When it came time to do her student teaching and thesis research, Felice Lucero, a Keres Nation Native American, returned home to the place where she could do the most good—Katishtya, otherwise known as the Pueblo of San Felipe, in northern New Mexico.
Lucero, a 2015 graduate of the MA in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations with certification (Concurrent Program), did her thesis work on “Art-based Curriculum in the Indigenous Classroom and How it can Enhance and Benefit Learning in Indigenous and Euro-American Language and Culture.” The Concurrent Program is for those who have an undergraduate degree in the fine arts. It combines teaching certification and master’s classes into an integrated program.
Lucero earned student teaching hours by introducing the elements of art and art images to students at both the San Felipe Pueblo Head Start and the San Felipe Pueblo Elementary School.
“It was a great opportunity to share formal creative concepts in an academic environment with students who are already well-versed in cultural based arts,” Lucero said. “It’s important to me as a community member to encourage the children to reach their highest potential in the creative arts.”
Lucero, 69, was raised in an Indigenous community. The Keres-speaking Nation has continued their traditional culture, language, and art practices to this day. Her goal is to continue social activism through the arts to promote best education practices for Indigenous children.
Lucero earned her BFA from the University of New Mexico in 1979, and her career as a fine artist began. Many of her works are signed as Felice Lucero-Giaccardo. From 1970 to the late ‘80s, she lived in Albuquerque, NM, with her former husband and two daughters. As a painter and mixed-media artist, Lucero contributed to several art exhibits for a contemporary Native American art group, the Grey Canyon Artists. “It was during this time period that I had my first art review in Art Space magazine,” she said. “This review sent my work onto the national scene and I began a journey of exhibiting my work from New York City to Los Angeles and in Europe.”
In 1986, Lucero and her family relocated to Washington, DC, for professional and educational opportunities. While there, she was given a 10-year retrospective exhibition that included 36 artworks at the University Art Museum at Arizona State University. The exhibit traveled to Miami University Art Museum, Ohio, and then to the Museum of the Southwest, Texas. She continues to participate in art exhibits, the most recent ones being at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and the University of New Mexico Art Museum, both in New Mexico.
Lucero returned to San Felipe Pueblo in 1999 to care for her elderly parents. This was a turning point in her life. “Being away from home since age 11, I questioned the strength and validity of creating works based on ‘home’ and Indigenous stories," she said. "I needed clarity for my thought process and to refresh cultural influences instilled in me as a child.”
In July, 2000, Lucero became further immersed in the tribal community by accepting a position as director of the Pueblo’s Farm Services Program. Agriculture is intrinsically part of the tribal culture. As director, she worked on tribal water rights, built a sustainable farming program and established a farmer’s market to enhance the livelihoods of tribal people through wholesome food productivity.
After her parents passed away, Lucero moved back to the east coast to be closer to her daughters and granddaughters. While visiting the Galleries at Moore and meeting Lynne Horoschak, she learned about the Art Education program with an Emphasis in Special Populations and enrolled in the program. “I was already looking for a graduate program for a specific purpose that I already had in mind—to write a thesis on education for Native American students and why they were not doing well in school,” she said. “Moore's program provided me with the answer to my goal.”
During her time in New Mexico, Lucero collected data through observations, interviews, reflective journals and student artwork, and concluded that an art-based curriculum could benefit the students—addressing a balanced curriculum inclusive of Indigenous culture and language.
“Moore’s program helped clarify my ideas in terms of teaching and how to address the current situation with the local school,” she said. The U.S. Department of Interior, Board of Indian Education, is restructuring its programs to address culture, language, and the arts. Moore's teachings in becoming an educator with an emphasis on special populations gave me additional tools to add to my traditional knowledge of culture, language, and the arts. I would like to share teaching methods with interested teachers in art education for our special children.”
Lucero plans to return to New Mexico permanently by early next year and resume teaching. She wants to reformulate the curriculum and add more arts programs. She is currently writing and illustrating a children’s book on the elements of art and design, using images from Native American art so she can use it in the classroom. She plans to create a “teaching farm” on a small piece of property she owns to educate children about sustainable farming and make use of her permaculture certification that includes beekeeping.
“There’s so much that needs to be done,” she said. “My thought is to give what we know to the children so they can gain a sustainable, productive and enjoyable way to live.
Felice Lucero-Giaccardo currently has two books in the Moore library featuring her work: A Contemporary Pueblo Painter written by Dr. Barbara Loeb, guest curator, and Art in Our Lives, edited by Cynthia Chaves Lamar and Sherry Farrell Racette with Lara Evans.