On any given day, Elysia Poon travels to her own version of wonderland.
Inside of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, where Poon is the director of the Indian Arts Research Center, rooms are filled with clay pots from all different pueblos.
Each one of them has a story and Poon wants people to give a listen.
This is the mission of the documentary, “Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery.” The film premieres at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, on New Mexico PBS, channel. 5.1. It will also be available to stream on the PBS Video app. There will also be an encore screening at 6 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 20.
“It was truly a privilege and blessing to work with the incredible community members on the project,” Poon says. “We built a level of trust through the project and we all worked through the pandemic.”
“Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery” is a 30-minute documentary that explores the complex and rich histories that surround and are held within pueblo pottery.
Drawing upon outstanding collections of historic pueblo pottery, in the documentary, Pueblo people share personal insights that reveal how pottery is a powerful element that sits at the heart of their cultures.
This program highlights the deep connections between pueblo people and clay in a way that has rarely been seen.
The film is part of a nationally traveling collaborative exhibition of the same name, developed by the School for Advanced Research and New York-based Vilcek Foundation.
The show is a rare exhibition curated by the Native American communities it represents and is on display at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe through May 29, 2023.
The exhibit is a first of its kind as it gives voice to more than 60 individual members of 21 tribal communities. These members chose and wrote about artistically or culturally unique pots spanning 1,000 years.
The exhibition will move to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Vilcek Foundation in 2023, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts in 2024 and to the St. Louis Art Museum in 2025.
Poon says by watching the film, viewers will understand the connection pueblo people have to clay and pottery.
“It’s an art form that is reflective of themselves,” she says. “Pueblo pottery comes alive and retains the history. Through this project, there’s an understanding that behind each piece is a story of the people. It’s from the earth and has a deep history.”
Poon says a film crew worked on the project for nearly a year.
“We took the time to build trust with the people that we spoke with,” Poon says. “It was important for us to capture their story because it is revealing how pottery is a powerful element that sits at the heart of culture.”