Biographical / Historical
Allan Houser is considered one of the most renown Native American painters and sculptors of the 20th century. Born Allan Capron Houser (originally Haozous) on June 30, 1914 near Apache, Oklahoma, Houser was a member of the Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache tribe.
He left Oklahoma in 1934 to study painting with Dorothy Dunn at her Santa Fe Indian School and remained a student there until 1938. In addition to painting murals at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. in 1939, he also painted murals for the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco and the New York World's Fair.
In 1940, Houser studied with Swedish artist Olle Nordmark at the Fort Sill Indian School art program and was encouraged to take up sculpture. Eight years later, the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas commissioned his first sculpture, Comrades in the Mourning. Houser taught art at Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah beginning in 1952 and left in 1962 to teach sculpture at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He retired from academic life in 1975. Allan Houser died in Santa Fe in 1994.
The murals that are depicted in this documentary were commissioned by the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture public art program, which was often referred to as the "Section." Created in 1934 during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, the program was designed to increase employment for artists. The Section artists were commissioned to create art to decorate public buildings often in the form of murals or reliefs. At the Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington, DC, six artists were commissioned from five tribes including artists Velino Shije Herrera (Ma Pe Wi [Red Bird]), Zia Pueblo, 1902-1973; Gerald Nailor (To Yah), Diné (Navajo), 1917-1952; and Woody Crumbo (Woodrow Wilson Crumbo), Potawatomi [Oklahoma], 1912-1989. The Section program was discontinued in 1943.