From a press release:
The Indian Arts Research Center at the School of American Research has in its collections some of the finest examples of Southwest Indian art to be found anywhere. For some time SAR president Douglas Schwartz had been wanting to put out a catalog showing some of the great pieces, and when SAR was approaching its 90th anniversary, the time was right. Production on the book Legacy: The Indian Art Collection at the School of American Research was begun about three years ago. Through a careful process, pieces were selected that are both beautiful and interesting. Each piece has a commentary written by one of the 15 scholars. SAR Press set about producing a book that would be a perfect container for its impressive content.
“The LEGACY exhibition at the Wheelwright is a perfect companion for the book because exhibition is beyond the scope of the school’s mission,” said Duane Anderson, vice-president of SAR. The exhibition completes the process of bringing these important objects before the public. Included among the 85 exhibited objects are the famous serape once owned by D.H. Browning, Secretary of the Interior from 1865-1869, and the spectacular Phase II Chief’s Blanket variant. Important pots include eighteenth-century vessels from Zuni and Zia, the remarkable storage jar by Arroh-ah-och, and one of Maria and Julian’s most famous polychrome jars.
The gathering of this important collection started in 1922 when, at a dinner party at the home of writer and Native American arts activist Elizabeth Shepley Sargeant in Tesuque, a fine old Zuni pot was broken. The guests decided on the spot to start a fund to collect older Pueblo pottery. Those present included Amelia Elizabeth White, Indian arts patron, human rights activist, and hostess; Kenneth Chapman, curator, artist, and Pueblo pottery expert; artist Andrew Dasberg, member of the Taos Society of Artists; Jesse Nusbaum, archaeologist, photographer, and assistant to Edger Lee Hewitt, Mary Austin, author and arts patron; Alice Corbin Henderson, a poet who co-founded and edited Poetry Magazine and later became the first curator of the Wheelwright Museum; Mabel Dodge Lujan, writer, socialite, and arts scene magnet; Alfred Vincent Kidder, archaeologist who led important excavation at Pecos Pueblo; Sylvanus Morley, Mayan scholar who succeed Edgar Lee Hewitt as director of the School of American Research; and Harry P. Mera, physician who was also a southwestern Indian arts scholar. These individuals were tremendously influential in art and anthrolpology in New Mexico and across the nation. Some of them worked to better conditions for Native Americans in regard to health, schooling, and income opportunities. Others were crucial in developing a market for high quality Indian-made art.
At first, members of the group limited themselves to collecting p[pottery, but after two years they expanded to include other Indian arts from the Southwest and areas adjacent to it, choosing the best examples of painting, pottery, textiles, jewelry, baskets, kachina dolls, and ethnographic items from the historic period. They incorporated, calling themselves the Indian Arts Fund; their mission was to put new life into Indian arts by keeping a collection that Indian artist could have access to for inspiration. (For a more detailed look at this fascinating story, which is central to understanding the development of Indian arts in the Southwest, see the introduction to Legacy: The Indian Art Collection at the school of American Research to be published in December, 1998.)
In 1972 members of the Indian Arts Fund board, chaired by renowned Santa Fe trader Al Packard, approached Douglas Schwartz, head of the school of American Research, with an offer to donate the entire collection — which then numbered 4,280 items — to the School. Dr. Schwartz accepted, secured funding for a building and endowment, and developed programs to allow scholars and Native American to use the collection and the general public to have access to it. The Indian Arts Research Center opened in 1978. Since that time, a series of Artist Convocations have been held, at which individuals who are known for the excellence of their creations come to SAR to discuss the current state and future possibilities of their art form. This truly embodies the original mission of the Indian Arts Fund. The Wheelwright’s recent exhibition DEEP ROOTS, NEW GROWTH was an outgrowth of a basketry convocation held at the School.
The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the School of American Research, which were both shaped in their early days by some of the same far-seeing individuals who created the Indian Arts Fun, take great pride in sharing this legacy with the public.
This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Eugene V. And Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust. It is also supported in part by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and the 1% Lodgers’ Tax, by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Office of Cultural Affairs, and by the School of American Research.