Lessons from Dorothy Dunn : the Studio at the Santa Fe Indian School, 1932 - 1937
MetadataShow full item record
This study examined the pedagogy of Dorothy Dunn, who founded the first painting program the Santa Fe Indian School, called the Studio, in 1932. Although Dunn directed the Studio for only five years, from 1932 to 1937, her program launched the careers of several prominent artists and influenced the course of Native American painting in the Southwest throughout the mid-20th century. Dunn, an Anglo woman trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, attempted to develop a curriculum that would connect Santa Fe Indian School students with the aesthetic traditions of their diverse communities. Dunn’s teaching goals and practices are examined in relation to early 20th century social and educational reforms. The founding of the Studio dovetailed with Indian New Deal reforms, a body of U.S. policies enacted through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). These reforms encouraged BIA boarding schools, including the Santa Fe Indian School, to emphasize arts and crafts. The Santa Fe Indian School’s specialization as an arts school provided institutional support for the establishment of the Studio. This study examined Dunn’s papers in the Dorothy Dunn Kramer archives and Dunn’s published writings to develop a description of Dunn’s teaching practice at the Santa Fe Indian School. Primary sources provided evidence of Dunn’s pedagogical values, her understanding of cultural identity, and her practices as Studio director. These sources indicate that Dunn combined multiple fields of scholarship to develop specific conventions for Native American painting, developing a style that the Studio codified and popularized. Although Dunn intended to empower her students, her static understanding of Native American painting seemed to contradict the Studio’s goals of social reform. Inconsistencies between Dunn’s goals and practices echoed the ideological tensions entrenched within broader social, economic, and educational movements. Finally, this study borrowed concepts from critical theory to interpret implications of colonial legacies and resistance in the Studio.