Museum receives Clark Funk Native American collection
By Rick Romancito
Millicent Rogers Museum Executive Director Dr. Caroline Fernald had some big news this fall. She excitedly told museum members and patrons that the institution was the recipient of a very special gift and is yet another reason to say, “Why Taos now”: “This year, we received a generous donation from the estate of Clark Funk that includes over 150 works of art, funds to make improvements at the museum and contributions from his trust over the next 20 years.”
Plus, she said, “thanks to the support of the museum’s board of trustees, we secured the funds to meet a match challenge from an anonymous donor to open the museum’s first permanent endowment.”
While a few items from the collection may be earmarked to raise funds for the museum, more than 90 percent will become absorbed into the museum’s collection. The Clark Funk Collection consists of a wide variety of Native items, such as pottery, baskets and lifeways accoutrements mostly acquired during a time when Funk owned a curio shop in La Fonda Hotel de Taos on Taos Plaza. While many do not originate in the area, specifically Taos Pueblo, it is known historically that trading and social relationships with Plains Indian tribes existed from prehistory to the present.
“As far as the value for a museum like the Millicent Rogers, they definitely have a historical value or are of a quality that would be a very desirable addition to the museum collection,” Fernald said.
Before it can become a permanent addition, Fernald added that the collection will undergo appraisal and examination to determine individual objects’ authenticity and value. This is a normal procedure whenever a collection is given to a museum. A similar process was undertaken in the 1980s when then-MRM Director Art Wolf had the entire collection appraised.
Taos art collector and philanthropist Clark Funk ensured his legacy will continue long after his death.
In addition to Millicent Rogers, Funk, who died last March at age 87, also gave some of his extensive art collection to the Harwood Museum of Art and the Taos Community Foundation.
Funk was born in Olney, Illinois. He moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1931 where his father, Lozier R. Funk, was the business manager of what was then called Normal University, now called Highlands University.
In 1939, the family moved to Taos where he remained until completion of the 10th grade. Upon college graduation, he spent two years in the military. In 1953, he entered into a partnership with his father in a chain of 5 and 10 stores in Northern New Mexico. He later became the owner of the Don Fernando Curio & Gift Shop and operated the same until its sale in 1987.
Funk helped establish the Fall Festival of Arts held each year in September and started the show called “Taos Invites Taos.” He was on this committee for 17 years. He was president of the Taos Art Association for five years during the building of the community auditorium. He was selected Man of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce.
“A run at Taos Ski Valley, ‘El Funko,’ was named after the longtime friend of the ski area co-founder Ernie Blake, according to the ski valley’s website. The name’s ‘a playful jab at Funk’s ski ability. Or lack thereof. According to Blake, he wasn’t a gifted skier and may well have fainted at the first sight of his namesake black diamond run in the shadows of Kachina,” it reads.
The collection at Millicent Rogers Museum will be on display beginning in March 2019.