SchoolArts Room

Discovering the Ralph T. Coe Foundation in Santa Fe

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Sep 5, 2016

The Coe Foundation's collection of around 2000 objects represents worldwide indigenous cultures, with its core collection encompassing the span of historic to contemporary North American Native works.

To Native American Indians, the swastika is a symbol of the sun, the four directions, and the four seasons. Hitler ruined its traditional symbolism by his adoption of it for Nazi Germany. This is an historic pot from Acoma Pueblo in the Collection.
Friday we visited the Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts in Santa Fe, a gem I had not discovered until now. It is a non-profit art center dedicated to increasing public awareness, education, and appreciation of indigenous art and culture through its on-going programming, exhibitions, and research.
The Foundation is the legacy of Ralph T. Coe (1929-2010). He served as a curator and then director at the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri (now known as the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art). After he left the Museum, he moved to Santa Fe and devoted this life to collecting, curatorial projects, and consulting.

Much of the collection is stored and available as a study collection and can be viewed by appointment. This images shows a delicate ledger book.






The collection is organized by culture and kind of objects. The range of baskets here represent many different Native American peoples.






A cradle board.






Temperature-controlled storage.





A Northwest Pacific totem fills the entry.






Every object is exquisite.


If you are in Santa Fe and would like to visit, the Foundation is open and free every Friday of the month but can also be visited by appointment. The Foundation can be reached at 505-983-6372 or