Let’s Get Together: Two Great Events, One Town, Same Day

Pueblo Grande Museum

A Sandy Begay Burnham Pictorial at last year's Pueblo Grande Navajo Rug Auction

Barbara Teller Ornelas

Barbara Teller Ornelas at last year's Gathering of Weavers

You can see why there is no way that I will miss either of these events. 

 Tempe, AZ  If you take a look at the calendar on the left, you’ll see why my weekend is shaping up to be really, really busy.  Here in the Phoenix area, out of the whole year, there are two big events in Navajo weaving.  One is the Gathering of Weavers at the Heard Museum and the second is the Pueblo Grande Museum Navajo Rug Auction.  This year, they’re both taking place on the same day.  At the same time.   At least they’re both events that last several hours and they’re conveniently on the new light rail line.  The Pueblo Grande auction also has a preview on Friday evening, starting at 5 PM, so I’m going to take advantage of that.  Then, I’m planning to be at the Heard event at when it opens at 10 AM Saturday and then dash back across town for the rug auction Saturday afternoon.  It’ll be a little frantic, but I’ll tough it out and I hope that enough other weaving enthusiasts make the effort to attend these events to make them both successful because they’re both important. 

To participate in the Heard Museum Gathering of Weavers, a weaver or someone representing the weaver has to be present at the museum in Phoenix.  That’s a long trip and a daunting expense for a lot of weavers, but the museum doesn’t charge anything to the artist unless they sell a weaving.  That really helps financially and it’s a model that has been successful since the event started three years ago.  It is a wonderful opportunity to meet weavers and see demonstrations of spinning, weaving and dyeing.   This year both Mark Winter and Bill Malone will also be signing books. 

The rugs sold at the Pueblo Grande event are largely consigned by weavers who can’t make the trip to an event like the Heard, but that doesn’t make their skills or artistry any less amazing.  The auction is conducted by Bruce Burnham and Hank Blair, who are both remarkable resources on Native American art and darn good story tellers.  The auction also features vintage pieces that are fascinating to examine.   The Pueblo Grande auction has raised thousands of dollars for both the weavers and the support of the museum, built on a fascinating Hohokam site.  

You can probably sense the frustration that I feel that two events run by great institutions seem to be in competition rather than cooperating with each other but sometimes people with good intentions just don’t see the issues that they’re creating.  To be fair, it was probably Pueblo Grande’s job, because their event has previously been later in November.  It seems to me that a few scheduling tweaks could have been made turned the timing clash  into a great celebration of Navajo weaving.   That missed opportunity this time around is really, really unfair to the people who are supposed to benefit: the weavers.  If you’re in the Phoenix area, I hope to see you at the Heard, Pueblo Grande or both and let’s encourage the organizers to get together the next time around!   See you Saturday!

Hagoshíí (so long for now)

Mary Walker

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