Professional Programs

The Otsego Institute for Native American Art History

Materials and Materiality in Native North American Art History

May 18-21, 2015

This four-day workshop for graduate students and junior professionals is sponsored by the Otsego Institute for Native American Art History in cooperation with the Fenimore Art Museum.

Applications are now available. Application deadline: January 15, 2015

Download Call for Applicants form (pdf)

Download Workshop Summary (pdf).


In 2015 the Otsego Institute for Native North American Art History will focus on two inter­related issues of fundamental importance to advanced students in this field: the connoisseurship of materials and the theorization of materiality. 

Through workshops and close hands-on examination of objects in the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, as well as lectures, readings, and group discussions, we will develop skills in identifying the materials, styles, and techniques of preparation used by Native North American artists in the production of both historic and current art. At the same time, we will explore Indigenous and Western intellectual engagements with material phenomena: the nature and culture of materiality, how it embodies the spiritual, and how different materialities—human, animal, environmental—act on each other in artistic contexts.

The workshops will include presentations, discussions and hands-on examination of original works of art. There will be time for participants to present informally their own current and prospective dissertations and curatorial projects to co-participants and faculty.

Participation and Travel

The workshop is open to graduate students and beginning professionals specializing in or considering specialization in Native American art history, whether in art, anthropology, or Native studies departments or museums.

We suggest participants block out May 17-22 for the workshop, allowing a day of travel before and after.

Seminar/Workshop Leaders and Resource Faculty

Janet Catherine Berlo (University of Rochester)
Eva Fognell (Fenimore Art Museum)
Aaron Glass (Bard Graduate Center)
Emil Her Many Horses (National Museum of the American Indian)
Jonathan Holstein (Art dealer)
Heather Igloliorte (Concordia University)
Aldona Jonaitis (Director, University of Alaska Museum)
Evan Maurer (Director Emeritus, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts)
Ruth Phillips (Carleton University)
Jolene Rickard (Cornell University)

The Otsego Institute for Native American Art History

The Otsego Institute was founded in 1996 to support and promote the highest standards of the discipline of art history in the field of North American Indian art. It has sponsored three invitational conferences at the Fenimore Art Museum.

The topic of the first meeting, held in June 1997, was the State of Native American Art History. The second meeting, held in August 1998, focused on current research on Northwest Coast art and was tied to Native Visions: Northwest Coast Art from the 18th Century to the Present, a loan exhibition from the Seattle Art Museum. In August 1999 the Institute held its third conference, Native Art History and Folk Art History: Critiquing the Paradigms.

In 2002, the format of Otsego Institute activities was modified from an academic conference to an advanced workshop for graduate students who examined aboriginal art history within a framework of formal lectures, hands-on workshops, and informal discussion of contemporary research and scholarly practices with co-participants and faculty.