Remembering Those Who Took Note – Celebrating “Pueblo Designs: The Rain Bird”

On October 1, 2017, the Museum of Indian Art and Culture in Santa Fe, hosted a presentation of the Tom Lea and H.P. Mera’s book, Pueblo Designs: The Rain Bird (Rain Bird). The presentation was part of the Tom Lea Institute’s annual recognition of Lea’s work.  The presentation was led by Kathy Flynn, founder of the New Deal Preservation Association, and Dody Fugate, retired Assistant Curator of the Museum of Indian Art and Culture.

Rain Bird, was a product of collaboration between Mera, the then Curator of Archaeology at the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, and Lea, an artist working with the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program.  Rain Bird depicts 176 illustrations of the Rain Bird motifs found on pottery from the Zuni, Acoma, and Tesuque Pueblos.  While the book itself follows the evolution of the Rain Bird design over space and time, it is also indicative of the rising interest in and the preservation of native art forms by the Anglo culture.

In the 1930s, artists flocked into New Mexico under the New Deal’s WPA art and art preservation programs.  This made Santa Fe aThis precipitated a movement to preserve the art form, including Rain Bird motifs.  In Rain Bird, Lea illustrated the motifs found on the Pueblo pottery and Mera provided the commentary describing the significance of each motif.  Today, a significant number of the pottery pieces immortalized in Rain Bird, survive and can be seen in various museums around Santa Fe.  Ironically, no one knows where the original Lea illustrations are today.

By Kaythee Hlaing

Kaythee Hlaing was born in Rangoon, Burma and came to the United States in 2002.  She attend  Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY and received her Bachelor’s in Political Studies in 2006.  Prior to attending law school, she worked as an Associate at a mutual fund in Santa Fe, NM, while also obtaining a Masters degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College.​  Kaythee’s interests include: dogs, books, learning new languages, and stewardship of natural resources.


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