The Vilcek Foundation has launched Pueblo Pottery: Stories in Clay, a digital experience to complement the exhibition of Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery. The multimedia project is community driven, and incorporates audio, essays, videos and interactive tools developed with the curators of the Pueblo Pottery Collective.
Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery is rooted in the living traditions of Pueblo nations, community members, and potters,” says Vilcek Foundation President Rick Kinsel. “For this experience we use every technical and creative resource available to us to amplify the voices of the Pueblo Pottery Collective, and to support and extend the impact of this exhibition. Pueblo Pottery: Stories in Clay expands on the community curatorial aspects that make Grounded in Clay so powerful.”
In the digital experience, designed by Pentagram, users can explore three-dimensional views of selected works, accompanied by descriptions of form, design, and meaning. The three-dimensional views were captured using photogammetry with the support of Cortina Productions and Forum One.
The Cultural Heritage of Pottery
To help develop the digital experience, the Vilcek Foundation engaged Brian D. Vallo as a leading consultant. A member of the Pueblo of Acoma tribe in New Mexico, he served as governor in 2019–21, and has more than 30 years of experience working in areas of museum development, cultural resources management, repatriation of ancestors and cultural patrimony, historic architecture preservation, the arts, and tourism.
Vallo curated the selection of works and wrote content for the digital experience, and identified selections from the community curators to incorporate into the project.
“The pottery-making tradition is rooted in the enduring cultural heritage of the Pueblo people. Informed by their understanding of and deep respect for the natural environment, the potter creates each piece with great reverence for the clay, water, and other materials to be used,” writes Vallo. “Pottery-making is handed down from one generation to the next. In most Pueblos… the tradition is carried on through observation and a hands-on process of working with the clay and other materials.”
Amplifying Pueblo Voices
“The exhibition of Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery is groundbreaking in many ways, as it is a community-curated exhibition of work originating in Native American communities that centers the lived experience and voices of Native American curators,” says Vilcek Foundation Curator Emily Schuchardt Navratil. “We wanted to bring Grounded in Clay to life in the digital realm, to honor these pottery pieces and traditions, and amplify the voices of the Pueblo Pottery Collective beyond the physical exhibition.”
Says Director of Digital Brian Cavanaugh, “By leveraging technology we amplify Native American voices and offer a window into the profound stories and traditions embedded within each vessel. The Vilcek Foundation embraces technology as a tool for empowerment, enabling the world to hear diverse narratives that have been woven through generations. This forges a path where Native voices are celebrated.”
Grounded in Clay opens in New York
Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery is on view in New York with concurrent exhibitions at the Vilcek Foundation and The Metropolitan Museum of Art from July 2023 through June 2024. The exhibition was previously exhibited at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where it was on view from July 2022 through May 2023.