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Couse Foundation

aka Couse-Sharp Historic Site   |   TAOS, NM   |  couse-sharp.org

Mission

The mission of the Couse Foundation is to preserve and interpret the Couse-Sharp Historic Site, its buildings, grounds, collections and archives of the Taos Society of Artists, through education, collaboration and scholarly engagement.

Ruling year info

2001

Executive Director and Curator

Davison Packard Koenig

Main address

PO BOX 1436

TAOS, NM 87571 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

85-0479005

NTEE code info

Museum & Museum Activities (A50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Couse Foundation (TCF) preserves the homes and studios of E.I. Couse and J.H. Sharp, two founders of the Taos Society of Artists (TSA) in 1915. The Couse-Sharp Historic Site also includes the workshops of Couse’s son, Kibbey, a significant inventor. The TSA introduced a nation to the landscape and culture of New Mexico, a fascination that continues. It helped establish Taos as an artist colony that later attracted some of America’s premier modernists. During its heyday the TSA was one of the best known artists’ groups in the U.S. Their shared vision of creating a uniquely American painting style influenced the world of art and perceptions of Native America and the West. The Couse family preserved the property, art, furnishings, and archives for decades. TCF continues the drive to save the site and collections and share them with the public. It has expanded this mission to obtain archival materials related to the entire TSA, providing a center for research and inspiration.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Preservation of the Couse-Sharp Historic Site

We maintain, preserve and restore a 2.3-acre site on the National Register of Historic Places, which includes the home and studio of E.I. Couse and two studios of J.H. Sharp, painters who were two of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists in the early 20th century.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents

We possess archival materials related to several members of the TSA and have been promised the papers of several others when we complete our planned renovation of a 5,000 sq ft building adjacent to our campus. We are currently raising funds to purchase the building, safely store the archival materials, digitize at-risk photographic negatives, and eventually catalog and make available to scholars all materials.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Our collection includes numerous paintings and photographs by Couse, Sharp, and other members of the Taos Society of Artists; extensive collections of Native pottery and beadwork; and religious figures created by local Hispanos (santos and retablos). Many items are displayed in the home and studios and we offer free docent-led tours by appointment.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents

The J.H. Sharp 1915 Studio was restored in 2017 and hosts a permanent rotating exhibition of his work, collections of ethnographic items, and ephemera of his life. Each summer, the Site also curates and hosts an exhibition in the Luna Chapel, which served as Sharp's first studio in Taos. Exhibitions have included E.I. Couse: The Painter and his Craft, Italy to Taos: Rolshoven and the Taos Society of Artists, Visionaries in Clay, Archival Stories: Seldom Seen, and Full Circle: Taos Pueblo Contemporary.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Indigenous peoples

Each summer, the Site sponsors travel and lectures by scholars studying some aspect of art or history connected to our Site, generally in collaboration with the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. Past lectures have included The Studios of J.H. Sharp by Peter Hassrick, A Pictograph Is Worth 1000 Words: Reading Native Pictographs by Christina Burke, Visionary Pueblo Potters: Past and Present by Charles King, and Taos Society of Artists: Western Art or American Art? with panelists Mindy Besaw, Michael Grauer and Dean Porter.

Population(s) Served
Adults

When warranted to complement our exhibitions, the Site hosts demonstration series by local artists in conjunction with our monthly public Open House events. Similarly, we host onsite lectures and book signings by authors of publications about our artists and their collections.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Indigenous peoples

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our mission is to preserve and interpret the Couse-Sharp Historic Site (CSHS), its buildings, grounds and collections, and the archives of the Taos Society of Artists (TSA), through education, collaboration and scholarly engagement. Our vision is to be the center for scholarship of Couse, Sharp and the entire TSA.

The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a candidate to become both a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. CSHS is one of only 36 sites recognized by the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is one of the best-preserved. The Couse home and studio remain intact from the time the artist was in residence from 1909-1936, complete with furnishings, collections and archive. The two Sharp studios maintain their original architectural character and provide space for exhibitions.

In 2018, The Couse Foundation (TCF) acquired the building adjacent to the historic site that incorporates the last remaining remnants of the home of J.H. Sharp. Our team of local architects has developed plans to transform the 5,000-square-foot building into an archive and research facility devoted to all of the artists who were part of the groundbreaking TSA. The facility will be home for a wide range of materials, including historic documents, photographs, scholarly papers focused on the TSA and its individual members, Native art and ethnographic objects collected by several of the artists, a research library, as well as representative artwork. The facility will also include a public reception area, an exhibition gallery, meeting space, curatorial and conservation space, and TCF offices.

The future vision for the property is to continue to serve locals and visitors with tours, exhibitions, and programming, and to become an archive and research center for scholars of art history, local history and culture, and historic preservation. Other planned developments include expansion of educational programs for local schoolchildren, increased collaboration with Taos Pueblo, and establishment of live-work space for student interns, artists in residence, and scholars in residence.

Organization
The Couse Foundation (TCF) will maintain its independence while remaining open to opportunities for collaborations with entities such as museums and academic institutions. As we continue to develop the site and the scope of our offerings, especially with the opening of the Research Center in 2021, the role of the board of directors will move toward oversight while staff will assume responsibility for day-to-day operations and programming. The formation of an Advisory Council will be critical to our long-term sustainability.
• Build relationships with schools and universities, relevant nonprofit organizations, the for-profit art community (such as galleries and auction houses), and especially other museums.
• Complete development and formation of a National Advisory Council.
• Redefine and clarify roles of the board and staff as the organization expands.

