Marjorie Pierce Avery with family at opening reception for the exhibit.
In 1960 Marjorie Pierce Avery, an Arizona native then living in Texas, purchased a painting by Navajo artist Beatien Yazz. She became hooked. By 1999 her world-class collection of original works by American Indian artists grew to over 500 paintings. That year she decided to share a significant part of her collection with the people of Arizona and the public at large. She also wanted to share stories about her collecting methods of the last forty years and the relationships or connections she built with the artists, whose strength of character and talents she greatly admired.
The paintings bracket the period 1935 to 1990, a time that brought many changes to reservation and rural economies. Tourism dating from the completion of a transcontinental railway system, was enhanced by interstate highways and improved infrastructure that brought customers looking for art and craft produced by the "first American" to rural and reservation communities.
At the same time, expositions like the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial and Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico and the American Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Oklahoma provided important venues for artists and buyers to meet and make connections and friendships. Museums, commercial galleries and international expositions were also instrumental in bringing American Indian art into public view. These and other venues provided a marketplace for collectors and patrons like Mrs. Avery.