Jonathan Sims is a media producer and former appointed official at the Pueblo of Acoma. He covers news and writes a column on Indigenous People's issues for The Paper.

We are actually on Tewa Land, if you really wanna get all technical about it. But let’s get this clear: As New Mexico gets closer and closer to a full “re-open,” many of the actual pueblos remain closed to outsiders because of COVID pandemic rules enacted by each tribe. Each pueblo and tribal nation in N.M. has the right to impose and ease laws like this. So even as the state opens its doors and takes off its mask, you may find some pueblos still limiting guests. So, where do you go to capture some of the good pueblo vibes? Make a visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

IPCC, though humble in size from the outside, is a destination that surprises first-time guests with an open-air central courtyard adorned with murals by some of the pueblo world’s greatest artists. In fact there are over 22 murals throughout the center. There you can see weekly dances by groups from various pueblos and other Southwestern tribes.

Rachel Moore, curator for IPCC’s museum, gave The Paper. the scoop on what’s new at the center: “Friday through Sunday, it’s still lively. We’re excited to have public dance performances and vendors back. The courtyard sounds amazing. Those murals are brought back to life with those dances. So it’s really exciting to have that back. We have our usual programming, you know, the month-to-month things are back. We have our book club. We have our Seasons of Growth program back in season. So people can tune in and learn more about farming, traditions and practices.”

The Cultural Center has also started up its SEEDSS [Sowing Ecological Education for Delivering Sustainable Stewardship] program again. Moore says the traditional agricultural program is “really cool for Indigenous farmers. Indigenous farmers can participate and kind of facilitate the actual farming across the communities. So it’s also built-in with some more seed sharing. That one’s geared specifically towards Indigenous community members, even if they’re here in Albuquerque or in Santa Fe, to get people to participate in a natural garden. It’s really meaningful for us to be able to grow in our own backyard.”

The summer classes are usually a big hit at IPCC, and this year is no exception. Both sessions filled within days of opening registration. But how can you blame them? When students get to do crafts, try gardening, taste new foods, learn traditional games and make artwork as taught by some really cool artists. There’s also the infamous end of session “Throw Day”! But the real big news will be years in the making. As Moore put it, “We have officially received funding from the Thoma Foundation for a two-year project that will be in partnership with Ideum to improve and to expand their digital projection mapping pottery piece. So this is kind of phase one, where we’re hoping to expand it to four more communities. And then we want to continue the program and get additional funding and future years to expand it. To get information on all 19 pueblos is the ultimate dream, but you know, we have to take baby steps.”

Why is this important? Well, IPCC and their longstanding collaborative role with digital interactive design company Ideum Inc. has again come full circle as the two groups hope to continue to push boundaries. Of course Ideum is no stranger to pushing boundaries and will look to bring the critically acclaimed exhibition “Exploring Pueblo Pottery” back to life in a new home and with new technology. Originally a collaboration between Ideum and Acoma Potter Michelle Lowden, the exhibit allows users to change the designs virtually by the use of projection mapping on a larger-than-life blank olla pot. Visitors can see older designs as well as more contemporary motifs.

Partnerships with groups like Ideum have been able to elevate serious storytelling like that found at IPCC and make it fun and interactive. The first tabletop collaboration between the two was nearly 10 years ago during the “100 Years of Policy Exhibition.” Ideum created a one-of-a-kind touchscreen computer table displaying a timeline of important pueblo historical dates. The company also set up one of its early turnkey table units to house an interactive document viewer and media player. This is how good Ideum is: It was a week and a half before the show was supposed to launch. Everything looked and worked great. The LED screen was a custom, one-off size made months before out of Singapore. And one day, without anyone at fault, it cracked. A freak occurrence. Calls went flying around the world looking for someone, anyone, that could build a replacement and ship it to N.M. No luck. They thought they were dead in the water. But the team at Ideum has ice cold genius running through its veins and cut a corner bottom off a 65″ LED flatscreen and modded it to become an interactive touchscreen. To this day the sorcery of such work is mind-numbing.

Hugh McDonald, an Ideum executive producer had this to say about “Exploring Pueblo Pottery”: “It’s one of the things I love about working here: Every day I learn something new. We have this team of people that can figure anything out, and this time we got the help of a great Acoma artist. She knows the history and lives the art. That kind of partnership doesn’t always happen. Where you get amazing content, it’s locally based and has the best technology in the world. That is a recipe for success.”

Pottery, actual and digital versions, can be representative of the larger story you will find at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. That story is built out of a long-standing past, full of traditions and community. It is built in place on this land that pueblo people have always called home. But as time changes, so do our communities. We must find new ways to engage our past, so one can celebrate freely what it means to be a contemporary pueblo person today. Even today you still stand with your feet on the land of ancestors. So, Native or not, have got an afternoon to chill? Go check out ABQ’s best-kept secret. Learn about your pueblo neighbors. After all, you are kinda on our land.

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Jonathan Sims is a media producer and former appointed official at the Pueblo of Acoma. He covers news and writes a column on Indigenous People's issues for The Paper.

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