Here, Now and Always: At Long Last
Reimagined Permanent Exhibition Inspires and Endures
Inside the newly constructed replica of a 1940 Pueblo house at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, it smells of sawdust and oiled wood. Diane Bird (Kewa/Santo Domingo Pueblo), the museum’s archivist, sweeps her hand over the vigas and latillas in the exemplary building, which reminds her of her grandmother’s Pueblo home.
“I brought the Acoma man who made the moccasins for our Zuni Olla Maiden in here,” Bird says. It felt familiar to him, too. “He said, ‘This feels so good.”
Over and over, curators, artists, donors and early viewers of Here, Now and Always, the museum’s reinvigorated permanent exhibition, have echoed that positivity. Opening to Museum of New Mexico Foundation members July 1, and to the public July 2 and 3, the exhibition’s course is truly a feel good story for all involved.
Twenty-five years after its debut, a new generation of museum professionals has given birth to a modern exhibition about Native peoples created and constructed by Native peoples. With an original showcase of never-before-seen artifacts, art and objects, the latest technology, a chorus of individual voices, and a diverse cast of curators and supporters, Here, Now and Always rolls out the story of the past, present and future of the Indigenous Southwest—and leaves ample room for new versions of the story.
“It’s high time for this,” says Bird, one of nearly 20 exhibition co-curators whose tribal affiliations range from Pueblo to Navajo to Tohono O’odham. They worked with over 60 community-based Native advisers, including members of the museum’s longstanding Indian Advisory Panel, to conceptualize and develop the exhibition’s seven thematic areas: Cycles, Ancestors, Community and Home, Trade and Exchange, Arts, Language and Song, and Survival and Resilience. “The title of the exhibit is that we’re very grounded— here, now and always,” says Bird. “We’re being represented. We’re using our own voices.”
A Vision Revisited
When Here, Now and Always launched in 1997, its Native-driven vision was revolutionary for its time, a model for other museums nationwide. But from a visitor standpoint, the desire for updates started soon after. Bird began getting calls about the exhibition at least 20 years ago.
“The questions were like, ‘But where are the Indians now?’” she recalls. She often told callers that if they had flown into Albuquerque, they likely passed over three pueblos, then drove past seven more on the way to Santa Fe. Still, she learned that the “now and always” of the show was getting lost in the deep history of Indigeneity in the Southwest.
Tony Chavarria (Santa Clara Pueblo), the museum’s curator of ethnology who worked on the original exhibition, says a generational shift and rapidly changing technology catalyzed matters. “You have to update the voices, the people you’re talking to,” he says. “When we put together the first exhibition, the videos were on VHS.”
By late 2010, it was clear the exhibition needed a revamp. The passage of time brought new opportunity to re-cast the exhibition narrative—presenting the origin stories and modern histories of the Southwestern tribes through new technology and voices, and an altogether new organizational structure.
But revisiting the exhibition vision would require more than scholarly and creative inspiration. It would take a village of private and public donors to fulfill the museum’s financial needs and bring the new exhibition to fruition.
“While devoted museum visitors inspired the renovation, and a large community of Native curators and advisers reimagined it, the generous commitment of donors pushed Here, Now and Always forward,” says Foundation President/CEO Jamie Clements. “Without them, we would not be celebrating the exhibition’s reopening.”
Circles of Support
In 2014, when the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture staff prioritized the renovation, Foundation staff and donors sprang into action. Nearly a decade later, the Foundation’s private-public partnership with the State of New Mexico had generated more than
$3 million for the project. Over $2 million in private funding came from the Foundation, which included a very generous $560,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Private donors lined up to support the thematic sections of the exhibition. Foundation honorary trustee Eileen Wells had contributed funds for construction and artifact acquisitions for the original Here, Now and Always. She queued up again to fund the Arts section of the exhibition.
“This is so important to the Native community,” Wells says. “The museum, of course, is important, but to have so much of the history contained in the exhibit so that everybody can look at it, whether they be Native or not, is key.”
As Wells looks forward to the new exhibition, she reflects on former supporters Nancy and Richard Bloch, who funded construction of a new wing to house the original display. The Amy Rose Bloch Wing, an homage to their deceased daughter, remains an integral part of the new project. Now both deceased, the couple also sponsored the Language and Song portion of the renewed exhibition.
In addition to longtime devotees like Wells and the Blochs, a community of equally committed new donors also moved the project along. With their support, Here, Now and Always has been reconstructed from the ground up. It now comprises the entire west side of the museum with construction of brand-new galleries, $1 million in new casework and a new entrance leading into a gathering space funded by Foundation trustee Bill Butler and his wife Uschi.
A Native-owned construction company installed the framing, wiring and lighting, drywalled and painted each exhibition section, and renovated the space to be ADA compliant. Unique interior décor touches in the exhibition’s entrance were donated by Durkan and its hospitality division, Mohawk Industries Inc., a Museum of New Mexico Foundation licensing partner. They created carpet tiles based on traditional corrugated Ancestral Pueblo pottery styles held in the museum’s collections.
In the show’s atmospheric new chambers, the story of Indigenous peoples in the Southwest is represented by more than 600 objects. The content resonated with donors, who were inspired aesthetically, culturally, or often for personal reasons, to fund signature artifacts, interactive technologies, in-gallery education components and more.
