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Pueblo Pottery Exhibit Transforms Storytelling
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Pueblo Pottery Exhibit Transforms Storytelling

When thinking of art exhibits, you may imagine walking through rooms and halls filled with artifacts silently vying for your attention. Placards reveal dates, names, and some relevant details about the pieces. Sometimes the visit seems more like a grade school history field trip than a journey into the people and places these artworks came from.

Grounded in Clay shakes up this scenario. Instead of focusing on the academic relevance of its Pueblo pottery pieces, it tells the story behind the pottery using the voices of the Pueblo people. Shifting the focus to each Pueblo’s culture and personal memories behind the pottery reinvigorates the history behind each piece.

A New Spin for Pueblo Pottery

The Vilcek Foundation is based in New York and fosters an appreciation for the arts and sciences through its various art collections and funding activities. In looking for a new partner to spearhead their latest exhibition idea, Vilcek Foundations sought the help of the School of Advanced Research (SAR). This collaboration made sense since Santa Fe’s Indian Arts Research Center’s (IARC) goal is to revolutionize how museums present their artifacts.

This resulted in a three-way partnership between Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), the School of Advanced Research (part of the IARC), and the Vilcek Foundation. These organizations reimagined how Pueblo potters’ stories should be told. In their view, no one could better tell the history and significance of Pueblo pottery than the Pueblo people.

Pueblo pottery is often narrated through the lens of academia and fine art. Rarely are the artifacts’ stories told through the voices of culture and experience.

To innovate the traditional museum experience, these organizations asked 60 people ranging from artists, writers, historians, scientists, and political leaders, to participate in the storytelling of these artifacts. This group is known as the Pueblo Pottery Collective and represents 21 tribal communities. Their task was to pick at least one pot and write a short essay or experience about it.

Two years later, a collection of alluring stories told in each participant’s own words materialized. Memories mixed with facts and culture bring these sedentary Pueblo pots to life.

Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery

This groundbreaking exhibit opened on July 31, 2022, and will run until May 29, 2023. At that point, the exhibit will move to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

This exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of the School of Advanced Research’s collection of Pueblo pottery which began in 1922. This is the school’s first exhibition and highlights the efforts to combine Pueblo culture and knowledge with academic study and public learning.

The exhibit also taps into each participant’s knowledge of pottery, pottery makers, rituals, materials, and uses for these vessels. Here are some of the participants, also called curators, that are sharing their experiences:

  •  Nora Naranjo Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo)
  • Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo)
  • Cliff Fragua (Jemez Pueblo)
  •  Russell Sanchez (San Ildefonso Pueblo)
  • Josephine Kie (Laguna Pueblo)
  •  Brian Vallo (Acoma Pueblo)

The School of Advanced Research is an international research organization. In 2008, it began to innovate how Pueblo pottery was displayed, experienced, and interpreted. This promoted a partnership with tribal communities, which helped bring a richer cultural context to Pueblo pottery.

As a result of their mission to bring personal voices and experiences to the history of Pueblo pottery, Grounded in Clay provides different ways to experience these artifacts:

  • Calendar of educational outreach
  • Exhibition tours
  • Collection tours

The School of Advanced Research also offers public and private programs at their campus, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, where the exhibition is being held, and online.

Grounded in Clay will be a traveling exhibition featured in four cities across the United States.

  • July 31, 2022 – May 29, 2023, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • July 13, 2023 – June 4, 2024, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Vilcek Foundation, New York City, New York
  • October 27, 2024 – January 19, 2025, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
  • March 9, 2025 – June 1, 2025, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

Grounded in Clay Reunites Pueblo Pottery Collections

The history of Pueblo pottery collections in New Mexico offers a turbulent story.

The School of American Archeology was formed in 1907. This later would become the School of Advanced Research. The work of this organization seemed counterintuitive to its purpose. Poor field techniques, a disregard for what was to be preserved, and the blatant mishandling of the pottery seemed to be the norm.

In 1909, the state created the Museum of New Mexico, which the School of American Archeology oversaw. Housed in the Palace of Governors, both institutions experienced growth but also grew apart.

The school created a privately owned collection in 1922. The museum secured a private collection of its own in the 1930s when the Laboratory of Anthropology was created. The school and museum would share collections, but rifts between the two organizations began forming.

The school moved to a compound on the El Delirio property in 1972. Once owned by the ostentatious White sisters, this compound attracted Santa Fe’s most notorious artists and writers. This certainly seems like an appropriate setting for historic art collections.

By 1972, the collections between the school and the museum were separated.

Grounded in Clay finally brought pieces of these divided collections back together while also featuring Pueblo pottery from Vilcek Foundation’s collection.

Where to Find More Pueblo Pottery

Palms Trading Company features pottery from several different pueblos. You’ll find unique pottery that can’t be found anywhere else, with pieces ranging from contemporary to centuries-old specimens.

At Palms Trading, we certify the authenticity of our pieces, so you can be sure that you are buying authentic pottery made by Pueblo people.

Check out our online store today or stop by our shop in Albuquerque to see these magnificent collections of pueblo pottery.