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In Memoriam: Margaret L. Archuleta, 1950-2023

Margaret Archuleta (Tewa / Hispanic), left, and former curator of contemporary art Jennifer Complo McNutt, right, at the exhibit preview party for Harry Fonseca: The Art of Living on May 18, 2018

The Eiteljorg Museum and the contemporary Native art world has lost a dear friend, Margaret L. Archuleta (Tewa / Hispanic), who passed away March 26, 2023, at age 72. Archuleta was a member of the museum’s Native American Advisory Council for more than 20 years, most recently working with curatorial staff on the reinstallation of the Native American Galleries. Her deep knowledge of Native art and artists and her museum experience helped inform the exhibit development process.

Having spent most of her life in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Archuleta obtained her master’s degree from UCLA, and wrote her master’s thesis on 2005 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellow Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu/Hawaiian/Portuguese, 1946–2006), whom she befriended. She also became a close friend of longtime former curator of contemporary art Jennifer Complo McNutt, who asked Archuleta to write the catalog for the Eiteljorg’s 2018 exhibition Harry Fonseca: The Art of Living. Archuleta also was a doctoral candidate in (Native) art history at the University of New Mexico.

Archuleta served at the Heard Museum in Phoenix as associate curator and then curator of fine art, and she was the creative force behind the Native American Fine Art Invitational from 1983 to 1997 that featured contemporary Native artists in an exhibition and publication. The invitational was a forerunner to the Eiteljorg’s biennial Contemporary Art Fellowship, which began in 1999. Among the future Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellows who were distinguished artists of the Heard invitational were Rick Bartow (Mad River Band of Wiyot Tribe, 1946–2016) and Faye HeavyShield (Kanai-Blood, b. 1953).

Archuleta also curated the Heard Museum’s original permanent gallery on the subject of American boarding schools, co-editing Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences, 1879–2000 (2000). She also served as the director of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and co-edited the book Shared Visions: Native American Painters and Sculptors in the Twentieth Century (1991).

Beyond her academic and professional contributions to the Native American art world, Archuleta was well known to the Eiteljorg staff and had visited the museum multiple times. Dorene Red Cloud, curator of Native American art, shared a memory of Eiteljorg staff members meeting Margaret and her beloved dog Coco for an al fresco meal during the 2018 annual Santa Fe Indian Market.

We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Margaret Archuleta, who left an indelible mark in the field of Native art. Thank you, Margaret for all of your contributions to Native art history and the Eiteljorg Museum — you are missed.

A full obituary is at this link.

Margaret L. Archuleta (Tewa / Hispanic), a member of the Eiteljorg’s Native American Advisory Council, at the museum’s Native Art Now convening of Fellowship artists, Nov. 12, 2017



File images courtesy of Dorene Red Cloud, Eiteljorg Museum