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Renovations begin on Native American art museum

Farmington Museum hopes to open the downtown Native American art and culture museum this summer.

Hannah Grover
hgrover@daily-times.com
Farmington Museum Director Bart Wilsey talks about a picture on the wall of the future Native American art and culture museum on Thursday at 301 W. Main St. in Farmington.
  • The building, which formerly served as the Foutz Indian Room, was donated to the city in 2013
  • After remodeling the building, the Native American art and culture museum will open
  • The museum director said it will focus on education and could promote tourism in downtown

FARMINGTON — Renovations are underway at the future museum of Native American art and culture in downtown Farmington and the city hopes to open the museum during the summer.

"I think it will just be a huge draw to downtown Farmington," said Bart Wilsey, the Farmington Museum director.

The building, located at 301 W. Main St., was donated to the city in 2013 by Bob Culpepper. It previously served as the Foutz Indian Room. When Culpepper donated the building, he requested that it be turned into a Native American art museum. The city is now renovating the museum, which includes knocking out some walls, to bring it up to code requirements, including making the bathrooms comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The building includes the main level, an upstairs area and a basement. Currently the city is renovating the main level, but Wilsey said the upstairs area could allow for an expansion at a later point in time. The building also features two vaults, which the museum will use to store collections that are not on display.

Farmington Museum Director Bart Wilsey discusses plans for the future Native American arts and culture museum on Thursday at the museum in Farmington.

Wilsey said the Native American art and culture museum will focus on education.

"People can learn about it here and then go to the trading posts and trading companies and be knowledgeable about what they're buying," he said.

There are several such businesses in downtown Farmington, including one across Behrend Avenue from the future museum. In addition to promoting nearby trading posts and trading companies, the museum will also feature a gift store. Wilsey said the gift store's focus will be selling consigned Native American art.

Wilsey said the first exhibits are already planned and will feature some of the Navajo rugs in the Farmington Museum's collection. This collection has grown over the past decades.

"When I started here 18 years ago, we had 26 Navajo weavings in our collection and most of them, unfortunately, were junk," he said, explaining that the collection included worn out and damaged textiles.

The interior of the future Native American arts and culture museum is seen on Thursday at 301 W. Main St. in Farmington.

Now the museum features 150 Navajo textiles, including the Navajo blankets that have been displayed at the Farmington Museum. Wilsey said these may be displayed at the Native American art and culture museum as examples of transitional textiles.

"They are a cherished part of the collection," he said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.