The Poeh Cultural Center celebrates its 35th anniversary while looking toward the future with a grand expansion. 


Being, doing, sharing. These are three ways the Poeh Cultural Center (pronounced “po,” meaning “path”) fulfills its mission as a gathering place for the respectful sustaining of culture and traditions of the six Tewa-speaking pueblos of northern New Mexico: Nambé, Ohkay Owingeh, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Tesuque. Celebrating 35 years in 2024, this complex, just 30 minutes north of Santa Fe, invites visitors to immerse themselves in Tewa history.


“Poeh ensures that visitors get a deeper understanding of the traditions and beliefs of the Pueblo people,” says Karl Duncan (Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan, San Carlos Apache), Executive Director of the Poeh Cultural Center. “That’s why we invite the public to visit our exhibits, events, and programs.”

Poeh Cultural Center

The idea for the cultural center grew from a 1980s traveling arts program. By 2002, the Poeh Center had evolved from a small museum within the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s tourist information center to a multi structure complex that includes classroom and studio spaces, museum and collections areas, and the four-story Tower Gallery and Museum, where renowned Santa Clara sculptor Roxanne Swentzell exhibits her work. A recently opened event space hosts reunions and other celebrations.


Some 6,000 guests tour the museum’s permanent and rotating exhibitions annually. The complex feels like a Pueblo village with adobe and wood buildings constructed in time-honored styles using traditional methods. A central outdoor plaza hosts seasonal farmers’ markets, events, and dances. To further these traditions, the center offers classes in Pueblo heritage and contemporary arts such as embroidery, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, and weaving. Emerging artists often have their first exhibition at the Poeh, going on to gallery representation in Santa Fe, Taos, and beyond.

Poeh Cultural Center Pottery Firing

“The center has empowered the community to use art as a way of healing and personal growth,” Duncan says. “They gain a sense of pride in their identity and that there’s value in their culture— that telling their own story is something to be proud of.”

 Nah Poeh Meng Poeh Cultural Center

Visitors explore Pueblo history from the Tewa worldview via the museum’s permanent exhibition, Nah Poeh Meng, the “Continuous Path.” Beginning with the star-filled Emergence Room, the story follows life-giving water winding among figurative sculptures by Swentzell and murals by Zia painter Marcellus Medina that depict the seasons as people hunt, tend fields, dance ceremonials, and make pottery. As autumn’s bountiful harvest arrives, Spanish settlers bring change and violence. The exhibit concludes in a contemporary setting where a child watches television.


In another room, 100 pieces of Tewa pottery from various northern pueblos are on long-term loan from the National Museum of the American Indian. Free of labels so the viewer concentrates on the visual experience, the pieces range from the mid-19th century to the 1930s, each a representation of Tewa cultural and spiritual traditions. An adjacent library of research material acts as an educational space.


A new 28,000-square-foot building in the planning stages will create even more exhibition, office, and library space for the Poeh Cultural Center’s 10,000 object archive. “The new building will join with the museum building and create a kind of grand lobby,” says Duncan. “We’re also improving the plaza with village-style architecture and turning an overflow parking lot into a public park.”


The cultural center’s influence extends beyond its physical grounds too. Held every August at Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder, the Pathways Indigenous Arts Festival has grown in just four years to become the third-largest Indigenous arts festival in the country, behind Santa Fe Indian Market and Phoenix’s Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. A smaller winter market takes place Thanksgiving weekend. The cultural center also manages Buffalo Thunder’s extensive art collection, artist demonstration program, and gift shop filled with authentic arts, crafts, and other goods.


“This living cultural center supports the needs of the local communities,” says Duncan. “They’re able to share their own stories and create their own work here and sell their work directly. Poeh’s presence is to ensure that our culture continues by inviting people to come and spend time exploring this place.”