3 Questions

3 Questions with Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Fellow Kimberly Becenti

With a recent $25,000 Grants for Arts Project award from the National Endowment for the Arts, Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum have jointly announced they will onboard IAIA student Kimberly Becenti (Tohono O’odham Nation) to a management fellowship at the latter’s downtown institution. Hailing from Arizona, Becenti will spend a year working with the museum across a variety of tasks and departments, including collections, registration, documentation and evaluation. In other words, while in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Museum Studies, Becenti will have the opportunity to engage with just about every step of the process, and in one of the most well-respected museums in the country. We caught up with her to see what’s what. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

Are you an O’Keeffe fan? Is there any special meaning to working with this specific museum for you? It seems like you’ll have a lot of different focuses while you’re there.

I remember learning about O’Keeffe back when I was in high school during one of my art classes, and I’ve always found her an inspiration, being a woman artist. I tend to gravitate more toward female figures in all aspects of my life—music, art, books, anything—so as far as Georgia O’Keeffe, her paintings, how established she is...she’s known worldwide, and I find that inspiring. It’s kind of like I came full circle; I remember being in high school, learning about her and never thinking this is where I’d end up.

How do you see your work with the O’Keeffe museum shaping up? Are you hopeful to contribute as much as you learn?

I’m hoping to have input. The O’Keeffe Museum is for everyone, and [I’m hoping] to learn from the individuals I’m working with now.

What’s your long game? You’re pursuing a Museum Studies degree, so how do you hope to use that down the line?

After I’m done here and I receive my degree at IAIA, I would love to be able to study abroad and hopefully form a career, get my foot in the door. I have my mind set right now on Italy, Florence, at schools I’ve been looking at there. I have an instructor I’m working with [at IAIA], and he’s very knowledgable [about Florence] as he worked there. That’s where I want to be in the long run—I’d like to go outside of the United States. I also have interest in South America. I would love to be able to work internationally, which makes it pretty cool because at the O’Keeffe, getting to network with different people and opportunities...will help with my travels.

Now that I’m actually doing the work to get there, I see it being a greater possibility for myself, but if you were to ask me five years ago, I probably would’ve said you’re crazy.

I do eventually want to go home with my expertise, but not any time soon or where I’m gonna be there permanently and settle there. I do travel back home a lot—it’s home, I miss it. I know there may be opportunities where I get to work with our tribal cultural center, and I would like to have my input there. I mean, I do want to go home eventually, that is ultimately what I’m going to school for. Even being able to travel and study abroad...I do hope to bring that back to my community.

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