The Wheelwright Museum annual benefit—which features hundreds of pieces of jewelry, sculpture, weaving, painting, and more by Native artists—has become more expansive than ever with the addition of a second complementary event, the Native Artist Market.
On Wednesday, August 18, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian swings open their doors for the forty-sixth time for their annual benefit. The benefit—which features hundreds of pieces of jewelry, sculpture, weaving, painting, and more by Native artists—has become more expansive than ever with the addition of a second complementary event, their Native Artist Market.
“Our staff collects pieces all spring to be able to feature special pieces during these events,” Jean Higgins, the interim director of the museum pointed out before going on to describe some of this year’s standouts. Those included “a satirical look at casinos and wealth” by Santa Clara Pueblo artist Roxanne Swentzel. The thirty-three-inch-high clay sculpture titled Casino Maiden is a woman bedecked in traditional garb, her belt adorned with spades and clubs and the hem of her dress embellished with numbers as random as those that come up on a roulette wheel. Higgins also expressed her excitement to share the “meticulous stamp work” of Navajo artist Perry Shorty, jewelry from the likes of Yazzie Johnson (Navajo), Gail Bird (Santo Domingo/ Laguna), Charles Loloma (Hopi), and Mike Bird Romero (San Juan), as well as pottery from Jennifer Tafoya Moquino (Santa Clara).
The benefit supports general museum operations for the institution (now nearing its eighty-fifth anniversary) as well as educational events, including programs, lectures, and Curator’s Circles that add context to the permanent collection as well as the revolving exhibitions throughout the year. The Wheelwright’s annual community day—held in conjunction with the four neighboring museums of Santa Fe’s Museum Hill—which offers free entrance as well as performances by dancers, musicians, and storytellers, is also made possible by the benefit.
The benefit kicks off with an early-bird preview on Wednesday, August 18 (tickets for the sneak peek are $20 online or at the door) with official sale days following on Thursday and Friday (no ticket required).
In an attempt to thin the number of people at this year’s Indian Market in respect to ongoing COVID-19 surges, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) reduced the number of booths available at this year’s Indian Market (which is held August 21–22). The Wheelwright gladly coordinated with SWAIA to organize and produce the Native Artist Market, which features an “incredible lineup of contemporary artists” who will be selling their work at the Wheelwright on Friday and Saturday, overlapping with the benefit. This will allow more artists to exhibit and share their work during the week of Indian Market without concentrating too many patrons or artists in any one place.
Most importantly, Higgins stressed that the benefit has something for everyone. From the market to the benefit, from the food trucks gathering outside museum doors to the shady seating available to take a load off while taking it all in, the benefit is designed for enjoyment. This week provides an opportunity for long-term patrons to collect or for others to simply enjoy the beauty of the many pieces on hand and in the collection. To that end, during the benefit (Thursday, 10 am-4 pm; Friday, 8 am-4 pm) admission to the museum will be free.
“It’s a very exciting event,” Higgins said. After forty-six years of hosting it, the Wheelwright hasn’t lost any momentum, and in fact, has continued to evolve the event with the times. Snag your tickets to the early-bird event and find more information at wheelwright.org.