Funding
Our funding will continue to focus on major patrons and individual donors, with grants and a nascent endowment in a supporting role. As an organization with limited staff and infrastructure, we defer a decision about becoming a membership organization. Our operating budget will be determined by our evolving mission, increasing staffing, and care and maintenance of the site. Long-term sustainability of the Foundation will be supported by a well-funded endowment.
• Primary responsibility for fundraising lies with the board with the support of the executive director and staff.
• The director must possess demonstrated fundraising skills in partnership with the board.
• $3 million capital campaign focused on the Research Center has been in quiet phase since 2018, with an active phase launched in late 2019.
• $5 million endowment campaign launches concurrently with the capital campaign and is planned to continue for 10 years.

Education and Outreach
TCF operates the most significant historic site focused on the Taos Society of Artists and its importance to American art. Educational outreach supports our mission through programs that target art and history enthusiasts and our local community.

• Develop and maintain relevance through exhibitions, publications, audiovisual presentations, artist demonstrations, lectures, and similar programs, including new opportunities associated with the Research Center to open in 2021.
• The executive director will continue to seek opportunities to make public presentations, including conferences, meetings and on the radio.
• The staff continually brainstorm ideas to engage the next generation of art and culture patrons, especially those interested in early 20th century Taos art.

Awareness
A comprehensive communication plan to enhance awareness of TCF is essential to our sustainability.
• Develop a long-term communication and marketing plan.
• Make greater investments in social media.
• Expand awareness of the Couse-Sharp Historic Site beyond the art world.

The Couse Foundation has great strength in multiple dimensions:
• Our 2-plus acre historic site conveniently located in a significant tourist destination, including established gardens, orchards and other landscaping; more than 10,000 square feet of historic buildings, all of which are in use; the site’s collections; and our extensive and growing archives.
• Our financial position, with continuing robust donations including significant patrons, growing grant-seeking program, cash reserves, little debt, and a healthy fundraising initiative.
• Our people: Highly involved and talented leadership from an engaged and functional Board of Directors with both local and far-flung representatives; four well-qualified, creative, hardworking and capable staff members; and a volunteer corps of 50, remarkably large for our organization’s size, who contribute in areas including conducting tours, curation, publications, research, cataloging, marketing, technology, office help, and maintenance. In 2018, our volunteers contributed more than 4,750 hours.
• Our relationships: The Site’s compelling history and narrative, as related and interpreted by our people, captivates visitors and engenders remarkable passion and commitment. The Taos Society of Artists was at its heart about relationships: among themselves, with the various cultural communities of northern New Mexico, and with the larger American art scene. The Couse Foundation has an excellent track record in making and maintaining good relationships with peers in similar organizations, the art world, our local region, and other relevant communities of interest.

The Couse Foundation (TCF) was established in 2001 to acquire and preserve the homes and studios of E.I. Couse and J.H. Sharp. TCF completed the transfer of property from the Couse family in June 2012 and has operated the Couse-Sharp Historic Site since then. After 2012, numerous projects restored and further preserved the buildings and gardens; an annual exhibition and scholarly lectures were presented; and the site welcomed hundreds of visitors a year—all accomplished with volunteers.

In 2017, TCF restored Sharp’s 1915 studio and upgraded it to museum standards, allowing us to borrow artwork and objects from peer institutions. This was the most ambitious project to date and the debut of a significant permanent exhibition in addition to seasonal exhibitions. Visitation grew to over 1,500 per year, most guests receiving a 1.5-hour personalized docent tour.

In 2018, TCF acquired an adjacent building that incorporates the last remnants of Sharp’s home. Our team of architects has developed plans to transform the building into a research facility devoted to all the artists who were part of the groundbreaking Taos Society of Artists (TSA). The facility will be home for a wide range of materials, including historic documents, photographs, scholarly papers focused on the TSA and its individual members, Native art and objects collected by several of the artists, a research library, as well as representative artwork. The facility will also include a reception area, exhibition gallery, meeting space, curatorial and conservation space, and offices.

We have launched an ambitious capital campaign to complete funding for the renovation and the sustainability of our expanded mission. TCF is committed to promoting the future study of American and Southwestern art through our facilities. We expect national and international students and historians to visit Taos for extended periods of study. We plan to open the facility by mid-2021.

The Foundation has been growing its staff commensurate with the expansion of its mission. For the first several years of existence, TCF was an all-volunteer organization. For a few more years we had a single, part-time staff member. Our first executive director was hired in 2016, a second manager in 2017, an archivist in 2018, and an administrative assistant in 2019. We pursue greater awareness of our site and programs through contact with universities, museums, other historic sites, tour operators, art-related businesses, and professional organizations.

The future vision for the property is to continue as a destination for the public with tours, exhibitions and public programming, and to become an archive and research center for scholars of art history, local history and culture, and historic preservation. Other planned developments include establishment of live-work space for student interns, artists in residence and scholars in residence.

Financials

Couse Foundation
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Couse Foundation

Board of directors
as of 06/26/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Richard Rinehart

COUSE FOUNDATION

Term: 2021 - 2022

Jeanne Timber

Virginia Couse Leavitt

Holly Azzari

Kristin Bender

Dustin Leavitt

Anthony Skvarla

Thomas Doerk

Robert Berquist

Elizabeth Crittenden Palacios

Ilona Spruce