Most of us use Labor Day as the unofficial separator between hot summer days and the beginning of cooler fall. This past two years, with the pandemic lockdown and restrictions, many typical summer events went either postponed or virtual. It was, for almost everyone, very unsatisfying.

This summer, Santa Fe saw the return of many of the activities and events that have been held for many years. The main thrust of many of these events was fundraising for the Native American education scholarship funds, aiding eligible Native American artists to further their educations and continue the established traditions of their art.

The first gala event was held by the School for Advanced Research (SAR), which has the tremendous vaults of historic and contemporary Native American art on its campus. SAR offers internship programs where the artists live on the campus and explore their cultural heritage while continuing to improve and expand their artistic talents. A former agency of the State of New Mexico and its historical museum arm, SAR and the Museum of New Mexico Foundation share common heritage and common goals in preserving, educating, and expanding awareness of Native American culture and heritage. A non-profit organization, SAR relies heavily on contributions from its members.

SAR organized the first gala dinner and auction of the summer, held on the SAR campus on a lovely summer evening. At least, it was lovely until the heavy rains poured down. Michael Brown, the President of SAR, started with a wonderful welcome and discussion of how the efforts of SAR members contributed to the scholarship capabilities of SAR.

Not to be discouraged, the attendees had a wonderful dinner, followed by a silent auction of donated Native American art as well as an energetic live auction. The table at which Michael and I sat was blessed with vivacious and friendly people, and I believe that each couple at that table ended up winning an item in the live auction. We were fortunate to win a beautiful Robert Patricio pot donated by who other than one of our amazing Gallery friends, Charles King. The staff at SAR worked around the rain, and pulled off a fantastic evening for close to 200 attendees.

The following weekend, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), the State run museum that has primary responsibility for Native American culture and heritage, had their wonderful gala and auction up on Museum Hill outside the MIAC facility. It was once again a lovely evening, and yes, once again the heavy rains poured down. The President and CEO of the Museum Foundation, Jamie Clements, gave an inspiring talk about the support provided by the MNMF organization to support MIAC.

Sadly, there were several groups from IAIA, the Lightning Boy Foundation, and other that were scheduled to perform before and during the dinner, but were unable to do so. The auction, however, proceeded without delay, and again the 200 or so attendees were able to contribute to the funds of this worthy organization.

We were particularly pleased to share a table with Diane Bird, who we had met at prior MIAC events, and who shared her voluminous knowledge of Native American artifacts with us. One of the MIAC archivists, Diane was instrumental in pulling together the Grounded in Clay exhibition.

It was interesting to see many of the SAR staffers at the MIAC gala, as many of the MIAC staffers had also attended the SAR gala in the prior week. These two organizations are working closely together to launch the Grounded in Clay exhibition, using many of the treasured artifacts found in both the SAR vaults and the MIAC storage areas. The exhibition will be a traveling one, currently open in Santa Fe, and then moving on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2023, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in 2024, and then to the Saint Louis Art Museum in 2025. This exhibition was put together by both organizations, using the insight and knowledge of over 60 members of 21 tribal communities in the American Southwest.

And in mid-August, the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) held what was possibly the most elegant summer gala at the La Fonda hotel. Well over 200 attendees enjoyed the indoor entertainment (yes, it rained again, as this is the summer monsoon season in Santa Fe), the sumptuous dinner, and the wonderful silent and live auctions. The President of IAIA, Dr. Robert Martin, started with an inspiring talk about the strides Native American students are making as a result of this resident university. As an enrolled member of the Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma, Dr. Martin is living proof of the benefit that a solid college education can provide people.

We were able to see a stunningly elegant hoop dance performance by Shandien LaRance, a world champion hoop dancer, hear a reading by US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (the first Native American named Poet Laureate by the US Library of Congress), and experience an electric moment when a donor stood up and announced an additional $250,000 donation to their existing scholarship foundation to IAIA. These events, needless to say, are not for the faint of heart. Attendees dug deep, and the result was a significant scholarship boost to the students working toward college degrees in the arts from IAIA.

This is the 60th year of IAIA, and also the 50th year of the IAIA Museum, both tremendous milestones to attain. Anyone who is in Santa Fe should definitely consider dropping by IAIA on the south side of the city for an inspirational visit.

There were other events of note in Santa Fe during the summer. The SWAIA Indian Market held its 100th market (and yes, on Saturday it poured all day but somehow didn’t seem to dampen many spirits). Another juried show, Pathways, was held up at the Buffalo Thunder Resort for the second year in a row, and the Poeh Cultural Center and the Pojoaque pueblo did a wonderful job of managing this new event. It appears that they are trying to return to the Eight Northern Pueblos market that was historically held around this same time. As always, there were quite a few hangers-on sales events around Santa Fe, as unjuried events try to cash in on the presence of a large tourist crowd, many of whom are not savvy enough to know (or care) about authentic, high quality Native American art versus imitation crafts.

So now it is time for us to say goodbye to an exhausting summer of live events and begin preparations for the few events in the fall – Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, SWAIA Winter Indian Market, and a few other juried events. Soon the snow will be falling on the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the east of Santa Fe, and we will snuggle down in our blankets and replay fond memories of the hectic and oh, so enjoyable summer that was, hopefully erasing or abating the memories of the two prior years of summers that were not. We can also look forward to getting back to some semblance of normal in future years, as artists work hard this winter to innovate and improve their skills and give us even more spectacular and breath-taking works of art.

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