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Indian Arts in Santa Fe



Santa Fe has been an arts and trade hub for millennium with Native Americans inhabiting the area for more than 2500 years. One cannot escape picking up tidbits of historical knowledge while meandering through a town filled with museums, galleries and landmark hotels.

Allan Houser

Apache Indian artist Allan Houser is the godfather of Santa Fe art. His bronze sculptures set the standard for Indian art. His father fought with his second cousin, Geronimo, in the small band of Warm Springs Chiricahaus. They surrendered to the to the US Army in 1886 and Houser’s kin was sent to Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida and then to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama where his mother — Blossom — was born in the prison camp. The band of Chiricahaus spent 23 years in captivity at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was eventually freed in 1914. Houser’s parents stayed in Oklahoma and became farmers. He was the first child born out of captivity. As Houser matured and his interest in art grew, he announced to his father he was headed back to the motherland of New Mexico to be an artist. His hard-working, life-scarred father was not impressed. He wanted his eldest son to stay and help on the farm. But Houser followed his path back to New Mexico and became the preeminent Native American artist of our time.

As you roam about Santa Fe, you’ll notice a certain style of sculpture — a Native American figure with unmistakable curvature. You see this style everywhere; Allan Houser started it. After leaving the family farm, Houser went on to create important pieces of art as well as become a founding professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts. You can visit Houser’s studio and take a tour of the sculpture garden in Santa Fe. His art is also in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Allan Houser Sculpture Garden & Studio are open to the public by appointment. Call 505-471-1528 or email


Dr. Lois Ellen Frank, born in New York City and raised in Long Island, is from the Kiowa Nation on her mother’s side and Sephardic on her father’s side. She started her career in photography and found herself shooting product shots for ad agencies in Los Angeles. One day an elder visited her on the set of her photo shoot. She was shooting some inane, not original, non-environmentally friendly product. The elder asked her if she was “sharing her poetry from within?” She thought long and hard, quit her agency photography job and became a chef.

Armed with culinary knowledge, Frank returns to the pueblo and educates Native American communities on changing their eating habits back to ‘origin cuisine’— the cuisine of their ancestors. Native American origin cuisine consists of beans, corn, and squash and make a complete protein, produced with natural fertilizer in an ecologically balanced planting and gardening system. All three vegetables grow in perfect harmony. The corn provides structure for the bean stalk to grow up, the beans provide nitrogen and fertilize the corn, and the large leaves of the squash plants protect the soil from too much sun and reduce weeds. Frank’s cookbook, which won a James Beard award, shows us how to cook origin cuisine; and just wait for the next one which is coming out soon.

Of all the art events in Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Indian Market is the most historic and most important. Since 1922, it has been the largest Native American Indian arts market in the world. Held every year on the third weekend in August, the entire town sells out, so book accomodations well in advance. The market features thousands of Native Americans selling original art. Held in the historic downtown plaza in the center of Santa Fe, taking up 14 downtown city blocks with over 700 artists booths. Not only is it big, it has high quality art, including a juried Native arts program where global buyers and collectors buy directly from artists. Native American art is beautifully crafted, holds special meaning and appreciates in value over time — a great investment and a beautiful addition to your personal art collection. From the thousands of traditional and contemporary handcrafted works, you will have a hard time choosing between the jewelry, pottery, sculpture, textiles, paintings, wooden carvings, beadwork and baskets in the show. While you’re at it, you can sample Native American food, music and films.

Dan Namingha, Passage #43, Acrylic on Canvas 48” x 96”, 2016

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

A must-visit museum in the city of Santa Fe, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture tells the stories of Native Americans from early history to modern day art. Visitors enjoy thought-provoking exhibits such as Here, Now and Always that illustrates Native American history with life-size dioramas of living quarters — from tee-pees and hand crafted ladders, to modern day life on the rez, complete with insulin needles as a nod to the diabetes problem that plagues today’s Native Americans. Another lively program is the Landscape of an Artist: Living Treasure Dan Namingha. One cannot introduce Namingha (Hopi-Tewa) without including his artistic pedigree. He is the great-great grandson of Nampeyo, a famous Hopi-Tewa potter whose artwork is very important to Native American arts and uses ancient techniques passed down from the 1500s. Namingha’s work is mesmerizing and pairs ancient Native American symbolism with contemporary techniques.

SAR – School for Advanced Research

It’s a huge honor to be awarded a fellowship at SAR, Santa Fe’s historic and preeminent academic institution. The Indian Arts Research Center archive at SAR is beyond belief and fills two grand halls with historic art including pottery, painting, textiles, carved figures, basketry and jewelry. In addition to serving the keeper of this incredible collection of historic Native American artifacts, SAR is a publishing house and educational institute. SAR offers fellowships for scholars-in-residence; week-long gatherings of scholars in advanced seminars; the annual J. I. Staley Prize for excellence in anthropological writing and residential fellowships for Native American artists. SAR Press publishes academic books developed from SAR’s programs as well as general-interest books on the Southwest and Native American arts.


Terrific sweet treats can be found at Kakawa Chocolate House. Located near Canyon Road, the chocolate shop serves warm chocolate elixirs in the style of ancient Mesoamerican, Mayan and Aztec chocolate drinks. Take the flavor home and add two teaspoons of powdered chocolate to your daily coffee. In addition to drinking chocolate, Kakawa offers house-made ice-cream and truffles.

Than Povi Cottonwood Trading Post

There are no shortages of places in Santa Fe where you can pick up custom Native American art but a stop at Than Povi Cottonwood Trading Post is a great idea if you want to directly support Native American artists who live on a reservation. With a huge supply of jewelry, art, beadwork, pottery and wood carvings available, you’ll find one or several items to covet.

IAIA – Institute of American Indian Arts

If you really want a stellar arts education then look no further than the tribal college, Institute of American Indian Arts, located just outside of Santa Fe. While the university is small and very affordable, it has the latest educational technology, including 3-D printers and a dome-style filmmaking studio. In addition to traditional studio arts, students at IAIA can chose to study creative writing or cinematic arts. The school is open to non-Native students, it’s mission is committed to Native American and Alaska Native cultures. The collection of art from former students at IAIA is extraordinary and visitors are able to visit their museum in downtown Santa Fe. It is a must-see!

Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino

Where To Stay

Located in downtown Santa Fe, steps from the historic Santa Fe Plaza, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is an intimate world-class vacation retreat and New Mexico’s most lauded hotel. Since it was established in 1991, the Inn has set the standard for luxury and service among small city hotels. The 58-room boutique hotel unveiled a full guestroom re-imagination in 2014 to embrace a more modern, sophisticated aesthetic, while still celebrating the enduring creative spirit of the region’s Native Americans.

Opened in 2008, Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino is located on and operated by the Pueblo of Pojoaque just north of Santa Fe. The architecture and design of the building itself lends further to this artistic vision. Art from Native contributors statewide, and from many different Pueblos, are displayed proudly throughout the casino, a museum-quality collection with its own curator and worthy of studied perusal.

Getting There

Santa Fe is located 70 miles northeast of Albuquerque. Multiple airlines offer direct flights from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. Once there, visitors can rent a car or hire Santa Fe Valet and drive to Santa Fe. A car is not needed if visitors plan to stay in the downtown vicinity however you will need some form of transportation to explore neighboring Native American pueblos.


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