reopening of Here, Now and Always, which in 1997 revolutionized curatorial methodologies with its inclusion of Native peoples in decision-making roles. More than 1,200 people attended the much-anticipated big reveal. Institute of American Indian Arts students carried the festivities into the fall with their performance of handmade giant puppets that interpreted narratives from
the exhibition’s core themes.

The renovation of the original exhibition was made possible by $1.6 million in private giving through the Foundation, including support from the Family of Marie and Tony Hillerman and the
National Endowment for the Humanities.

The second opening, Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery, again represented the power of putting exhibitions into the hands of Native curators. As the opening venue for the exhibition, a partnership of Santa Fe’s School for Advanced Research and the Vilcek Foundation in New York, the museum was the first to engage the public in the extraordinary pottery selections of the Pueblo Pottery Collective, whose more than 60 members from tribes throughout the Southwest curated and wrote about the works on view. The exhibition’s viewing in Santa Fe was partially funded with $56,000 from the 2021 Native Treasures Art Market.

“We could not have done Grounded in Clay without some proceeds from Native Treasures and support from donors to the museum’s Exhibition Fund of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation,” says Tony Chavarria, the museum’s curator of ethnology.

The 19th annual Native Treasures Art Market in May 2023 featured over 180 extraordinary artists, attracting thousands of people and tens of thousands in Native art sales, rippling into $1.5 million in local economic impact.

Native performances at the event were funded by the Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area. Fifth generation master jeweler Anthony Lovato (Santo Domingo Pueblo) was honored with the museum’s Living Treasure award. And the museum’s first-ever Legacy Award was presented to master weavers and sisters Lynda Teller Pete (Diné) and Barbara Teller Ornelas (Diné). A $75,000 grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art set the stage for Horizons: Weaving Between the Lines with Diné Textiles, on view through June 2, 2024. Co-curated by Dr. Hadley Jensen and Rapheal Begay (Diné) with an advisory committee of Diné weavers, educators, scholars, and others, Horizons showcases the shared multigenerational Diné tradition of weaving featuring textile arts from the museum’s extensive collection.

The Terra Foundation grant recognized the exhibition’s novel juxtaposition of Diné weaving and contemporary photography and supports the publication of an illustrated exhibition catalogue with essays by artists and scholars. Additional funding of $50,000 was received from exhibition lead sponsors France A. Córdova and Christian J. Foster. Tom and Mary James, founders of the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, Shiprock Santa Fe and others also provided private support.

The fiscal year marked the launch of the Della Warrior Endowment Fund with a $100,000 challenge grant from Foundation trustee David Young and his wife Sheila. Olga Echevarria and James Hutson-Wiley offered their own $100,000 matching challenge from their family’s foundation. Other dedicated museum donors, including Ildy and Skip Poliner, have since made contributions toward the challenge goals, which together will generate $400,000.

An array of educational and public programs further engaged the public, including several Native artist and curator conversations around the topics of ceramic artistic traditions and the process of community-based curation. The museum’s world-class collections gained another treasure with the addition of a Two Grey Hills textile by world renowned Navajo weaver Daisy Taugelcheeto.

”Your support makes a significant impact on our ability to serve as a center for understanding the diverse Native peoples of the Southwest,” says Nordstrand.


This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Magazine.