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Bringing the legacy to life:
The Couse Foundation aims to open research center in 2021
focusing on Taos Society of Artists

[Click here for a PDF of this news release with additional quotations and background]

TAOS, N.M., Feb. 4—The Couse Foundation is moving forward with an ambitious plan to open a research center and museum facility in mid-2021 dedicated to the early Taos art colony and the Taos Society of Artists (TSA).

The center, now under construction at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site, will be in a 5,000-square-foot building that was formerly the Mission Gallery. After it is repurposed it will be known as The Lunder Research Center and become the repository for documents and art created, and artifacts collected, by the 12 members of the TSA. Materials will include original documents and correspondence, photographic prints and negatives, sketchbooks, original works of art, an extensive library, scholarly papers relating to the group and Native American art and ethnographic items.

The Couse-Sharp Historic Site (CSHS), owned and managed by The Couse Foundation and located in the historic center of Taos, is a 2-plus acre campus that includes the homes, studios and gardens of E. I. Couse and J. H. Sharp, two of the TSA’s founders. The future research center building incorporates the last remnants of the home of Sharp. The Couse home and studio remain largely as they were during Couse’s lifetime, with his original artwork, Native American art collection and Spanish Colonial art and furniture.

“The site’s nearly unique authenticity of place affords the visitor a powerful experience of this remarkable part of the world, which continues to influence American art,” said Davison Koenig, CSHS executive director and curator.

“The completion of The Lunder Research Center will create a living campus and fulfill our vision,” he explained. “We are launching an $8 million capital campaign in February 2020 to complete funding for its purchase and renovation. A successful campaign will also allow us to move forward with multiple exciting initiatives.”

Through this campaign, The Foundation intends to:
• Outfit the state-of-the-art research center, which will include an exhibition gallery, research library, archival and collections storage, and curatorial space
• Create artist-in-residence and scholar-in-residence programs and additional student internships
• Add key personnel, including archival, curatorial, educational and administrative staff
• Expand programming, including exhibitions, tours, lectures, publications and community events
• Through an endowment, ensure the long-term operation and preservation of CSHS
• Bring the best art created in Taos back to Taos

“We will build on the solid foundation that has been laid and fulfill the vision of an entire campus dedicated to the early Taos artists,” Koenig said. “We anticipate that the center will attract new generations of art enthusiasts, collectors, scholars, artists, students and community members engaged in understanding the continuing influence of these artists.”

Thomas Brent Smith, director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum, said the center “will be the first institution solely dedicated to the work of the Taos Society of Artists. It is sure to play a critical role by creating an epicenter for the preservation, study, and promotion of work created in one of the most important art colonies of the American West. Situated within blocks of where associated artists lived and worked, the Center will encourage and assist scholars in bringing new aspects of their lives and art to the greater public attention.

“Collectively and individually, the Taos Society of Artists are critical to understanding American art in the first half of the twentieth century, and the Lunder Research Center will play an essential role in this endeavor,” Smith added.

The campaign’s initial focus is to raise $3 million to acquire and renovate the facility, including furnishings, equipment and landscaping, and some of the initial operating costs for the center. It has received initial momentum from a $600,000 grant fully awarded this fall from The Lunder Foundation—Peter and Paula Lunder Family.

“Our faithful donors, board of directors, and friends have generously given more than a million dollars to the campaign already, in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $100,000,” said Rich Rinehart, president of The Couse Foundation. “As we work to fulfill our expanded vision and secure a sustainable future, we now reach out to our local community and the larger national community of people and organizations that recognize the importance of the early Taos art colony to the development of American art and culture.”

In addition to the short-term campaign, The Couse Foundation aims to build a $5 million endowment through pledges over the next 10 years, which when fully funded will provide approximately $250,000 annually for program expenses, including preservation of the site’s historic buildings and grounds.

The main gallery will be named in honor of Dean A. Porter, former director of the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame, a nationally known scholar and author who has devoted much of his career to scholarship relating to the TSA.

“For many years, scholars searching for information on the Taos Society of Artists have been required to travel extensively to access original sources,” Porter said. “Research has been continually hampered by the time and expense required to retrieve valuable research material. With the opening of The Lunder Research Center for the Taos Society of Artists, scholars will finally have access to documents and papers on all 12 artists. The Couse Foundation is consolidating original source material in Taos, the town where the art was created.”

Peter and Paula Lunder, principals of The Lunder Foundation of Portland, Maine, have stated, “We are very pleased to be able to support this project, which we feel is an important addition to the resources available for the study and appreciation of American art.”

Gifts of any amount are sought as part of the capital campaign, and a few naming opportunities of rooms and other facilities remain for donations of $50,000 and up.

The Lunder Research Center and future initiatives will enhance the campus at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site and will further elevate the reputation of Taos as an artistic community of international importance. “Join us to fulfill our vision and make the Couse-Sharp Historic Site the center for scholarship of E. I. Couse, J. H. Sharp and the Taos Society of Artists,” Koenig said.

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Porter donates extensive papers to Foundation’s TSA archive


Dean Porter, an Advisory Director of The Couse Foundation and Director Emeritus of the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame, has donated his personal Taos Society of Artists archive and research papers to the Foundation.

“The gift of these well-indexed documents, in addition to numerous scholarly books included with the gift, will be a treasure trove for scholars into the future and will be an important component of the Taos Society of Artists archive being established at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site,” said Carl Jones, President of The Couse Foundation.

The Porter documents have a primary focus on artists Walter Ufer and Victor Higgins but also contain source materials for other members of the TSA, and include an original letter from Georgia O’Keeffe to Porter regarding her connection to TSA artists. 

“The Foundation is honored to receive this extraordinary gift from our good friend Dean Porter,” Jones added.