Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Maggie Phinney

Maggie Phinney


Honored June, 1994

Maggie Phinney

Maggie Phinney celebrated America's Bicentennial in a big way. Living in London in the 1970s, she decided to give the British an unforgettable exhibit of American Indian art. From the teeming basement of the British Museum, came carvings Capt. Cook acquired in the Pacific Northwest. From the Ashmolean at Oxford, came Powhatan's robes. From the Rheims Cathedral came wampum belts collected by early French missionaries. It took a committee of one hundred--under Maggie's leadership--five years to prepare this major show. "Sacred Circles: Two Thousand years of North American Indian Art" drew record crowds to London's Hayward Gallery. Only Matisse ever had a bigger turnout. And she did it all as a volunteer.

"The first time I remember doing volunteer work was at sixteen," she told us. "My parents taught me that if I could afford to volunteer--both financially and time wise--I had a responsibility to give back to the community."

Growing up in Kansas City, she looked to her mother "as the role model from whom I learned the importance of volunteerism. She helped start Planned Parenthood in Kansas City, was involved in parent-teacher associations and founded the tea room, now a renowned restaurant at Kansas City's Nelson Gallery."

Maggie spent childhood summers on her grandfather's ranch outside Raton. Her mother's father was born in 1842. After college "he traveled to Raton. He met an English doctor who encouraged him to buy land. He did so, and the property is still in the family after more than a hundred years.

She majored in art history at Smith College, and found work with the fine arts department at IBM in New York. During the Second World War, "working full time and volunteering at a hospital three or four nights a week," she recalls "I got to the point where I was putting on rouge to hide the circles underneath my eyes." Her father came to visit, went home and "tattled" to Maggie's mother. She returned to a less strenuous life in Kansas City, still volunteering with the Junior League.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes