National Endowment for the Humanities' Picturing America Program to Feature Objects from Acclaimed Fenimore Collection

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y., MARCH 24, 2008—The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, is pleased to announce that three objects from its renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art—two ledger drawings by Chief Black Hawk and Beacon Lights, a Washoe basket by famed Native artist Louisa Keyser—have been selected to be a part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ newest initiative of its We the People program, Picturing America, launched February 26 by President and Mrs. Bush at the White House.

Picturing America is an innovative program that enhances the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture by bringing some of America’s greatest works of art directly into school classrooms and public libraries nationwide. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) carefully selected 40 masterpieces spanning centuries—all by American painters, sculptors, photographers, and architects—from collections across the country to help tell the story of our nation and culture in a fresh and engaging way. For this program, NEH will distribute large, high quality reproductions of the selected works, along with a teachers resource book, lesson plans, and materials, to K-12 schools and public libraries. Including the newly unveiled Web site,, Picturing America’s resources unlock the potential in each work of art to enhance the study of American history, social studies, language arts, literature, and civics.

“We are pleased to be a part of this far-reaching initiative to bring these wonderful works of art to young people across the nation. This is gratifying recognition of the quality of our collections and their significance in illuminating the stories of this land and its peoples,” said D. Stephen Elliott, President of the New York State Historical Association.

The Fenimore Art Museum’s Thaw Collection is a masterpiece collection of more than 800 art objects representing a broad geographic range of North American Indian cultures, from the Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Great Lakes, and Prairie regions. The collection serves as a resource for the research and appreciation of the aesthetic importance of North American art and represents a wide breadth of North American cultures. The three objects drawn from this collection which were selected for the Picturing America program are:

Beacon Lights, July 1,1904-September 6,1905, by Louisa Keyser or Dat So La Lee (ca. 1850-1925), Washoe. Carson City, Nevada—This work, made out of willow, western redbud, and bracken fern root, is the most historically significant basket of Keyser’s career and the one most widely referred to in publications on this famed Washoe weaver. Keyser’s mastery of the medium is revealed in the control of the extremely fine stitches of weaving and the elegant balance of her design as it moves over a constantly changing surface. Beacon Lights epitomizes Louisa Keyser’s greatest work in a 30-year patronage relationship with Abe and Amy Cohn, the owners of the Emporium Company in Carson City, Nevada. The Cohns documented her work as an artist, preserving a comprehensive history that is unparalleled in Native American art history.

Two ledger drawings from Chief Black Hawk’s (ca. 1832-ca.1889) drawing book, 1880-1881, Lakota (Sans Arcs Sioux), South Dakota— Chief Black Hawk’s handsome bound book of 76 drawings stands as the most complete visual record of 19th-century Sioux life in existence today. Recognized as one of the great Native American artists of the 19th century, Black Hawk’s book contains scenes of hunting, natural history, dance, ceremonial activities, and warfare.

The first drawing depicts men and women in Sioux dress during a social dance. Here, the artist has meticulously rendered the detail of clothing and adornment. In the second drawing, Chief Black Hawk depicts six men with typical Crow hairstyle dressed and painted for ceremony. Body painting was a way of ornamenting oneself for war or ceremony.

Public, private, parochial, and charter and home school consortia (K-12), as well as public libraries in the United States and its territories, are eligible to receive Picturing America materials. Interested schools and public libraries can apply through the NEH, with an application deadline of April 15, 2008, for receipt in the fall. Detailed instructions for submitting an application can be found in the ‘Apply Now’ section of the Picturing America Web site,

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge, and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, new technologies, exhibitions, and programs in libraries, museums, and other community places. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available on the Internet at

About the Fenimore Art Museum
One of the nation’s premier art institutions, the Fenimore Art Museum is home to an exceptionally rich collection of American folk art and American Indian art as well as important holdings in American decorative arts, photography, and twentieth-century art. Founded in 1945 in Cooperstown, New York, the museum is part of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA), founded in 1899. The museum’s renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, housed in the American Indian Wing, is a masterpiece collection of more than 800 art objects, representing a broad scope of North American cultures. The collections of American folk and fine art include seminal works by Grandma Moses, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, William Sidney Mount, and Benjamin West. The museum offers a range of interactive educational programming for children, families, and adults, including lectures and workshops for museum visitors and distance learning instruction for classrooms nationwide. The museum further explores and examines our cultural history by organizing and hosting nationally touring art and history exhibitions, including Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation; Treasures from Olana: The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church; A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.; and Ralph Fasanella’s America.

The Fenimore Art Museum is located on 5798 State Hwy. 80, Lake Road, in Cooperstown. The museum’s Fenimore Café, overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake, features wonderful views and a tranquil setting amid the terraced gardens. The Museum Shop offers fine jewelry, art reproductions, and a wide selection of publications on folk art, history, and Native American art. Museum admission is $11 for adults, $9.50 for visitors age 65 and over, and $5 for children age 7 to 12; children 6 and under and NYSHA members are admitted free. Reduced price combination admission tickets that include The Farmers’ Museum and The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are also available. The museum is open from April 1 through December 31; closed January through March, except for special events and school groups. For museum hours or general information, please call 1-888-547-1450 or visit


For more information and images, please contact:
Christine Liggio, Public Relations Manager
New York State Historical Association/Fenimore Art Museum
(607) 547-1472/E-mail:

Press Release Category: 
Recent Announcements
Publication Date: 
March 2008