Organizers seek new home for Indian Arts Show

The annual Lawrence Indian Arts Show will continue despite the closing of its gallery, the Kansas University Museum of Anthropology.

But where the popular show will take place after this year remains uncertain.

From intricate silver jewelry to traditional masks, the Lawrence Indian Arts Show displays a variety of works by American Indian artists. But the show, entering its 14th year, will be looking for a new home after news that the Kansas University Museum of Anthropology is closing. Judges for the 2001 show, Mateo Romero, left, and Kathleen Ash-Milby, are pictured with some of the artwork in this file photo.

“There still are things that need to be worked out,” said Mary Adair, the museum’s interim director.

KU officials announced this week that budget cuts would force the museum to close sometime this fall, after the 14th annual Indian Arts Show. The museum has been located in Spooner Hall since 1984.

The annual show and its accompanying events, including the Haskell Indian Art Market, draw thousands of visitors to Lawrence.

It is sponsored by the Museum of Anthropology, Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Arts Center and Haskell Indian Nations University.

Last year’s juried show included 155 pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, pottery, beadwork, quillwork and clothing. Seventy-three artists representing 15 tribes participated.

Adair said this year’s show, scheduled Sept. 14 through Oct. 20, will continue as planned. After that, she said, the university will continue to support the show no matter where it takes place.

Ann Evans, director of the Lawrence Arts Center, said it was important for the show to continue.

“It’s a major festival,” she said. “It’s really the only big festival we have. In terms of tourism and economic development, it’s great. It brings a nice group of people to Lawrence. They’re the kind of tourists we want. And they buy artwork they spend money.”

Evans said the show was a major reason Lawrence had a reputation among American Indians as a friendly community.

“It’s something to remember and make sure we don’t do anything to jeopardize,” she said. “Things work out. They might be different, but something will work out.”

Meanwhile, Adair said, museum officials are working to determine what to do with their collections. Five staff members were given notice Friday that their jobs would be cut in one year. Some may choose to leave before then.

Adair said she would remain at the university, though she said she was unsure what her position would be.

She said the collections would be maintained and available for research and education. But the public including schoolchildren no longer will have access to the museum. Several thousand of the 35,000 to 40,000 annual visitors to the museum are children in classes, she said.

Adair said artifacts could be displayed at other campus locations or be available to faculty members to take to schools.

“Public service is a very big component of the university and of education,” Adair said. “We want to make sure the collections aren’t restricted to just on the hill. There should be a public component to it.”