Felicia Garcia

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians/ Samala Chumash

Curator Felicia Garcia, a member of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians/Samala Chumash, is a museum scholar and the former Curator of Education at the Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe. She currently works for the Indigenous data sovereignty initiative Local Contexts, and strives to use her platform to support Indigenous sovereignty within museum spaces and other cultural institutions.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Felicia chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Acoma jar

Acoma jar
c. 1920
Clay and paint
8¾ x 10¾ in. (22.2 x 27.3 cm)
Collection Vilcek Foundation

Creating a Community

I was very lucky to work on this exhibition as the special projects coordinator for just over a year when the project first began. In the beginning, we hosted several gatherings for all the community contributors. We ordered pizzas and sat around laughing, catching up with old friends, and making new connections. I have met so many wonderful people through this process, and also had the privilege of seeing so many incredible pots.

Since the Vilcek pottery pieces were residing in New York during the selection phase of the project, we relied on high-resolution images of the collection. I received the files and went to a local office-supply store to print them. I sat in my car looking throughthe photos, and I had to pause when I came to the image of this pot because of its beauty.

For weeks, we had the photos laid out on one of the tables in the SAR vault for community contributors to view. I waited to make my selection until most of the community participants had made their choices. We had several visitors come into the collection and comment on this particular pot. As someone who is not from a Native community in the Southwest, I try to be mindful of how I engage with pottery from this region by always prioritizing community knowledge. So I was eager to hear what any visitors wanted to share about this piece. One individual came in and commented on some of the designs and the meanings behind them. I was so happy to learn more about the pot that I had selected. However, another visitor came into the vault a short time after and shared a different interpretation. I was initially confused and unsure what to write about, but then I realized that the information must not be meant for me to know, and that is okay.

I was so grateful for those interactions, because they solidified my role as a non-Pueblo person who is privileged to work for an institution that stewards Pueblo pottery. This experience was a humbling reminder of how much I do not know, and reminded me what an honor it is to be able to listen to and learn from those who do have ancestral ties to this place. I feel most fulfilled when I am able to facilitate a visit from someone who has a familial connection to our collection, and sometimes I am fortunate enough to speak with someone who will share a story with me about that connection. Through storytelling, this project has created a community, and I am so glad to be a part of it. This pot is a reminder of that process, a reminder of all the beautiful stories that were shared with me along the way, and it is a reminder of our community.