Good friends, Joyce Growing Thunder and her family opened the Northern Plains world to Ted Coe.
“All my life I’ve relied on this measured process of aesthetic absorption, whether the work is a Renaissance plaquette or a Native American wearing blanket. It involves returning over and again to the individual work of art. I revisit and bear constantly in mind the objects of my own collection, however large or small, to gain new insights. They are not trophies but instruments of passion, with the power to unexpectedly reveal mysteries.”
Ralph T. Coe
The Coe Center, founded by former museum curator, Director, and collector extraordinaire, Ralph T. Coe, is dedicated to increasing public awareness, education, and appreciation of indigenous arts, emphasizing hands-on experience and learning through actively engaging art. The Coe Center is the legacy of Ralph T. Coe, known as Ted to his family and friends. This search for knowledge and his quest to understand the human condition is evident in the varied collections he left behind and in his creation of the Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts, a private operating 501(c)3 located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Coe’s unusual eclectic collection of over 2,500 objects represents worldwide indigenous cultures, with its core encompassing the span of historic to contemporary North American Native works. He collected not only art objects, but also immersed himself in the culture that produced them. He was not one to theorize, but rather chose to expound on the beauty and singularity of art, as well as on the ceremonies he witnessed. As one Native-American artist remembered, Ted was “accommodating; he was easy to be with, laughed and just went with the flow without too much fanfare. He was humble.”
To this day, his loving friends share delightful Ted stories, of how he never met a stranger and was endlessly curious about others. A visitor to his home might leave four hours later, as Ted, eyes shining, would engage with them, talking about the people and history behind the many objects he collected. Ted felt if one sincerely took the time to look at objects, they would draw us into the circle creating the opportunity to cross diversities leading to a greater understanding of each other and our histories and heritage. Today, we continue to build on his legacy, committed to inspiring people of all ages and from all walks of life to be inquisitive and search beyond their own known experience. Our current youth development and artist-led programs include: The Hands-On Curatorial program for high school students, now in its fifth year; The Side-By-Side Artist program; and Coe in the Classroom. And, we host workshops and have several special exhibitions throughout the year, partnering with other arts and community groups. For more about Ted and to enjoy his legacy, visit the Coe for a free tour and more about Ted and all of the Coe programs. We also still have a few copies of the book Connoisseurship & Good Pie: Ted Coe and Collecting Native Art. (Need we mention that Ted loved a good piece of pie?)
The Coe Center explores and connects through experiencing the world’s Indigenous Arts. The Coe Center creates awareness, education, and appreciation of Indigenous Arts. We connect people and art through inclusive hands-on experiential learning, collaboration, and partnering. In this, we responsibly steward a diverse and eclectic collection of world Indigenous Art that supports community narratives.
Rachel de W. Wixom President, Executive Director
Rachel de W. Wixom has worked in the art industry for over thirty years. In 1989, she began at the international art publisher teNeues Publishing Company in their New York City office. She was responsible for licensing and overseeing the editorial and production division at the New York office. Wixom worked closely with museums, artists, and artist estates worldwide, such as The Andy Warhol Foundation, Keith Haring Estate, Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and more. In 2002, Wixom became Managing Editor at the Whitney Museum of American Art and was promoted in 2003 to Head of Publications. At the Whitney, she worked closely with curators, museums, artists, artists, organizations worldwide, and the Whitney education and marketing departments. She oversaw licensing and was responsible for aspects of the Whitney website as well as the museum’s publications, exhibition graphics, and exhibition catalogs—such as the Whitney Biennial catalogs, Picasso and American Art, Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, Alexander Calder: The Paris Years 1926-1933, and many more. Ralph T. Coe [Ted] created the private non-operating 501(c)3 organization in 2007. Knowing he was near the end of his life journey, he asked his niece, Wixom, if she might use her experience to transition the 501(c)3 into an operating organization once he was gone. Coe passed in September 2010. In 2012, Wixom left the Whitney to move to Santa Fe to do just that. The Coe Center was born in her uncle’s home, with its first public program held at 1590 B Pacheco Street in 2014.
Alex J. Peña, Deputy Director and Acting Curator
Alex J. Peña is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation. He is also San Ildefonso Pueblo, Pawnee, and Caucasian. Peña was born and raised in Lawton, Oklahoma, and graduated from Cameron University with a BFA. He received his MA and MFA degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an emphasis in Printmaking. Peña has taught and held leadership positions at various institutions across the country, including Santa Fe Preparatory School, IAIA, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to his work at the Coe Arts Center, he continues his artistic practice. Peña’s art is found in galleries, museums, and collections worldwide and has been featured in various books, catalogs, and periodicals.
