Partners in Creativity: Nurturing Exhibition-Related Collaborations

New and upcoming exhibitions at the Museum of International Folk Art are inspiring creative partnerships in 2023, connecting the museum to outside organizations and audiences in unique ways.

La Cartonería Mexicana: The Mexican Art of Paper and Paste, on view through June 30, 2024, highlights more than 100 whimsical papier-mâché sculptures, mostly from the museum’s Alexander Girard Collection and never before displayed.

The exhibition’s outreach plan includes the installation of a giant, 15-foot-tall alebrije (fantastical folk art paper sculpture) at the Santa Fe Public Library’s southside branch, where museum educator Kemely Gomez has conducted programs since 2018.

“I try to make the museum more accessible to this (southside) community,” says Gomez, whose bilingual education work was recently recognized by the New Mexico Art Education Association.

The alebrije project is funded by the Friends of Folk Art, whose fundraising partnership with the museum has generated $1.6 million for exhibitions, education and public programming since 1992. The International Folk Art Foundation also contributed significantly to La Cartonería Mexicana. Private support opportunities through the Museum of New Mexico Foundation remain critical for other exhibition-related programming.

La Cartonería Mexicana is also providing opportunity for a first-time collaboration with Santa Fe’s Axle Contemporary, a mobile art space housed in the back of a custom retrofitted 1970 aluminum delivery van. In this case, an Albuquerque cartonería artist was commissioned to create a scenic installation that will traverse streets and neighborhoods throughout Santa Fe, and possibly, in Española and Albuquerque. The project is funded through private donors via the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

Axle Contemporary co-founder Matthew Chase-Daniel says he and co-founder Jerry Wellman find “the cartonería tradition compelling, from the piñatas of Homer Simpson and the heroes and villains of popular culture to the high art cartonería seen in the folk art museum collection.”

Axle Contemporary’s traveling installation will focus on such high traffic areas as the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, the southside library branch, El Paisano Market on Airport Road, the Santa Fe Plaza, Canyon Road and Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. Southside schools will also be part of the museum’s outreach partnership with Axle Contemporary.

“This installation will empower school kids of Spanish-speaking heritage when they see it elevated to art in our mobile gallery,” Chase-Daniel says. Meanwhile, other creative partnerships are being explored in preparation for Ghhúunayúkata | To Keep Them Warm: The Alaska Native Parka, a major museum exhibition focusing on this living Indigenous tradition. Opening on May 21, and continuing through April 7, 2024, the exhibition itself was conceived through a collaboration between curators and Indigenous culture bearers in a 2019 colloquium at the Anchorage Museum, the exhibition’s primary lender.

“It was a rare and humble opportunity to facilitate active cultural learning,” says Melissa Shaginoff (Ahtna-Paiute), former Anchorage Museum curator of contemporary Indigenous art. Shaginoff is co-curating the exhibition with Suzi Jones, formerly of the Anchorage Museum and a research associate with the Museum of International Folk Art.

The convening brought Shaginoff and Jones together with Anchorage Museum collections and conservation staff, six Alaska Native parka makers and culture bearers, and younger Indigenous community leaders. Together, they viewed parkas from the exhibition checklist, sharing invaluable knowledge about Alaska Native cultures’ deep respect for the animals of land and sea, as well as the materials, design and meaning of the works.

“With this foundation of active cultural learning, MOIFA prioritized Indigenous words and points of view, focusing on living makers and the deep knowledge passed down through generations so that a non-Native audience will understand the parka as a vital, living practice rather than an artifact,” says Laura Addison, Museum of International Folk Art curator and coordinator of the parka exhibition.

To Keep Them Warm is supported in part by the Friends of Folk Art, the International Folk Art Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art, National Endowment for the Arts and private donors via the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. Opportunities remain to support the exhibition and related public programs, as well as an online exhibition, through the Foundation.

Private funding is also needed for a unique Instagram campaign, #myparkastory, that invites Alaska Natives to share family photos and stories in a collective virtual forum about parka making.

To support the Museum of International Folk Art, contact Laura Sullivan at 505.216.0829 or



This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Spring 2023.