psst! — A Stitch in Time

Palm Springs Art Museum looks to the community to save Native American baskets

Large Storage Basket, circa 1910.


Time capsules of Coachella Valley history sit in the dark, waiting to return to their days in the sun. Victims of time, the intricate stitching of woven baskets frays in spots. They slump. Their natural fibers are breaking down after a century of wear; and without immediate intervention, these once-glorious staples of Native American art could be lost forever.

Palm Springs Art Museum’s Adopt-a-Basket program opens the door for the community to help save these artistic orphans. For $1,000 to $4,000 a basket, a person or group can fund conservation treatment of these indigenous artworks and receive recognition when the pieces go on display. “I can’t think of a more wonderful way to save these for history,” says Native American basketry expert Natalie Fay Linn.

Earlier this year, when Adopt-a-Basket was still in the discussion stage, Audrey Schumacher Moe and her husband, Courtney, jumped at the chance to save a circa 1910 basket by Dolores Saneva Patencio.

“Natalie Linn had been here and pointed out the extreme importance of that particular basket and that particular basket weave. Because I find baskets to be works of art anyway, the fact that the [museum’s] Western Art Council decided that they would focus on basketry as an art, give it what it’s due, I had no choice,” says Schumacher Moe, who sits on the council.

Now numbering about 700 baskets, the museum’s collection is noteworthy for clear provenance. Whereas the art form is largely anonymous (works feature maker’s marks only), local collectors often dealt directly with such prominent local Cahuilla weavers as Guadalupe Arenas and Patencio and then donated their works to the museum. “That connection just doesn’t exist everywhere,” Schumacher Moe says.

These artists’ skill cannot be underestimated, Linn says. The elaborate designs were created during the weaving process. The handiwork took months, from collecting indigenous material to completion. “It was not done with a needle and thread. It was done with one’s hand, and they had to refine the material. That in itself was an unbelievable process,” Linn says.

To adopt a basket or for more information, call 1-760-322-4888.

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