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Places to Experience Native American Artwork

A visit to a museum can foster an appreciation for the skill and craftsmanship of artists of yesterday, but sometimes you have to get out and meet artists in person or see them in action to get an understanding of what it takes to make art.

Fortunately, we can find amazing collections of contemporary Native American artwork in every segment of the country. And many of these places put visitors in touch with the artists of today through educational events and marketplaces. Get out and explore the art world from a Native American perspective for a whole new understanding of how culture can affect art.


Heard Museum’s Guild Indian Fair and Market


The Heard Museum features major collections that focus on Southwestern American Indian cultural art and fine art. In 1958, the museum launched an artist fair, which has grown from a small community event to one that features more than 600 artists and draws some 20,000 visitors each spring.

“Beyond the stunning numbers of artists, the jurying process by which entrants are chosen means that many of the best artists are here,” said Ann Marshall, the museum’s director of curation curating and education. “Artists with gallery representation still make it a point to show at the Heard and connect with their collectors.

“As markets go, only the Santa Fe Market is bigger. Also, it is about seeing some of the best performances and eating food that you just don’t get a chance to try very often, like Hopi piki bread and parched corn.“

In addition to artists, visitors can expect to see a live mural painting, watch a Native American fashion show, attend workshops and panel discussions on collecting artwork, hear music and dance presentations and sample foods from cooking.


National Museum of the American Indian

Washington and New York

Part of the Smithsonian’s network of museums, the National Museum of the American Indian first opened in lower Manhattan in 1994 and then a second location in 2004 on the National Mall. In addition to exhibits that guide visitors through the narrative of Native American history and culture, the museums feature Native American artwork, both contemporary and historic.

In Washington, customers at the Roanoke Museum Store see historic art pieces displayed next to contemporary pieces to learn about how today’s artists are expanding on their traditional themes. The store also features jewelry, textiles and other works by Native American artists. New York’s Gallery Store also features jewelry, pottery and textiles from Native American artisans.

Serious collectors will want to attend the annual art markets held in December at both locations. The two-day events feature more than 35 artists at each museum who specialize in both traditional and contemporary art forms.