Samantha Tracy (Diné), Collections Manager
Samantha Tracy is Diné from Fort Defiance, Arizona, and is a recent graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), where she received a BFA in Museum Studies. Samantha was a 2018-2019 Anne Ray Intern for the School for Advanced Research, and currently is a 2018-2019 Native Arts and Culture Mentor Apprentice Fellow. Samantha has previously worked with collections at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) and the Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts, and has also worked with fine art packaging at Astilli Fine Art Services. Her interest in collection management is ensuring the preservation and protection of objects through proper care and handling. She is also interested in collaborating with Indigenous communities for representation within museum collections.
Board of Directors
Kenneth Johnson (Muscogee/Seminole), Chair
Kenneth Johnson is a contemporary Muscogee/Seminole jeweler and bronze sculptor living in Santa Fe. He transforms copper, silver, gold, platinum, and palladium into wearable art in his downtown Santa Fe studio. Johnson’s work was recently worn at the Grammys in October by Reservoir Dog’s director Sterlin Harjo who rocked a signature silver Woodpecker gorget necklace while presenting awards. He has created custom jewelry for notables such as U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonja Sotomayor, Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and British House of Lords Baroness Emma Nicholson. His professional service includes teaching jewelry workshops for the Creek Council House Museum, SWAIA board of directors Co-chair; and Council of Artists chair where he represented the interests of over 1000 artists to that board.
Vanessa Elmore (Colombian-American), Secretary
Vanessa is a professional art appraiser, advisor, and collections manager specializing in the Art of the Americas, and holds a Master of Arts degree in Art History from the University of New Mexico. Based in Santa Fe, she has been in the art industry for over twenty years and has handled countless artworks spanning ancient history to now. Prior to starting her appraisal business, Vanessa held long-term positions at Morning Star Gallery (Nedra Matteucci Galleries) and Blue Rain Gallery. Most importantly, Vanessa had a long friendship and professional relationship with the founder, Ted Coe and his family, and because of that, she is very familiar with the Coe Center’s art collection and takes this stewardship with the utmost respect and honor.
Randy J. Brokeshoulder, Director
Randy J. Brokeshoulder is of Hopi, Navajo, and Absentee Shawnee heritage. He is a third-generation katsina carver and the great-grandson to Guy Maktima of Hotevilla—Third Mesa, Arizona. He currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as a finance banker and artist.
Jessa Rae Growing Thunder (Dakota/Nakoda), Ph.D., Director
Haŋ mitakuyapi. Suŋgina Duzaham Wiŋyan emakiapi. Mnisda Wakiyaŋ Iŋga tiwahe etaŋhaŋ ouhepi. Damakoda nakun Nakoda, de Tatanka Oyate. Cante waste yuha, ciyuzihapi. (Greetings our relatives. My name is Jessa Rae Growing Thunder. The Growing Thunder family comes from Bald Water Place. I am Dakota and Nakoda, from the Buffalo Nation. I shake all of your hands with a good heart.) I come from a family who has raised me to uphold our Oceti Sakowin values; to have compassion for others, to know and honor family, and to be humble yet brave. Who I am is justified by the deep roots of my family; I am a product of my grandmothers. My unci (Dakota for “maternal grandmother”), Joyce, was born and raised on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. Her grandmother, Josephine, taught her the importance of being a woman through ceremonies, cooking, beadwork, and quillwork; and in turn, my unci taught these knowledges to my ina (Dakota for “mother”), and eventually myself. The foundation of who I am as a young Dakota/Nakoda woman, is my identity as a third-generation traditional beadworker and quillworker. My life’s work strives to guarantee the perseverance and survival of these traditional knowledges and the wealth of opportunity they provide. Over the years I have focused my time and energy on fulfilling positions that have the potential to provide positive experiences for our communities. In 2012-2013 I had the honor of serving as Miss Indian World, in which I traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada focusing my efforts on the promotion of cultural preservation programs. In the summer of 2014, I held the privilege of being a liaison for the U.S. State Department. I traveled across the country of Ecuador, with three associates, creating dialogues with Quechua peoples regarding ancestral technologies and preservation. In June 2017, I was honored to be a guest instructor at the Oscar Howe.
