During a recent road trip we paid a visit to the Sky City Cultural Center that houses the Haak’u Museum at Acoma Pueblo. We had been given an introduction to the director, Emerson Vallo, by one of the curators of their current exhibition of Masterpieces of Acoma Pottery, Landis Smith. She is a conservator from Santa Fe who had been with the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. for over a decade. For this exhibition she worked with other members of a curatorial committee which included Brian Vallo, the brilliant first director of the Haak’u who was instrumental in the design of their great building which opened in 2006. Others on the committee were Stephanie Riley the young curator, a member of the Acoma tribe who has a degree in Anthropology as well as Museum Studies, Melvin Sarracino, also Acoma, the “museum specialist” who has stepped in and run the museum whenever there was a gap in the leadership, and in an unusual step, an Anglo trustee, David Rasch who lent many major pieces to the show.
Their guide for the exhibition was an exhaustive catalog on Acoma pottery researched and written by Dwight Lanman, former director at Winterthur, and Francis Harlow, a theoretical physicist. The loans came mostly from the School of Advanced Research and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe as well as the private collection of David Rasch. The pots range from 950 A.D. to modern times and
much of the work is amazingly
exacting and precise.
Of course, the hope of any exhibition is to entertain and educate visitors. This show had a special purpose as there are many ceramic artists who work at Acoma today. Landis Smith explained, “Our goal was to bring important Acoma pottery back to the pueblo - for the community as well as to educate the public.” She remarked on the number of artists who came to the opening, and saw “pottery made in the old ways” where there were no shortcuts.
Though photography is generally not permitted Emerson Vallo allowed me to take some for this missive. This vitrine is of the earliest pieces in the show and come from the Haak’u’s collections.
|Photo Credit: Jennifer Esperanza|