Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
October 21, 2000 - Issue 21

Ortiz Center Designed to Bring Native Voices Into Academia
by Scott Sandlin ABQJournal Staff Writer

Ideas come spilling out of Beverly Singer, director of the fledgling Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies at the University of New Mexico.

The center, which has its grand opening today at the Maxwell Museum on campus, was officially born in January with a $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Singer has been on board since June, envisioning prospective programs, writing grants and thinking about fund raising.

The center, named for the late anthropologist, scholar and Indian rights activist Alfonso Ortiz of San Juan Pueblo, aims to use new technologies to give access to indigenous and other cultural voices within the academic study of anthropology.

One program would focus on the acequia, or ditch system, in New Mexico. Another, a joint project with the Museum of New Mexico and Boston University for a traveling exhibition, will bring together 15 Arizona and New Mexico artists.

The Ortiz Center will be operated by UNM's Department of Anthropology and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, but it will function independently.

Where Maxwell's focus is exhibitions and artifacts, and the anthropology faculty's is teaching and research, the Ortiz Center is about people, Singer says.

It is a place for people to share ideas and dialogue, she says. After raising the minimum $1.5 million in private funds to match the federal grant, it will have its own physical space as well.

"Over the last few years, there's been a real interest in looking at public anthropology in a more realistic light," Singer says, explaining the genesis of the center. "That has come from the faculty recognizing the need to work more closely with the communities who are being studied so they become interpreters of their own experience, and that there is a discussion of culture from that perspective."

As an example of "public anthropology," Singer referred to a graduate student who used museum collections and the anthropology lab to help Acoma potters solve a problem of their pots cracking. A small exhibit was organized about the research.

The center will provide support for storytellers, healers and other scholars from cultures not only in the Southwest, but also in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

There are plans to launch a "virtual museum" to bring the art and culture of New Mexico and the world to a wider audience using the Internet, and to sponsor exhibits, music, dance and other performances.

In Honor of Alfonso Ortiz

Alfonso Ortiz Research Center



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