Board & Staff

Staff

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 ArtGeorgia O’Keeffe: AbstractionAlexander 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

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.

Bess Murphy, Ph.D.
Creative Director, Curator

Bess Murphy is the Creative Director, Curator at the Coe Center for the Arts where she works with leading Native artists, community members, and students to develop meaningful and creative programs and exhibitions. At the Coe, she has worked on many community and artist-driven projects including the 2018-19 exhibition IMPRINT and the project Function with artist Cannupa Hanska Luger. She also directs the Coe’s education programming, including the Hands-On Student Curator Program. Murphy received her doctorate in Art History, with a focus on Native and American 20th-century art, from the University of Southern California. She was formerly a Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center Fellow and has published in exhibition catalogs and El Palacio Magazine. She has taught Art History and Museum Studies at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and the Institute of American Indian Arts and has held positions at galleries, museums, and art centers as well as alternative artist-led art spaces.

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 Summer Art Institute at the University of South Dakota where I taught Native youth the importance of traditional Native art forms, like beadwork and quillwork. In 2018 I had the esteemed privilege of working as a Native American traditional artist for the U.S. State Department’s Arts Envoy Program in Saudi Arabia. Our trip consisted of traveling the kingdom promoting North American Indigenous arts and culture.

Along with these amazing opportunities, I have been blessed with an abundance of possibilities as a traditional Northern Plains artist. My work, alongside my ina and unci, speaks to the intergenerational knowledge of our traditional arts. Most recently our work has been shown in, Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists, shown at Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Frist Museum, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Philbrook Museum of Art. My family’s work has also been featured in the exhibition, Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women’s Dresses, curated by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. My soft-sculpture work gave me the honor of being one of five artists featured in the exhibition, Grand Procession: A Collection of Contemporary Native American Soft Sculpture, at the Denver Art Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and the Heard Museum.

I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Native American Studies at University of California, Davis. My research is rooted in the practice of history as an Indigenous tradition of Dakota/Nakoda peoples. With this project, I am conducting a Dakota/Nakoda tribal history study with my unci who is a renowned beadwork artist. This work applies both recognized (archival and oral history) and traditional creative forms of knowledge transmission through analyzing her beadwork as living testimony to Fort Peck history. It is important to note these two threads of my project are not separate nor disjointed, but rather tightly woven together. By conducting a tribal history project using creative forms of knowledge transmission speaks to the decolonization of Indigenous history and the reinforcement of cultural/tribal sovereignty. Furthermore, this project empowers the women of Fort Peck and in turn contributes to the empowerment of our culture and community.

To assist in my analysis of how oral history work can contribute to the contemporary Fort Peck voice, I assert that Fort Peck Dakota/Nakoda women have always been historians. Through traditional beadwork, Fort Peck women have encrypted our/their histories into every stitch. These beaded histories, though seemingly voiceless, have “spoken”—and can be read as texts—with precise articulation via traditional forms of knowledge transmission throughout colonialism. Dakota/Nakoda women’s use of traditional creative forms of knowledge transmission, specifically oral testimony and beadwork, are key to understanding and advancing Fort Peck sovereignty. My in-depth study of such creative historical forms contributes to an overdue recognition of Dakota/Nakoda women artists, such as my unci, as agents of decolonization through the generative beaded histories they create and disseminate to kin and tribal members. I argue that positioning and engaging with these traditional creative forms as authoritative sources asserts our sovereign right to history. Colonial perceptions of our sovereignty have diminished these rights through non-Dakota/Nakoda lenses and definitions. By centering and privileging Dakota/Nakoda ways of history, this research offers a template for future studies that will ultimately contribute to and strengthen our sovereignty.

As a young Indigenous woman, I carry the responsibilities of living a good life that promises a future for our traditional knowledges. At the foundation of my community work are the knowledges and gifts that my unci and ina have given me as a beadworker and quillworker. No matter what every day brings, whether it is writing my dissertation, teaching University students, instructing museum workshops, I end the day doing exactly what my grandmothers have done before me; at the end of every day, after my daughter goes to sleep, I pick up my needle and thread.

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.

Director: 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.

Gerald G. Stiebel
Director

Gerald has been an art dealer for over fifty years. He has lectured and written articles and run various associations of art dealers. The most important being the International Confederation of Art Dealers (C.I.N.O.A. – La Confederation Internationale des Negociants en Oevre d’Art)—an international confederation of art dealer associations from many countries. While his gallery in New York dealt in the arts of Europe from the 16th to 18th century, he and his wife have collected Native American Art for the past 30 years. In Santa Fe, he established an art advisory, Pahaana, LLC, and is also on the board of the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

Honorary Directors

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.

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