The development and politics of Indian arts support in Santa Fe and the story of a settler of the Uinta Basin are the winners of this year’s Evans Biography and Handcart Awards.
Utah State University’s Mountain West Center for Regional Studies coordinates activities and annually presents the awards.
Kenneth Milton Chapman: A Life Dedicated to Indian Arts and Artists by Janet Chapman and Karen Barrie is the Evans Biography Award winner. The book was published by the University of New Mexico Press. The $10,000 Evans Biography Award, established in 1983, recognizes outstanding research and writing of a biography of a person who lived in or had significant influence on the Mormon West or who was part of Mormonism’s pre-Utah history.
Kenneth Milton Chapman moved to New Mexico as a young artist in 1899. By the time of his death in 1968, he was recognized as the sole Anglo authority on the design elements of Pueblo pottery, and he personally participated in the founding of the Laboratory of Anthropology and other Santa Fe institutions, including the Indian Market and the Museum of New Mexico. His biographers draw from his extensive memoirs and letters to create a book that rose to the top of the submissions for this year’s awards.
Comments from the Evans jurors praise the authors’ work.
“[We are] impressed by the authors’ skill in explaining Kenneth Chapman’s complex milieu … matters that are complicated and political and at an unyielding core to modern-day anthropology and cultural geography and ethnography,” the jurors said. “What is authentic, how is art created, and what are the responsibilities of artists, and of the dealers and brokers and ethnographers who live with and among them, and who are often their agents and advertisers?”
Eight distinguished reviewers selected the book from a field of ten nominees, making the point that the book was a significant contribution to western history, said Elaine Thatcher, program coordinator at the Mountain West Center.
“Janet Chapman and Karen Barrie have succeeded in constructing a book with a clear narrative flow,” the jurors said. “They guide readers through the complex wheeling and dealing that characterize the history of the Museum of New Mexico, the Museum of Fine Arts, the School of American Research, the Indian Arts Fund, the Laboratory of Anthropology — and more.”
The book’s authors are descendants of Chapman. Janet Chapman is a writer and systems analyst, and Karen Barrie is a professional writer and psychologist. They sifted through archives and Kenneth Chapman’s own writings to create their biography.
The Evans Handcart Award was awarded to William B. Smart for Mormonism’s Last Colonizer: The Life and Times of William H. Smart. The book tells the story of William H. Smart, who moved to the Uinta Basin and developed it as one of the last settlement areas in Utah, displacing the Ute Indians in the process.
The $2,500 Handcart Award, established in 1996, is given each year to a biography of merit, often by an author who is not an academic historian, who contributes to an understanding of the Mormon-settled West.
“Carefully assembled, well-written, and ably documented, this will appeal to anyone intrigued by the slow forging of Deseret, and especially so to those curious about how the Utah antipodes were occupied and settled,” the Evans judges wrote. “The addition, or presentation, of a remarkable character who initiated this outward motion and consolidation has enduring charm and a long reach. … Overall, this biography is not only thorough and balanced but also quite compelling. It is footnoted and depends for its analysis on the right sources and sound interpretations.”
An added bonus in the book is a CD containing transcripts of Smart’s extensive journals.
“We are delighted to honor these two books, both of which will be important resources on aspects of western history well into the future,” Thatcher said.
The Evans Awards were endowed by the family of David Woolley Evans and Beatrice Cannon Evans, both born in 1894.
The Mountain West Center for Regional Studies was established in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at USU in 1986 to advance the understanding of the Mountain West region through interdisciplinary studies and to link university expertise with regional needs and interests.
An awards ceremony will be held Oct. 2 on the USU campus, along with book signings in various locations and classroom appearances by the authors. More information will be available on these events at a later date. For information, call the Mountain West Center, (435) 797-0299 or visit its Web site
Contact: Elaine Thatcher, (435) 797-0299
Source: Mountain West Center for Regional Studies