Santa Fe Living Treasures ‚Äď Elder Stories
Honored October, 2015
He’s been called a Renaissance man. When Herb Beenhauwer was 11, his family escaped Holland two months after the Nazi invasion. He learned English, became an artist, a musician, a scholar, a philosopher, a selfless citizen.
Coming from New York, Herb was seduced by New Mexico when he was stationed at White Sands Missile Range during the Korean war. Herb was a successful Santa Fe business man heading up a Wall Street brokerage firm. In 1966 he and his late wife Bernie became buyers of contemporary Native American art with their purchase of a $25 sand painting. This led to an extensive collection of over 1,000 pieces which included all art forms from the Navajo, Hopi, and Pueblo people. Herb met and became friends with many of the artists and sponsored several American Indian children through the Save the Children Federation. The Beenhauwers wanted their contemporary collection to reflect the transition from the traditional Native American art . In 1994 they donated their collection to the Hopi tribe. At the Hopivewat Museum and Research Center it will be used to teach the outside world, and the Hopis themselves, the evolution of Southwestern Fine Arts. For many Hopis this gift meant the return of art created by the hearts and hands of loved ones who are no longer here.
Herb has lent his business expertise, his resources, and life experience to the community. Before coming to Santa Fe, Herb was instrumental in setting up the “STEP” program in Scarsdale, NY, a program that provided African American students from the south an opportunity for a positive educational experience in high school. For two years one of the students lived with the Beenhauwers. In Santa Fe Herb was on the board of Open Hands, an agency that helped the frail elderly, disabled and impoverished members of our community. As a palliative care volunteer, he was a companion and support for those in the last stages of life. He taught philosophy, again as a volunteer, in the high school, and inspired one young student who went on to college to major in philosophy Herb participated in a Department of Health project to help underprivileged and mental health individuals create artwork for the “Childhood Revealed” art exhibition. He was a Literacy Volunteer, served on the board of the Women’s Health Service, and The Wheelwright. He currently teaches ESL to international students…but teaches more than just language, he exposes them to culture, literature, art and geography.
An eloquent and articulate man, he is an inspirational speaker sharing his family journey to freedom. As a member of the New Mexico Human Rights Project’s speakers’ bureau, Herb speaks to New Mexico’s middle, high school and university students. He inspires students to explore and take advantage of new opportunities, to challenge themselves and develop all avenues of interest. One woman said that hearing his heartfelt experiences as a Holocaust survivor gave her the strength to be a better mother and strive to accomplish all her aspirations and dreams.
Music is in Herb’s soul. An accomplished cellist, he was involved in local community orchestras and teaching music. He plays annual house concerts with his daughter at the piano. And he is a talented watercolor and pastel artist.
Herb is a man of great courage, grace and integrity, and he has a marvelous sense of humor and fun. His generosity knows no bounds. Herb contributes much to make modern Santa Fe the vibrant cultural, artistic, and beautiful city it is today.
Story by Nancy Dahl
Photo © 2015 by Genevieve Russell