Dr. J.W. Wiggins is not only the collection manager and curator for the Sequoyah National Research Center (SNRC) at UA Little Rock, he is himself an avid collector and aficionado of contemporary Native American art.
His in-depth knowledge of Native American artists and their works has garnered him the trust of curators and artists alike, who come from across the region and the country to seek his counsel and occasionally request loans of his artworks for their projects.
The massive collection at Sequoyah National Research Center houses much more than ceramics; its 2,700-plus works represent Wiggins’ life work and passion.
In fact, a unique aspect of the collection is that the collector knows each artist personally and is friends with almost all whose works are included, unusual in a collection this size. Indeed, each of the artists expressed a desire to be represented in the collection and proudly add this fact to their artistic resumes.
The collection began when Wiggins first visited the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Okla., in late summer 1974.
“I felt immediately like I was at home,” he said, “and I began to collect pieces myself.”
From that auspicious beginning, the collection slowly gathered steam and grew to the respectable size and renown it enjoys some 40 years later.
Wiggins focuses primarily on artists from the heartland rather than art from Southwestern Pueblos or the Northwest Coastal areas. He says works from the central regions of America were less frequently collected and studied by art historians when the collection began.
All pieces date after 1940 and none are older than the collector.
A Center for Historical Research
Near the front of the Sequoyah National Research Center is the Dr. J. W. Wiggins Gallery of Native American Art, a showcase for rotating exhibits throughout the year.
The gallery is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The SNRC is located in University Plaza, Suite 500, which faces Asher Avenue on the south side of UA Little Rock’s campus.