The Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts

Greta Chapin McGill - August 14, 2013

'This new and exciting venue is a must see part of your Indian Market experience.'

It’s Indian Market time in Santa Fe.  A wealth of things to do and see in the City Different to educate visitors and residents to the heritage and culture of Native American tribes.  One venue not to be missed is the new Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts.

I was fortunate to be able to take a tour at the invitation of Amber-Dawn Bear Robe the new museum’s first director.  Amber-Dawn brings to the table years of experience in Native Arts organizations.  She has worked as administrator, curator, grant writer, marketing and community outreach with many Native American arts organizations.  I met her a few years ago when she presented the “Fashion Heat” contemporary and native fashion show for Indian Market.  This show was where I first became acquainted  with the work of Patricia Michaels.

The Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts is located at 213 Cathedral Place,  where the work of Native Women throughout North America will be shown.  Future exhibits will feature painters, potters, sculptors, weavers, jewelers and all other aspects of performing and literary arts.  An education outreach will work with schools to help new Native Women artists and there will be an Artist in Residence program.

The museum is named for Santa Clara artist Pablita Velarde, born September 19, 1918.  While attending the Santa Fe Indian School, she was the first female student in Dorothy Dunn's art class in 1932 and the first Native Woman to paint as a career.  The recipient of many awards including an honorary Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico and the Palmes d’Academie from France, she dominated the Native art scene winning more awards then any other Native painter male or female.

This first exhibit in the museum is of the work of Helen Hardin entitled “A Straight Line Curved'” Helen Hardin, Tsa- sah- wee- eh or Little Standing Spruce, is the daughter of Pablita Velarde.  At 41, Helen Hardin succumbed to breast cancer, but her legacy lives on vibrantly in the body of work she left.  Her work marries the old and the new.  It breathes with contemporary flavor showing cubist references within the context of traditional native themes.  The images of Native spiritual life created in the internal visions of Helen Hardin are an indication of what future generations will revere.  Her paintings are controversial.  She clearly broke all the rules, as every innovative artist must do, moving fluidly between the indigenous and the contemporary worlds.  She lived a remarkable life bridging her traditional upbringing with the modern world.  She was well-traveled which gave her a priceless education in art and culture.  This exhibition is a must see for any visitor to Santa Fe.

Included in the exhibit is a recreation of Pablita Velarde’s work studio.  You can view her tools and her little TV where she viewed soap operas while she worked.  The most interesting of her tools was one of her own creation she used to create a splatter technique which she passed to her daughter.  This technique was taught to her by Joe Herrera, who passed it to Tonita Pena.  There is influence by Kandinsky and the cubists in this technique as well.

At the Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Woman in the Arts you enjoy a short video presentation on the lives of this exceptional mother daughter team narrated by Helen’s daughter and a driving force behind the museum, Margarete Bagshaw.  Two remarkable docents Carol and Joe McVeigh are there to answer even the most obscure question you many have.  This new and exciting venue is a must see part of your Indian Market experience.