The educational aspects of the exhibition’s Cycles section attracted the vital support of Skip and Ildy Poliner. As a Foundation trustee, Skip has focused on fundraising for the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. When first approached to support the exhibition refresh, he recalls the couple “didn’t need a lot of convincing.”
“Frankly, it was the educational outreach we thought that Here, Now and Always would make with the schools that convinced us that we needed to be part of it,” he says. “How impactful these programs are to young people and to families. We knew this was something we would be able to make a lasting contribution toward.”
Chavarria co-curated Cycles, which explores the life cycles of Native peoples as they relate to tribal culture and experience. Sections on childhood, youth and adult life highlight the characteristics of these periods. A rites of passage portion spotlights Navajo and Apache puberty ceremonies as well as graduations, baptisms and naming ceremonies.
Speaking of rites of passage, Chavarria noted the death of exhibition co-curator and Indian Advisory Panel member Angelo Joaquin Jr. (Tohono O’odham). His passing from complications of COVID-19 in 2021 hit the museum community hard, Chavarria says, and brought home the significance of these life cycles in Native communities throughout the Southwest.
Joaquin “was not from the immediate area, neither Pueblo, Apache or Navajo, but he’s a Native person of this region,” Chavarria says. “He was able to give this very insider-outsider perspective.”
The exhibition is highlighted by a striking range of new donor-funded interactive technology. Each section now includes multiple iPads that connect to related content, including video interviews. These feature people of diverse backgrounds speaking to the exhibition themes, and are the result of more than 70 interviews conducted by the exhibition team over five years.
“The ideas in each of the sections are reiterated in these video snippets—so that people can see that this is cultural continuity, that people are tied to tradition,” says Chavarria. “Basically, that’s a foundation for continuing to grow and to live in a society that has an awful lot of challenges.”
The section titled Survival and Resilience, co-curated by Bird, addresses the challenges of contemporary Native life in the context of difficult histories—the Pueblo Revolt, the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo and more. For example, Bird says that many people of her grandparents’ generation didn’t consider themselves citizens of the United States.
“We are citizens of our respective pueblos. We are nations within a nation,” she says. “So, it’s looking at history, and New Mexico, and what has gone on from a different view-point and perspective.”
The section emphasizes Pueblo sovereignty. Two items on display highlight Laguna Pueblo and the historic significance of women. On view is a large-scale vertical mural by Marla Allison (Laguna Pueblo) of pueblo girls carrying water, based on historical photos. The dress worn and donated by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) when she was sworn in as one of the first Native American women elected to Congress is also shown.
Native roles in protecting tribal lands and natural resources are addressed in sections on uranium mining and climate change. On view is the firefighting gear of an Indigenous female member of a hotshot wildland crew. The significance of water is represented by a depiction of a Zuni Olla Maiden, a traditional water bearer. Its acquisition was made possible by Friends of Indian Art. The Survival and Resilience section was sponsored by Olga Echevarria and James Hutson-Wiley. Their family foundation also contributed to a $100,000 endowment honoring the museum’s former executive director, Della Warrior (Otoe-Missouria), which will bolster the museum and its permanent exhibition far into the future.
Serving Diverse Communities
“The broad scope of this exhibition offers something to compel donors with various interests to give,” says Foundation President/CEO Clements. “Here, Now and Always truly reflects the various communities it was built to serve.”
Apropos of this is the exhibition’s Community and Home section, whose representation of Native architectural traditions and daily life also drew donor support. Foundation trustee John Duncan and his wife Anita Sarafa funded the creation of a traditional turkey feather blanket made by Mary Weahkee (Comanche/Santa Clara Pueblo) of the Office of Archaeological Studies.
Another Foundation trustee, David Young, and his wife Sheila sponsored the Community and Home section in honor of their late daughter, Liesel Diane
Another textile, a Navajo shoulder blanket, compelled Foundation trustee Rosalind Doherty and her late husband Lowell to contribute to its acquisition as a central piece for the exhibition’s Trade and Exchange section, featuring a replica of the historic Jemez Pueblo trading post. The dyes in the shoulder blanket were procured from various points on the Navajo trade route. Longtime MIAC supporter and Foundation trustee Harriet Schreiner and her husband Karl funded this section.
The lure of Native language brought support for other sections, including Ancestors, funded by the Maggy Ryan Charitable Trust. The introduction to Ancestors is in six Native languages, a feat accomplished in collaboration with staff from the Center for New Mexico Archaeology and the Laboratory of Anthropology.
Donor Maureen McCarthy, who sponsored the Emergence Tunnel, where visitors begin their journey through the new exhibition, was drawn by the history of pueblo pottery. After moving to Santa Fe 15 years ago, she began collecting pottery from Robert Tenorio (Kewa/Santo Domingo Pueblo).
That relationship, she says, “led me to MIAC, a hidden gem of Santa Fe museums, where my goal was to learn as much as I could.”
McCarthy’s education was enhanced by her exploration of the original Here, Now and Always. “I was thrilled that I could see pieces of art made today that resemble pieces of art that were made centuries ago,” she says. “The story that the exhibition tells of traditional pottery is extraordinary. I’m very happy to be involved in its evolution.”