Laurence A. G. Moss, MCP, MA, PhD, Director
Laurence A. G. Moss was raised in western Canada, Dr. Moss has lived and worked principally in western North America, Pacific Asia, and Central Europe. His North American base was Santa Fe, New Mexico from 1986 to 2006 when he returned to the Pacific Northwest with his family by the Kootenay Lake in Kaslo, BC, Canada. In 2017 he resettled in Santa Fe. After studying political economy, art, and Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, he undertook graduate studies in socio-cultural change & economic development, applied anthropology, ecology, urban and regional planning, and art and environmental design at Keio University and the Advanced Center for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, Japan, and the University of California – Berkeley (degrees: MA, MCP, Ph.D.).
In his professional work, he has focused on regional and local change and sustainable development. During the past twenty-five years, he has targeted cultural and environmental sustainability and equity issues in mountain regions, particularly the effects of amenity migration, tourism, and related global socio-cultural forces. Essential in his work is a multi-disciplinary and ecological approach, and the use of alternative futures analysis and planning. He is an innovator in theory and practice in these areas, and most recently focuses on cultural and political-economic constraints to implementing sustainability strategies and plans. He has worked for local communities, regional and national bodies, and through a number of international organizations in some thirty countries.
William “Will” Wilson (Diné/Irish, Welsh), Director
Will Wilson is a Diné photographer who spent his formative years living in the Navajo Nation. Wilson studied photography at the University of New Mexico and Oberlin College. Wilson has held visiting professorships at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Oberlin College, and the University of Arizona. Wilson managed the National Vision Project, a Ford Foundation-funded initiative at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, and helped to coordinate the New Mexico Arts Temporary Installations Made for the Environment (TIME) program on the Navajo Nation. Wilson is part of the Science and Arts Research Collaborative and has had numerous exhibitions and artist residencies.
Artist In Residence
Cara Romero (b. 1977, Inglewood, CA) is a contemporary fine art photographer. An enrolled citizen of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Romero was raised between contrasting settings: the rural Chemehuevi reservation in Mojave Desert, CA, and the urban sprawl of Houston, TX. Romero’s identity informs her photography, a blend of fine art and editorial photography, shaped by years of study and a visceral approach to representing Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective.
As an undergraduate at the University of Houston, Romero pursued a degree in cultural anthropology. Disillusioned, however, by academic and media portrayals of Native Americans as bygone, Romero realized that making photographs could do more than anthropology did in words, a realization that led to a shift in medium. Since 1998, Romero’s expansive oeuvre has been informed by formal training in film, digital, fine art, and commercial photography. By staging theatrical compositions infused with dramatic color, Romero takes on the role of storyteller, using contemporary photography techniques to depict the modernity of Native peoples, illuminating Indigenous worldviews and aspects supernaturalism in everyday life. To read more about Romero, head over to her website.
Lillia McEnaney is a museum anthropologist, independent curator, and freelance arts writer living and working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has—and continues to—work on curatorial projects at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Her writing has appeared in Museum Anthropology, Museum Worlds, Visual Anthropology Review, Journal of Museum Ethnography, Hyperallergic, El Palacio: The Magazine of the Museums of New Mexico, and Southwest Contemporary, among others. She currently serves as the secretary of the Board, chair of the communications committee, and blog manager for the Council for Museum Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association. Originally from Newtown, Connecticut, Lillia holds a BA in anthropological archaeology and religious studies from Hamilton College and an MA in museum studies from New York University. www.
Kenneth Bateman Honorary Board and Founding Director
John A. Berkenfield Honorary Board Director
Teri Greeves Honorary Board Director
Santa Fe Mayor Alan M. Webber Honorary Board Director
Directors, in memoriam
Ralph T. Coe Founder
All my life I’ve relied on this measured process of aesthetic absorption, whether the work is a Renaissance plaquette or a Native American wearing blanket. It involves returning over and again to the individual work of art. I revisit and bear constantly in mind the objects of my own collection, however large or small, to gain new insights. They are not trophies but instruments of passion, with the power to unexpectedly reveal mysteries. —Ralph T. Coe, 2003
Eugene V. Thaw Founding Director
Eugene V. Thaw, a major American collector of European old master art and one of the world’s most respected dealers in the field, passed away in January 2018. Mr. Thaw and his wife Clare E. Thaw shared the love of art. Mr. Thaw also earned distinction as the co-author of a monumental catalog raisonné of Jackson Pollock’s work.